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Uncontrolled Outdoor Access for Cats: An Assessment of Risks and Benefits

1
Faculty of Land and Food Systems, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V5H 3Z7, Canada
2
Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(2), 258; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020258
Received: 1 September 2019 / Revised: 16 December 2019 / Accepted: 3 February 2020 / Published: 6 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Welfare of Cats and Dogs)
Outdoor access for companion cats is a controversial topic. Some have suggested that outdoor access can negatively impact the welfare of companion cats through increased risks of disease and parasites, injury or death due to traffic, predation or ingestion of toxins, and becoming lost. In addition, cats can negatively influence their environments due to the predation of small birds and mammals, and they are sometimes a nuisance to human neighbors. Despite these concerns, recent estimates suggest that many owners still allow their cats outside, likely because it also provides cats with exercise, and allows them to perform natural behaviors, such as hunting, exploring, and climbing. While some suggest that cats need outdoor access, others recommend ways for cats to meet these needs indoors by providing enrichment and properly supervising cats during outdoor access. This review examines the risks and benefits associated with outdoor access for cats, as well as what is currently known about peoples’ practices, knowledge, and attitudes about the provision of outdoor access for cats.
Uncontrolled outdoor access is associated with a number of welfare concerns for companion cats, including increased risks of disease and parasites, injury or death due to traffic, predation or ingestion of toxic substances, and getting permanently separated from their owner. In addition, cats pose a threat to local wildlife due to predatory behaviors, and can sometimes be a nuisance to human neighbors. Despite these concerns, recent estimates suggest that many owners are still providing their cats with uncontrolled outdoor access, likely because it also offers welfare benefits by allowing cats to perform natural behaviors, such as hunting, exploring, and climbing. While some have suggested that outdoor access is necessary to meet cats’ behavioral needs and to prevent related behavioral problems, others have recommended various environmental enrichment strategies that can be developed to meet these needs within an indoor environment or through supervised and controlled outdoor access. This review examines the welfare issues and benefits associated with outdoor access for cats, as well as what is currently known about peoples’ practices, knowledge, and attitudes about the provision of outdoor access for cats.
Keywords: cats; outdoor; disease; parasites; predation; injury; enrichment; behavior; welfare cats; outdoor; disease; parasites; predation; injury; enrichment; behavior; welfare
MDPI and ACS Style

Tan, S.M.; Stellato, A.C.; Niel, L. Uncontrolled Outdoor Access for Cats: An Assessment of Risks and Benefits. Animals 2020, 10, 258.

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