This morning I finished a series of overnight shifts at an emergency hospital near San Francisco. I saw a dozen cats. Only one of them was an indoor-only individual. She was a fifteen-year-old with kidney failure. Her syndrome occurred naturally due to old age.
Every other cat I saw during the last two nights didn’t need to be there. They all suffered consequences of going outside. One suffered the most serious consequence of all.
The outside world is a dangerous place for cats, regardless of age or experience. In my years as a vet, I cannot count the times I have heard someone say something like, “Fluffy has been going outside for ten years and this is the first time he ever got into trouble.” Let me reassure you that when Fluffy finally does get into trouble, the results can be disastrous.
In my career I have treated innumerable cats who have been in fights with other cats. These fights lead to abscesses and feline AIDS. Cats are hit by cars, trucks, bicycles, and trains. I have treated cats that have been attacked by raccoons, bobcats, mountain lions, dogs, coyotes and hawks. I have seen cats suffer hypothermia after being caught outside in thunderstorms. These cats may be so weak that maggots infest their wet fur and infected skin. I have treated cats that fell from trees, cliffs, and ledges. Cats are brought to my office after suffering deliberate abuse at the hands of deranged psychopaths. Outdoor cats frequently are shot with BB guns. They may be kicked, twirled by their tails, or thrown long distances. Twice I have treated cats who were deliberately wrapped in duct tape.
Indoor cats do not suffer these maladies. Every one of these common yet horrible problems is preventable if you keep your cat inside.
As I mentioned, of the dozen cats I saw in the last two nights only one had a problem that was unavoidable.
Ten of the cats I treated had been in fights with other cats, leading to abscesses and lacerations. These cats will survive, although they are at risk of feline AIDS. Their owners shelled out thousands of dollars to my bosses.
One cat, however, broke my heart. If you already keep your cat indoors, I recommend that you stop reading now. What follows is graphic.
If you believe that your cat is “happier outside”, or if you think that going outside is “natural”, or if you think that your cat’s life will not be complete unless he goes outside, or if you think that nothing bad will ever happen to your cat, please read on.
A sweet, loving, and formerly beautiful 16-month-old cat was outside in a rural area near San Francisco. Somehow he made it home.
The cat’s owners thought that he had been caught in a trap, because his left front foot was missing. When I examined him, I came to a different conclusion: he had been hit by a car.
True, his left front foot was missing. Bones, tendons, and muscles were exposed at the stump. The site was bleeding profusely. But both rear legs had similar injuries. The owners hadn’t noticed this.
I suspect that the cat had been basking on his side on a road when a car ran over three of his four limbs.
Two nurses immediately placed an IV catheter into the cat’s only remaining leg–the right front. We gave him the maximum labeled dose of a narcotic painkiller. It didn’t touch him. We doubled down on the medicine, and he seemed to relax a bit.
I went into a private room to talk with the owner. She felt horrifically guilty. She knew that if she had kept her cat inside this would not have happened. In the end there was only one humane choice. We put the cat to sleep. It has been a long time since I have seen anyone cry that hard.
I apologize if this story offends you. But I would be very happy to go to my grave without ever seeing another case like this again. And it would be so easy, if only everyone would keep their cats inside.