Cats allowed to roam outdoors face a variety of health risks, from getting hit by cars and attacked by other animals to an increased risk for infection by internal and external parasites.
A recent study of parasite infection rates for outdoor cats vs. indoor cats around the world has led to some interesting findings.
Cats allowed to roam outdoors are 2.77 times more likely to become infected with parasites than indoor only cats. The surprise finding in this study relates to what parts of the globe parasite infection risks are highest.
You might think that cats in warmer climates have an increased risk of parasite infection because there tends to be a greater concentration of parasites in these warmer places.
In reality, the opposite was found to be true: infection rates decrease with higher parasite diversity, and cats in northern climates are a greater risk for infection. Risk of infection goes up a surprising 4% with each degree of increase in latitude.
Why is this? The researchers note that rodents (a common feline prey animal) and other species of wildlife display similar increased infection rates.
Experts recommend that cat owners restrict access to the outdoors for their pets, both to preserve their cats’ overall health and well-being, and also to reduce the risk of parasite transmission to humans.