Most cats enjoy going outdoors. It's stimulating, they enjoy the fresh air and they get to exercise their natural predatory instincts. However, even though Tabby may have sharp claws to defend herself, there are many animals that present a potential danger to her when she's outside.
Coyotes tend to be associated with rural areas, where they have room to hunt and roam, but that has changed over time. Now they are increasingly present in suburban and urban areas and that has had a big impact on house cats and other pets. One study in Tucson, Ariz., found that cats were the most common part of a coyote's meal, accounting for 42 percent of their diet.
Coyotes typically hunt for small critters, such as rabbits, mice and voles, but if given the opportunity they will happily make a meal out of a cat or small dog. As well, they also enjoy food that people leave out for their pets.
Birds of Prey
Many people dislike cats because of their predatory nature -- they are often vilified for killing songbirds. Few people think about large birds of prey being a threat to cats, but they are. Birds of prey are meat eaters and usually eat other birds and smaller animals, such as chipmunks, mice, skunks and raccoons. However, there are instances of red-tailed hawks, eagles and owls flying off with small dogs and cats. It can be difficult for a large bird to fly with more than a few pounds in its talons, but cats can be seriously injured by being dropped from great distances or from wounds from the birds' sharp talons.
Another wild animal that can potentially harm Tabby outside is a raccoon. Though they are cute to look at, it's best to remember that raccoons are wild animals. They usually prefer to eat smaller animals but have been known to eat house cats, particularly if they are young or in a condition that doesn't allow the cat an easy escape.
Although many cats and dogs live in harmony, there are dogs with strong prey drives who will attack and kill a cat if given the chance.
It's easy to be tempted to allow Tabby to continue her free-roaming ways. After all, how often do you see a coyote or an eagle? However, just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there. Many animals are nocturnal and do their hunting and prowling at night. As well, it's not so easy for Tabby to just scamper up a tree away from her hunter -- a coyote can easily hop a 6-foot fence if he's motivated to have her for dinner.
The best course of action is to keep Tabby indoors where she is safe. There are many benefits to keeping her inside: she'll be healthier because she won't be vulnerable to parasites and disease or at risk for being hit by a car; she won't annoy neighbors who dislike her prowling in their yards; it will help minimize fleas and keep her from getting into fights with other cats, which can lead to injury. An additional benefit is that your neighbors who enjoy songbirds and dislike Tabby's hunting habits will appreciate that she's not killing birds.
If Tabby hasn't been spayed (or neutered), it will help her adjust to life indoors. She'll appreciate a spot near a window. Cats enjoy basking in the sun and watching the activity outside can help her pass the time as she normally would outside. The important thing is to be patient and give her time to adjust to her new life inside, where she'll be safe from adversaries.
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