Should you let your cat outside?

Should you let your cat outside?

Keeping cats inside is safer for them and local wildlife, but does an indoor life prevent a cat from being a cat?

The ASPCA estimates that 74 million to 96 million cats are owned in the United States, making them the country’s most popular pet. While many of these cats are kept indoors, others are allowed to come and go as they please or even roam outside full-time — an allowance that’s become a growing source of controversy in recent years.

What’s all the feline fuss about?

A 2012 study by the University of Georgia and National Geographic found that U.S. cats could kill as many as 4 billion birds and small mammals a year, and in 2013, similar research by the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded the real numbers were even higher.

The majority of these animal deaths were attributed to feral cats or stray cats, but the 2013 study notes that domestic cats allowed to roam outdoors “still cause substantial wildlife mortality.”

Conservation groups like the National Audubon Society encourage cat owners to keep their pets indoors for the protection of wildlife. And animal welfare agencies, including the Humane Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association, have echoed this sentiment, pointing out that indoor cats also live substantially longer than outdoor ones because they’re not exposed to traffic, disease and other animals.

However, many cat owners — including animal experts — continue to let their pets outside despite these risks, and they have convincing arguments of their own.

For one, domestic cats remain genetically quite similar to their ancestors, meaning they still have many of their wild instincts.“ Unlike our canine companions, our felines have retained their wild streak. To see a cat outside is to see a creature in its element,” David Grimm, author of “Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs,” told The Washington Post. “You could keep your cat indoors and give him a comfortable, safe life.

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