For your cat's health and yours, keep it indoors

Intriguingly, the farther domesticated felines are from the equator, the more likely they are to be afflicted

Afp April 17, 2019

PARIS: At least one running argument among cat lovers is now over: your feline family members are definitely better off staying indoors, scientists said on Wednesday.

Pet cats allowed outdoors, in fact, are nearly three times as likely to become infected with pathogens or parasites as those confined to quarters, they reported in the journal Biology Letters. But humans should also take note because cats can transmit some of those diseases to humans.

Intriguingly, the farther domesticated felines are from the equator, the more likely they are to be afflicted by some kind of bug or virus if they spend time outdoors. "Each degree in absolute latitude increased infection likelihood by 4%," said lead author Kayleigh Chalkowski, a researcher at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University in Alabama. "You think of tropical regions as just having more wildlife, more parasites. But it turned out that latitude had the opposite effect."


Chalkowski and colleagues combed through nearly 24 earlier studies in which the prevalence of one or more diseases was compared across interior and exterior environments. The new study looked at 19 different cat pathogens in more than a dozen countries, including Spain, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Pakistan, Brazil, the Netherlands and St. Kitts.

The effects were consistent for almost all of the diseases, including feline roundworm and the single-cell parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, both of which can affect humans. This held true regardless of how they were transmitted - whether from soil, other cats or prey such as mice and birds. "No matter where you are in the world, keeping your cat indoors is a great way to keep them healthy from infectious diseases," Chalkowski said. On the contrary, indoor cats are also notorious for causing breathing conditions such as asthma in children.

There are some 90 million pet cats in the United States and an estimated 500 million worldwide.

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