Paris: At least one running argument among cat lovers is now over: Whiskers, Lucy and Tigger are definitely better off staying indoors, scientists reported. Pet cats allowed outdoors, in fact, are nearly three times as likely to become infected with pathogens or parasites than those confined to quarters.
Two-legged house-mates should also take note because cats — a.k.a. Felis catus — can transmit some of those diseases to humans, the authors said. 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 four percent,” said lead author Kayleigh Chalkowski, a researcher at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University in Alabama.
To settle the indoor-vs-outdoor question once and for all, Chalkowski and colleagues combed through nearly two dozen earlier studies in which the prevalence of one or more diseases was compared across interior and exterior environments. “This is the first time outdoor access as a risk factor for infection in cats has been quantified across a wide range of geographic locales and types of pathogens,” Chalkowski said.
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. “Basically, 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 by way of summary.