At least one usual argument among cat lovers is now over: Whiskers, Lucy and Tigger are most definitely better off staying indoors, scientists reported Wednesday.
Pet cats allowed outdoors, truthfully, are nearly three times as likely to become infected with pathogens or parasites than those which are confined to quarters, they reported in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Two-legged house-mates should also our 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 much 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,” explained 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,” she said to AFP. “But it turned out that latitude had the opposite effect.”
To settle the indoor-vs-outdoor argument once and for all, Chalkowski and colleagues combed through just about two dozen earlier studies in which the prevalence of one or more diseases was compared across interior and exterior environments. In the end, the new study focused on 19 different cat pathogens in more than a dozen countries which include Spain, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Pakistan, Brazil, the Netherlands and St. Kitts.
‘Keep your kitty indoors’
“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 stated.
The effects were actually consistent for almost all of the diseases, including feline roundworm and the single-cell parasite which causes toxoplasmosis, both of which can affect humans. This held true regardless of how they were transmitted—whether from soil, other cats, or prey like mice and birds.