+
upworthy
Science

New study shows that allowing cats outdoors is bad for their health and the environment

Settling the debate once and for all.

New study shows that allowing cats outdoors is bad for their health and the environment
Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Bad for kitty. Bad for the environment.

It’s an age-old debate between cat parents—letting their feline roam outdoors versus adopting a strict indoor-only policy. Usually in cases like this, when there are two polarizing opinions, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, with pros and cons belonging to both sides.

This is not one of those times. Team Indoor is the winner here, hands down. And there’s new science to prove it.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, revealed that allowing cats to free-roam is bad on multiple levels, putting themselves, their owners and even the environment at risk.

For the study, researchers recorded the comings and goings of free-roaming cats using 60 motion-activated wildlife cameras across 1500 different locations in Washington, D.C. Over the span of three years, the D.C. Cat Count Survey’s findings revealed an overwhelming amount of reasons to opt for the great indoors instead.

For one thing, free-roaming cats are exponentially more exposed to dangerous diseases.

a cat sits alone on a paving stone outdoors, while people mill around in the background

"By letting our cats outside we are significantly jeopardizing their health."

Photo by Emre on Unsplash

"We discovered that the average domestic cat in D.C. has a 61% probability of being found in the same space as racoons – America's most prolific rabies vector – 61% spatial overlap with red foxes, and 56% overlap with Virginia opossums, both of which can also spread rabies," said Daniel Herrera, lead author of the study and Ph.D. student in the University of Maryland's Department of Environmental Science and Technology (ENST).

Herrera’s conclusion was straightforward: "By letting our cats outside we are significantly jeopardizing their health."

Free-roaming didn’t only put cats at risk of infection—they often wander to high-exposure areas of rabies or toxoplasmosis, both of which can be transmitted to their owners.

Diseases aside, free-roaming cats pose a threat to wildlife.
A closeup of a grey and white cat hunting in the grass

The common misconception is that cats help control non-native species like rats.

Photo by Ke Vin on Unsplash

Herrera explained that while most people might assume cats help balance the food chain by hunting invasive species like rats, they frequently shared spaces and preyed on small native wildlife, including grey squirrels, chipmunks, cottontail rabbits, groundhogs and white-footed mice.

"Cats are keeping rats out of sight due to fear, but there really isn't any evidence that they are controlling the non-native rodent population. The real concern is that they are decimating native populations that provide benefits to the D.C. ecosystem,” said Herrera. Though this study only took place in one city, it feels pretty safe to assume that its findings are fairly universal.

It’s only natural to want to give our pets the best life possible. And while the thought of letting Whiskers out on an adventure might seem like a way to honor his primal side, Herrera and his fellow researchers strongly encourage keeping him safely indoors.

Luckily, there are other ways to let a cat express their natural instincts. As cat expert and influencer Jackson Galaxy advocates, consider 10-15 minutes of play a necessity, the same way you'd consider walking a dog as something that comes along with the job. Playing is a great way to not only keep your feline friend happy and healthy, it’s an adorable bonding meowment.

Ginger and white cat playing with a furry jingle bell toy.

1-15 minutes of play can go a long way.

Photo by Dorothe Wouters on Unsplash

Ultimately, the choice on whether or not to allow a cat to roam free is up to the owner. But with great companions comes great responsibility. And all pet parents should at least be aware of the risks that come along with their decisions.

Family

Married couple swears by the '3-Hour Night' as a relationship game changer

"If you’re stuck in a rut with your evenings — try this!"

@racheleehiggins/TikTok

Want out of a relationship rut? The Three hour night might be the perfect solution.

Almost every long term relationship suffers from a rut eventually. That goes especially for married partners who become parents and have the added responsibility of raising kids. Maintaining a connection is hard enough in this busy, fast paced world. Top it off with making sure kids are awake, dressed, entertained, well fed, oh yeah, and alive…and you best believe all you have energy for at the end of the day is sitting on the couch barely making it through one episode on Netflix.

And yet, we know how important it is to maintain a connection with our spouses. Many of us just don’t know how to make that happen while juggling a million other things.

According to one mom, a “three-hour night” could be just the thing to tick off multiple boxes on the to-do list while rekindling romance at the same time. Talk about the ultimate marriage hack.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

Comedian shuts down heckler cop after joke about police violence

“You disrespected me, so I’ll disrespect you.”

via Steve Hostetter

A comedian defends himself against a heckler police officer.

Some people just haven't gotten the memo: You really don't want to heckle comedian Steve Hofstetter. He's become one of my favorite stand-up acts both because he's just funny but also because of his brilliant ways of shutting down hecklers and other rude patrons who show up for his live act.

In this case, Hofstetter was in the middle of a bit where he quipped, "I don't like people." It was part of a larger joke recalling how he'd had a bad interaction with a police officer but that he was "still alive" because he was a white male.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Trying to guess which twin smokes is the perfect way to help you quit

Nobody would call smoking “glamorous” after seeing these comparisons.

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.

Which twin smoked?

It's not revolutionary news that smoking wreaks havoc on your body in different ways. More often than not, however, the focus of anti-smoking campaigns is on your internal health, citing emphysema, heart disease, and lung cancer, to name just a few consequences.

While the superficial effects may not be as lethal, appealing to people's sense of vanity can have a powerful effect as this clever gallery below shows. Twins, only one of whom smokes, sit side by side, showing the profound damage smoking can cause to your face, hair, and teeth.

The twins' circumstances vary in each set of pictures, but the differences and effects are undeniable. In some instances, one of the twins never smoked. In others, the "smoking" twin had smoked for at least five years longer than the other "non-smoking" twin.

Though they're not common knowledge, the effects of smoking on your appearance are predictable and consistent. You can identify a smoker with ease if you know what you're looking for. Harmful smoke, dehydration, and even the heat from a burning cigarette can damage your complexion, hair, and eyes. The photos below helpfully point out the symptoms and effects on the smoking twin.

Keep ReadingShow less

An English doctor named Edward Jenner took incredible risks to try to rid his world of smallpox. Because of his efforts and the efforts of scientists like him, the only thing between deadly diseases like the ones below and extinction are people who refuse to vaccinate their kids. Don't be that parent.

Unfortunately, because of the misinformation from the anti-vaccination movement, some of these diseases have trended up in a really bad way over the past several years.

Keep ReadingShow less

New baby and a happy dad.


When San Francisco photographer Lisa Robinson was about to have her second child, she was both excited and nervous.

Sure, those are the feelings most moms-to-be experience before giving birth, but Lisa's nerves were tied to something different.

She and her husband already had a 9-year-old son but desperately wanted another baby. They spent years trying to get pregnant again, but after countless failed attempts and two miscarriages, they decided to stop trying.

Keep ReadingShow less

Having lived in small towns and large cities in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and Midwest, and after spending a year traveling around the U.S. with my family, I've seen first-hand that Americans have much more in common than not. I've also gotten to experience some of the cultural differences, subtle and not-so-subtle, real and not-so-real, that exist in various parts of the country.

Some of those differences are being discussed in a viral thread on Twitter. Self-described "West coaster" Jordan Green kicked it off with an observation about East coasters being kind and West coasters being nice, which then prompted people to share their own social experiences in various regions around the country.

Green wrote:

"When I describe East Coast vs West Coast culture to my friends I often say 'The East Coast is kind but not nice, the West Coast is nice but not kind,' and East Coasters immediately get it. West Coasters get mad.

Niceness is saying 'I'm so sorry you're cold,' while kindness may be 'Ugh, you've said that five times, here's a sweater!' Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.

I'm a West Coaster through and through—born and raised in San Francisco, moved to Portland for college, and now live in Seattle. We're nice, but we're not kind. We'll listen to your rant politely, smile, and then never speak to you again. We hit mute in real life. ALOT.

Keep ReadingShow less