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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.

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10 anti-holiday recipes that prove the season can be tasty and healthy

Balance out heavy holiday eating with some lighter—but still delicious—fare.

Albertson's

Lighten your calorie load with some delicious, nutritious food between big holiday meals.

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The holiday season has arrived with its cozy vibe, joyous celebrations and inevitable indulgences. From Thanksgiving feasts to Christmas cookie exchanges to Aunt Eva’s irresistible jelly donuts—not to mention leftover Halloween candy still lingering—fall and winter can feel like a non-stop gorge fest.

Total resistance is fairly futile—let’s be real—so it’s helpful to arm yourself with ways to mitigate the effects of eating-all-the-things around the holidays. Serving smaller amounts of rich, celebratory foods and focusing on slowly savoring the taste is one way. Another is to counteract those holiday calorie-bomb meals with some lighter fare in between.

Contrary to popular belief, eating “light” doesn’t have to be tasteless, boring or unsatisfying. And contrary to common practice, meals don’t have to fill an entire plate—especially when we’re trying to balance out heavy holiday eating.

It is possible to enjoy the bounties of the season while maintaining a healthy balance. Whether you prefer to eat low-carb or plant-based or gluten-free or everything under the sun, we’ve got you covered with these 10 easy, low-calorie meals from across the dietary spectrum.

Each of these recipes has less than 600 calories (most a lot less) per serving and can be made in less than 30 minutes. And Albertsons has made it easy to find O Organics® ingredients you can put right in your shopping cart to make prepping these meals even simpler.

Enjoy!

eggs and green veggies in a skillet, plate of baconNot quite green eggs and ham, but closeAlbertsons

Breakfast Skillet of Greens, Eggs & Ham

273 calories | 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (5 oz) pkg baby spinach

2 eggs

1 clove garlic

4 slices prosciutto

1/2 medium yellow onion

1 medium zucchini squash

1/8 cup butter, unsalted

1 pinch crushed red pepper

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

bow of cauliflower ham saladGet your cauliflower power on.Albertsons

Creamy Cauliflower Salad with Ham, Celery & Dill

345 calories | 20 minutes

1/2 medium head cauliflower

1 stick celery

1/4 small bunch fresh dill

8 oz. ham steak, boneless

1/2 shallot

1/4 tspblack pepper

1/4 tsp curry powder

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp garlic powder

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1/8 tsp paprika

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

tofu on skewers on a plate with coleslawPlant-based food fan? This combo looks yums. Albertsons

Grilled Chili Tofu Skewers with Ranch Cabbage, Apple & Cucumber Slaw

568 calories | 20 minutes

1 avocado

1/2 English cucumber

1 (12 oz.) package extra firm tofu

1 Granny Smith apple

3 Tbsp (45 ml) Ranch dressing

1/2 (14 oz bag) shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix)

2 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

frittata in a cast iron skilletSometimes you just gotta frittata.Albertsons

Bell Pepper, Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata with Parmesan

513 calories | 25 minutes

6 eggs

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

2 oz Parmesan cheese

1 red bell pepper

1/2 medium red onion

8 sundried tomatoes, oil-packed

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with slices of grilled chicken and a caprese saladCaprese, if you please.Albertsons

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Classic Caprese Salad

509 calories | 25 minutes

3/4 lb chicken breasts, boneless skinless

1/2 small pkg fresh basil

1/2 (8 oz pkg) fresh mozzarella cheese

1 clove garlic

3 tomatoes

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 3/4 pinches black pepper

1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3/4 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

four stuffed mushrooms on a plateThese mushrooms look positively poppable.Albertsons

Warm Goat Cheese, Parmesan & Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms

187 calories | 35 minutes

1/2 lb cremini mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1/2 (4 oz) log goat cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

2 sundried tomatoes, oil-packed

1 1/4 pinches crushed red pepper

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

2 pinches salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with open English muffin with goat cheese and sliced baby tomatoes on topMove over, avocado toast. English muffin pizzas have arrived.Albertsons

English Muffin Pizzas with Basil Pesto, Goat Cheese & Tomatoes

327 calories | 10 minutes

3 Tbsp (45 ml) basil pesto

2 English muffins

1/2 (4 oz) log goat cheese

1/2 pint grape tomatoes

3/4 pinch black pepper

2 pinches salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

pita pocket on a plate filled with veggies, meat and cheeseThis pita pocket packs a colorful punch.Albertsons

Warm Pita Pocket with Turkey, Cheddar, Roasted Red Peppers & Parsley

313 calories | 20 minutes

1/4 (8 oz) block cheddar cheese

1/2 bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

4 oz oven roasted turkey breast, sliced

1/2 (12 oz) jar roasted red bell peppers

1 whole grain pita

3/4 pinch black pepper

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp mayonnaise

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with toast smeared with avocado and topped with prosciuttoDid we say, "Move over, avocado toast?" What we meant was "Throw some prosciutto on it!" Albertsons

Avocado Toast with Crispy Prosciutto

283 calories | 10 minutes

1 avocado

2 slices prosciutto

2 slices whole grain bread

1 5/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp onion powder

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

bowl of chili with cheese and green onions on topVegetarian chili with a fall twistAlbertsons

Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili with Cheddar

444 calories | 30 minutes

2 (15 oz can) black beans

1/2 (8 oz ) block cheddar cheese

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

2 green bell peppers

1 small bunch green onions (scallions)

1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin purée

1 medium yellow onion

1/2 tsp black pepper

5 7/8 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp cumin, ground

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

For more delicious and nutritious recipes, visit albertsons.com/recipes.

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