Can domestic cats survive outside? Lady Godiva did.

This is a poorly formulated question in my opinion by many people carrying out an Internet search using Google. What they mean is can a domestic cat survive outside without the intervention of a human caretaker? Or to put it another way, can a domestic cat leave their home and live in the wild like a feral cat and live a long life doing it? The story of Lady Godiva below says that sometimes they can but at a price to their health.

Tabby cat colony
Tabby cat colony. Picture in public domain.

Variable chance of survival

A lot of people would say that domestic cats simply can’t do this. They are not equipped for that harsh life. They might generalize and say that all domestic cats can’t do it. I think that they are wrong. There is no doubt that many domestic cats would not survive that long if suddenly abandoned outside to fend for themselves. Perhaps the majority of domestic cats would struggle to survive for very long.

However, some domestic cats would survive and they’d do it to a good age because they have the ability and skills to do so and the environment where they are is kind to them by which I mean with respect to climate, resources and a lack of predators. Like people, domestic cats are individuals with varying skills and abilities.

Ginger tabby survived outside for years

I have mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again. My mother had a ginger tabby domestic cat who one day when he was quite young left her home and went to live on the golf course opposite her home. He lived there for the rest of his life and then in old age she came back to my mother. He had very bad arthritis and he was coming in from the cold to live out the last months of his life.

My mother, I thought, treated him very badly in his last days or months and in fact she had him euthanised. I think that she could have done much better. The point made, though, is that he wanted to live outside of the family home. He was well cared for and there was no reason for him to leave. He wanted to live in the wild and he managed to do so successfully.

Abandoning a domestic cat by the side of the road would be a crime in many jurisdictions as it would be deemed to be animal cruelty. The reason it is cruel is because domestic cats suffer when they are abandoned as there are unable to survive on their own. They have been softened up by domestication and lost the desire to hunt effectively. These laws prove the point that domestic cats struggle without a caregiver.

Semi-domesticated

It has been found that when domestic cats eat high-quality food, they lose their abilities and desires to hunt and conversely when they are fed poor quality food they hunt more effectively. I would suggest that domestic cats who have lived a very loosely connected life with their human companion are more able to live without the support of humans and therefore are more independent. Barn cats come to mind. Lady Godiva was a barn cat I believe.

The answer to the question is that some individual cats will survive outside on their own without human help but we don’t know the percentage. Others will not. And in between those extremes there will be those who will survive quite a long time but live shorter lives than normal. A partial answer is found in the lifespan of feral cats. There is no scientific study on this and you’ll read anecdotally that feral cats live very short lives of 2 to 3 years. That is not necessarily true and it certainly doesn’t apply to all feral cats.

Managed colonies

You will find that some people involved in cat rescue say that under certain circumstances stray and feral cats live reasonably long lives especially when they are part of a colony managed by TNR volunteers. I’m sure that you will find that stray domestic cats joining feral cat colonies are living quite a good life provided that it is managed by TNR volunteers. These cats are living outside as described in the question.

The fact is that there no simple general answer to the question. You have to look at individual cats and individual circumstances. However, in general the lifespan of a domestic cat living outside, unsupported, will be shorter than normal.

RELATED: 11-year-old Ukrainian girl takes on responsibility of feeding abandoned cats in devastated Ukraine

Lady Godiva

Lady Godiva is a domestic cat who survived outside on their own for 10 years and therefore she bucked the general trend that domestic cats can’t really survive in the wild. She is an example that it is possible for a domestic cat to survive without a caregiver to look after them and to be confined to the outside apparently for the entire 10 years.

Despite Lady Godiva's grumpy expression, the shelter says she's so sweet. Photo by Heart of Minnesota Animal Shelter
Despite Lady Godiva’s grumpy expression, the shelter says she’s ‘so sweet’. Photo by Heart of Minnesota Animal Shelter

And she lives in Minnesota which is not the most conducive climate for outside cat with frigid winters. She is described as having an impressive survival record. She was brought to the Heart of Minnesota Animal Shelter in Hutchison, Minnesota as a stray cat that had been micro-chipped. Although the microchip had never been registered.

When she was picked up at the shelter she was in bad condition as you would expect. She had very bad oral health and her breath smelt terribly. She needed teeth removed, her matted hair removed and generally cleaned up and treated with antibiotics.

They were able to assess her age from her microchip. The person who had her microchipped did not want to take a back. They did, however, pay for the services, as I understand it, to get lady Godiva on her feet.

The shelter took ownership of lady Godiva and she is at a foster home at the date of this section of the article (March 7, 2023). It is notable that after her rotten teeth were removed, she picked up tremendously and started to behave normally.

This is obviously indicative of the fact that she was in great discomfort. People concerned with cat welfare should realise that many feral and stray cats have bad teeth and therefore it is likely that they are in discomfort all the time. You can add to bad teeth, ear mites and upper respiratory infections caused by the herpes virus or calicivirus.

PETA

This is where the adage by PETA comes in; they believe that feral cats live lives that are too miserable to justify TNR and they would prefer to humanely euthanise them. Although it is a mistake to believe that PETA recommend euthanising all fell cats. That is entirely incorrect as the Infographic below based upon their statements testifies.

PETA on TNR and feral cats
PETA on TNR and feral cats. Infographic by MikeB at PoC.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Cat breeders can turn the most handsome breeds into gargoyles

I have just written an article about a hefty Maine Coon who was bred to extreme with a hint of gargoyle by their creator. Not God but a Maine Coon breeder. I’ve mentioned God because gargoyles are attached to the outside of large and imposing cathedrals to ward off evil spirits and make the building look more attractive.

Selective breeding can sometimes make breeds less attractive because they don’t quite know the outcome. They have an idea but there is an element of potluck in breeding cats. There must be many failures particularly when they breed cats to extreme to try and create outstanding facial features. What happens to the failures? Culled?

In distorting and exaggerating facial anatomy you not only jeopardise the health of the cat you also risk creating an animal who is distinctly uglier than the original. Gargoyles are meant to be ugly, Persian cats are not but that’s what they’ve become to many but not the administrators of the cat associations who for some peculiar reason see the flat-faced (peke) Persian as ‘pansy like’, like a charming flower.

I see a gargoyle and a sick one to boot.

Gargoyle-like Persian cat
Gargoyle-like Persian cat. Image: MikeB based on images in the public domain as assessed.

The right eye is weeping a lot. It is inflamed. I don’t know the cause, but it is probably linked to blocked tear ducts causing tear duct overflow and the development of a bacterial infection. If you distort the anatomy, you can get health problems. This has happened in many cat breeds, even the best.

The Maine Coon I have referred to in the first paragraph can be seen below. There is a mere hint of gargoyle in this Maine Coon. The Persian is a living gargoyle.

Maine Coon with a hint of gargoyle
Maine Coon with a hint of gargoyle. Image: MikeB based on (left) image in public domain and (right) image on Wayfair.co.uk of a gargoyle for sale at £109.99.

And it isn’t just what we see, the exterior of the animal which has gone wrong, but the interior and the health issues. Both the Maine Coon and the Persian carry inherited genetic mutations which lead to serious health issues in both these top three cat breeds. The worst of it is the PKD, which around 30% of Persian cats contract.

It is very sad for me that this had happened. Made worse by the leaders of the cat fancy, the administrators of the cat associations who accept it all against their declared policies. Are they ever going to do something about it such as change the breed standard and enforce the new standard?

Look at the traditional Persian and the old original Persians:

Yeri a tradional Persian
Yeri a tradional Persian. Photo: Dani.
An original Persian cat from the early 1900s
An original Persian cat from the early 1900s. Photo in the public domain.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Has your cat died or her health deteriorated because you listened to health advice on Facebook?

This page is in two parts. The first part looks at how commonly cat owners use Facebook for cat health advice. The second half concerns the personal experiences of a long-term, knowledgeable cat caregiver, Elisa Black-Taylor. She is the person who asked the question and she regularly visits Facebook to discuss medical issues and other cat issues. She has some personal stories addressing the question in the title. Facebook users who use the website for advice of this sort are typically members of about five Facebook groups and below the age of 30.

Cat illness diagnosis at home can be useful and life-saving
Cat illness diagnosis at home can be useful and life-saving. Image: Pixabay.

Use of Facebook as a source of feline medical advice for home-diagnosis

How many people use Facebook to home-diagnose their cat’s health problem? How many people rely on Facebook users to provide reliable advice in order to diagnose an illness from which their cat suffers? Fortunately, we have got an idea of what the answers to that question because it was studied scientifically quite recently and the results published on May 29, 2021.

In round terms, they found that Facebook groups are a common source of pet health information. About 52% of cat owners reported getting health advice through Facebook groups. And around 58% of cat owners gave health advice through Facebook groups.

The most common type of medical advice sought and provided on Facebook concerned dermatology. Specifically, this was about allergies, ear diseases and grooming and other skin problems including lumps. Another common issue was health concerns regarding claws, feet and tails. Next most common were dietary issues including food allergies and gastrointestinal problems. Parasites and vaccine issues also ranks quite high.

The full list is set out below in a table.

The majority of people don’t really trust Facebook users to provide good medical advice which is sensible because although they might have excellent first-hand experience, they are not qualified veterinarians. In general, they thought that veterinarians provided much better advice. However, about 30% of the participants thought that Facebook groups are a trustworthy source of information and a similar percentage indicated that advice received on Facebook had influenced their decisions regarding the health care of their cat companion.

The upshot is that a lot of people use Facebook for advice on providing healthcare to their cat companion. It seems to me (not part of the study) that a lot of people perhaps use Facebook to try and fix a problem without the expense of utilising a veterinarian, combined with the hassle. And if Facebook fails to fix their cat’s health problem on the cheap, they might then go on to using a veterinarian. Or they might use Facebook to provide some background information which gives them a better handle on the problem that they are dealing with.

If you want to read the study which is actually quite readable for a scientific study then please click on this link.

Most common cat health problems discussed on Facebook

Cat owner topicsAdvice Received

n (%)

Advice Given

n (%)

Example advice statement
Behaviour (‘problem’ behaviours including aggression directed towards people and other animals and ‘inappropriate’ elimination, and queries about whether specific behaviours are ‘normal’)71 (17.1)86 (18.5)Cat peeing outside of litter box’
Gastroenterology (dietary advice for pets stated as ill, ‘food allergy’ and any description of a gastrointestinal problem)55 (13.2)48 (10.3)‘One of my sphynx cats has had a lot of problems with diarrhoea, I wanted to know if someone had any advice about his diet’.
Renal and urinary (any renal or feline lower urinary tract disease)45 (10.8)53 (11.4)‘Chronic renal failure’
Dermatology (‘allergy’, grooming, ear disease and all skin problems including ‘lump’)35 (8.4)35 (7.5)‘Bald patches’
Respiratory (includes ‘cat flu’)27 (6.5)20 (4.3)‘Upper respiratory infection’
Parasites and vaccines (any questions about products and prevention and vaccination)23 (5.5)21 (4.5)Asking about good flea medicines
Reproduction (kittens, breeding, labour)21 (5.0)36 (7.7)‘Info about cats giving birth’
Multi system disease (any manifestation of Feline Infectious Peritonitis, Feline Leukaemia Virus, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)21 (5.0)15 (3.2)‘My old cat was diagnosed with FIP and I posted to an FIP group looking for help or answers to ensure his diagnosis was correct and to give him comfortable last days’
Diet/feeding (dietary or feeding statements without reference to the pet being ill)13 (3.1)32 (6.8)‘Comparison of raw diet against generic cat foods’
Dental (dental disease, tooth brushing)11 (2.6)7 (1.5)‘I try to turn other owners onto cat dental care, especially brushing your cat’s teeth’
Cardiology (includes heart murmur and specific diagnoses)10 (2.4)4 (0.9)‘HCM heart scanning’
Toxicity (concerns about pet ingesting/coming into contact with products, foods, etc.)10 (2.4)8 (1.7)‘Cat ate some table food and I was worried it could hurt him’
Endocrinology10 (2.4)14 (3.0)‘My cat is diabetic. I have received a lot of advice about her diet’.
Orthopaedics (including claws, feet, tail)10 (2.4)6 (1.3)‘When my cat was having trouble with his hip joints, someone recommended a product to add to his food’.
Oncology (discussion of tumour or cancer affecting any body system)5 (1.2)6 (1.3)‘Where to get good cancer treatment’
Neurology4 (1.0)9 (1.9)‘Feline hyperaesthesia’
Ophthalmology4 (1.0)11 (2.4)‘I posted a pic of my cat’s eye that was weeping. Just wanted a few differing opinions from the cat lovers community before taking her to the vet’.
Weight (concerns about underweight and obesity)3 (0.7)2 (0.4)‘My cat is now a senior cat and is losing weight, I posted to learn about other people’s experiences with this problem’.
Immune-mediated disease00
Haematological disease00
Unclear/can’t recall38 (9.1)52 (11.2)

My personal view is that it is helpful for a cat owner to have some medical knowledge as long as they know their limitations and are prepared to take their cat to the vet in a timely manner when required. I would not take FB advice literally. I would put it in the memory bank and use it to make a decision.

Experiences of Elisa Black-Taylor who asked the question in the title and who uses FB

I’ll be the first to admit I do a lot of silent snooping around Facebook as I search for ideas. One topic I see quite often is people turning to Facebook first for opinions rather than scooping their cat up and heading to the vet immediately.

medical advice facebook
Yea…it’s like this (memegenerator.com)

Have any of you had a pet die because you listened to friends on Facebook who told you everything would be fine? You either took their advice without contacting the vet first or you took so long reading the Facebook comments the cat died because you didn’t trust your instinct to get help IMMEDIATELY.

It happens a lot. I’ve learned when to judge when a cat needs a vet. This may not be as serious a medical issue as it is an emotional one. Until you find out what’s wrong and you have an accurate diagnosis as well as a plan of action you will worry. I compare it to being a parent. You actually have an instinct and need to listen to it and actually do something, if not for your pet, then for your own peace of mind.

I’ve seen cases of poisoning where the owner was going ‘ok I’ll try that first.’ Um…NO! Don’t mess around with poison. Don’t wait for advice from friends. Get that cat to the vet because you may only have a few hours to act or your cat will be dead.

When it’s a life-or-death emergency

cat poisoned
Goldie lived, thanks to quick treatment (photo by Elisa)

My mother’s cat Goldie came stumbling down her driveway many years ago. She knew something wasn’t right, scooped him up and took him to the vet immediately. He had a fever of 106F. The vet said his throat looked like someone poured Drano down it. He spent three days in the hospital but he survived and was never allowed outside again. The day he was poisoned was the day he became an inside-only kitty.

When it’s for your own peace of mind

deaf cat
Annabelle may or may not have broken her leg (Elisa)

Our deaf cat Annabelle had an accident. Even being an inside-only cat didn’t keep her safe from getting into mischief! You can read her story below

My Deaf Cat Annabelle Had An Accident

In it, I wrote “My poor kitty was limping and terrified. She couldn’t put the injured foot on the floor and it was swelling up quickly.”

Annabelle was diagnosed with having a bad sprain that would heal in about a week. The grotesque position of her paw left us grateful she didn’t break it. It appeared broken when we found her. The position she was in was so nerve-wracking (for lack of a better word) that we were about to clip the claw off just to keep her from tearing off her own leg.

I HAD to know she hadn’t caused major damage.

I see posts on Facebook where the owner is asking for opinions. Everything from seeing worms coming out the mouth to seriously enlarged pupils and the cat acting ‘weird.’ GET TO THE VET! Do not get on Facebook and wait for OPINIONS!

I’m going to end this article now

I could go on and on and on about the scenarios I’ve read on people using Facebook as their primary source of information. Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. Most pet owners just need a bit of education to learn how to tell the difference, especially if you have a cat. Dogs can get by with so much more and things a dog can survive may kill a cat in just a few hours.

Please feel free to comment in the Facebook section below or in the moderated comment section (Facebook is easier). Have any of you ever lost a pet due to accepting bad advice on Facebook?

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Who’s not washing their hands after handling their cat?

America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people wash their hands after they handle their cats. Although there is no evidence that cats spread Covid-19 to people they say that all animals carry germs that can make people sick. It is a good idea, therefore, to wash your hands after touching your cat or dog.

Washing hands after handling your cat
Washing hands after handling your cat. Illustration: PoC on images in public domain.

I totally understand the reason for the advice but I don’t see it as practical or likely to be followed. It won’t happen and I don’t think anyone is doing it. Is anyone you know doing it? I’d be surprised if more than 2 percent of the population are following the advice. I’m. I am doing nothing different to what I have always done in regards to me and my cat. But that is not a recommendation. I am being bad.

Also, CDC advise that people who are sick with Covid-19 should avoid contact with cats and dogs as they would with people. This is because there are examples of wild and domestic cats contracting the disease from people. This concerns some captive tigers at Bronx Zoo and two domestic cats.

That advice is clearly good but what about the substantial percentage of people who are infectious because they have the virus but are asymptomatic? The asymptomatic people won’t isolate themselves from their pets because they don’t know they have the disease.

Cats and dogs should not interact with people outside the home. In other words they should be the same as people under lockdown conditions. This CDC advice is given because the experts don’t know enough about Covid-19, which seems to be a complex virus which can rarely cause an autoimmune response on children resulting on very severe illness. This is of great concern.

We have quite a long way to go with this pandemic. There is more to learn about the virus and how to deal with it. A vaccine is the answer, the holy grail in fixing this crisis. I have read that the Oxford University team have produced a vaccine which was tested on 6 monkeys in the US and it worked. The big question is will it work for humans too?

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

follow it link and logo