Free-Roaming, Owned Cats

Comment on this policy

The AVMA encourages veterinarians to educate clients and the public about the risks associated with allowing cats free-roam access to the outdoors. Keeping owned cats confined, such as housing them in an enriched indoor environment, in an outdoor enclosure, or exercising leash-acclimated cats, can minimize the risks to the cat, wildlife, humans, and the environment.

Free-roaming cats may have a reduced life span and be exposed to injury, suffering, and death from vehicles; attacks from other animals; euthanasia; human cruelty; poisons; traps; and weather extremes.

The natural hunting behavior of free-roaming cats results in wildlife species being pursued, injured, and killed. This behavior negatively impacts the prey animal’s welfare, and may have a negative effect on native wildlife populations and contribute to ecosystem disruption. Free- roaming increases the cat’s exposure to infectious, parasitic, and zoonotic disease.

A safe form of identification (e.g., microchipping) facilitates the return of a lost cat to its owner. In addition, owners allowing their cats to roam freely may be in violation of local laws if the cat is not confined to its yard or walked with harness and leash.