Keeping Cats Indoors Is Better For Your Health, Researchers Say

A cat sits outside the home of Jared Lee Loughner on January 11, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.
David Becker / Getty Images

New research suggests that keeping cats indoors is actually good for health — for the cat and its owner.

Research published in the journal Biology Letters showed that domestic cats that are allowed to roam outside are three times more likely to pick up bacteria that could develop into a disease, which could then be spread to humans living in the home, The Daily Mail reported.

The study revealed that when cats go outside, they could pick up all kinds of pathogens through touch, saliva, or simply by breathing the air. In addition, the chances of any bacteria developing into an illness was likely.

Some bacteria are more dangerous than others. For example, the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can spread from cats to their owners, has been linked to depression, seizures, and schizophrenia in humans. Roundworms, which cats can also bring home, can cause illness — and in rare cases, death — when passed onto humans.

Researchers said that kittens especially should be kept indoors because their immune systems are weaker than grown cats.

In addition, cat owners that allow their cats to go outside should not only monitor how far the cat wanders from home, but also limit the number of other animals the cat may come into contact with.

Outdoor cats are reportedly 2.77 times more likely to become infected with a pathogen than their indoor counterparts.

Lead author of the study Kayleigh Chalkowski said that the likelihood of cats bringing home nasty bacteria was greater in countries at higher latitudes because wildlife in higher altitudes have a higher infection rate from bacteria, Phys.Org reported.

Chalkowski, a researcher at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University in Alabama, said the study examined research from 21 scientific studies and cats from 19 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Pakistan, Spain, and Switzerland. The study was reportedly the first of its kind as far as examining outdoor access as a risk factor for infections and disease in domestic felines.

“Basically, no matter where you are in the world, keeping your cat indoors is a great way to keep them healthy from infectious diseases,” Chalkowski said.

The report stated that there are some 89 – 90 million pet cats in the U.S. alone.

“While we do not necessarily advocate that all domestic animals be restricted indoors, determining routes and risk factors of transmission with respect to environmental contact may be useful in mitigating parasitic infection in domestic animals,” the study concluded.