Outdoor Cat Care
Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) vaccines are only recommended for cats that are indoor/outdoor, outdoor only, or are exposed to cats that go outdoors. FeLV is transmitted through body fluids such as blood, saliva, and milk. Therefore FeLV can be transmitted through bite wounds, nursing or even just using the same water and food bowls. FIV is usually transmitted through bite wounds from fighting cats. Therefore even when taking in a stray cat or kitten for a few days to try to find it a home, it needs to be separated from your cats (ie separate water and food bowls and in a separate room entirely) until its FeLV/FIV status can be determined by a blood test performed by your Veterinarian. The prevalence of FIV in cats varies from 1.5% to 15% in the general population (healthy and sick cats). The prevalence of FeLV in cats varies from 2-12% in the general population (healthy and sick cats).
FeLV and FIV are both incurable and potentially fatal viral diseases that (like HIV/AIDS in people ) suppress the immune system, making the affected cat unable to fight off other infections. FeLV is also a cause of cancer. Cats can carry and spread both viruses for years without showing signs of disease. There is no treatment for either viral infection, just prevention in the form of a yearly vaccination. Therefore if your cat goes outside at all, or is somehow otherwise exposed to unknown stray cats, it is in the best interests of the cat to be vaccinated for both Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
Heartworm disease in cats is a dangerous disease that is difficult to diagnose. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes which deposit microscopic larvae which grow to full sized worms which reside in the heart and lungs of the cat causing permanent damage to the heart and lungs. Although any cat can become infected, outdoor cats are at greater risk. There is a monthly chewable treat preventative that helps prevent heartworm disease in cats and also covers hookworm infection (see below paragraph on hunting).
Cats that hunt prey outdoors can easily contract intestinal parasite infections such as tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Routine deworming in the spring and the fall is recommended. A stool sample check is also recommended to look for these and other parasites. Tapeworm segments are usually the only visible to the naked eye parasites and look like flattened rice pieces found stuck to the fur on the back end of a cat, or left in locations where the cat lies.