Do any of your feline friends spend any time outside – prowling the neighborhood, just sunning on the patio, or guarding the barn? To make sure your cat stays healthy, here is some very important information you’ll want to know and discuss with your veterinarian.


Besides the core vaccines your cat receives, Rabies and FeVRCP (“distemper”), cats spending time outside or in close contact with other cats are at risk for being infected by Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Both viruses attack the immune system, causing various medical issues, and are non-curable.

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is transmitted through “casual” contact. Nose-to-nose contact, grooming, and shared dishes are the more common ways this virus is transmitted. Young cats seem to be more susceptible to infection than older cats. There is a vaccine for FeLV to help protect your cat from this disease.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is transmitted through “close” contact. Bite wounds are the main way FIV is transmitted. There is a vaccination available, however it generally is not used because a vaccinated cat will test positive for the virus even if they are free from the disease.
Additional Testing:

Both FeLV and FIV can cause unique health issues for your pet. Since any positive cat is managed differently than a cat who is free from these diseases, testing is an important part of managing an at-risk cat. Specific recommendations may vary, but in general, testing is recommended for:

  • all newly adopted cats and kittens, regardless of their future planned lifestyle
  • any new cat/kitten prior to introduction to other cats in your household
  • around 3 months after a cat has been in a cat fight or treated for an abscess
  • any sick cat, regardless of age, previous negative test results or vaccinations
  • prior to vaccination for FeLV or FIV

Kittens are generally dewormed to clear them of intestinal parasites they might have gotten from their mom. However, any cat who spends time outside or hunts, is at risk for reinfection from various intestinal parasites. Some of these include tapeworms, roundworms, hook and whipworms. Besides affecting your pet, your pet could transmit these parasites to you and your family. In people, some to these parasites can cause neurologic disease and blindness

Your veterinarian can help you determine the deworming product and the appropriate frequency for your cat’s lifestyle. For us here, we (and our feline clients) like the product Profender, because it is a topical product vs a pill. We generally recommend starting with deworming every 3 months. However, some of our more avid hunters need to be dewormed monthly during the “hunting season”.

Flea and Tick:

Here in Colorado, these preventions are not a bad idea, especially for cats who spend time near a lot of rabbit burrows and prairie dog towns. The most concerning disease these prevention help protect against in this area is plague.

Presented here was just a brief overview of some of the special needs of a cat who spends time outside. Your veterinarian can help you determine what is best for you and your feline friend.

Additional information can also be found through:

  • American Association of Feline Practitioners (
  • International Society of Feline Medicine (
  • American Veterinary Medical Association ( – “public resources” tab)