The lifestyles of domestic cats versus feral cats are strikingly different regarding their daily threat levels and the difficulty they face in finding food. While feral cats survive out on their own in the wild, the situation is very different for a domestic cat that finds itself living outside with no prior experience living in the wild. So, can a domesticated cat survive in the wild?
A domesticated cat is unlikely to survive in the wild on its own for a considerable amount of time. Cats that have not spent time outside do not have the necessary skill set to survive in the wild by themselves.
The chances of a cat surviving on its own in the wild decrease even further depending on whether a cat has spent any time outside before or not. Read on to see how long cats can live outside.
How Long Can Indoor Cats Survive Outside
While there is no specific time duration for how long an indoor cat will survive while living outside, their life span would likely be significantly shortened. A cat that has never spent any time outside will not know how to properly defend itself, hunt for food, or survive against the elements.
The first threat that an indoor cat faces while trying to survive outside is the threat of other animals. An indoor cat is unlikely to have been exposed to any other animals besides other domesticated cats or dogs.
Outside, many other species pose a threat to attack a cat. This ranges from hawks, snakes, raccoons, foxes, or even bigger animals like bobcats and cougars. Not only do these other animals carry foreign diseases, but many of them are more aggressive predators than a cat is used to encountering.
An indoor cat’s only natural defense against a wild animal is its claws and natural fighting instincts. While a cat may initially stand its ground against a predator of its exact size, it would likely eventually run into a dangerous animal that would pose a much higher risk to them.
A cat that has been attacked in the wild also has no way to seek help or medical care. It’s very easy for a wound to become infected or for a cat to become injured to the point where they can no longer hunt for food independently.
This situation is made worse if your cat is declawed and then is forced to live out in the wild. An indoor cat that is declawed is essentially helpless when outside the home. A cat that is declawed has a very low chance of long-term survival outside, as a cat’s nails are a tremendous asset to them in the wild.
Can Domestic Cats Survive On Their Own
Sadly, a domestic cat is unlikely to survive independently for a considerable length of time truly. While cats do have some instincts that will help them stay alive in the wild, a domestic cat has not been prepared for life in nature.
One of the biggest problems for a cat in the wild will be finding a reliable food source. In truth, it is a misconception that cats are born knowing how to hunt.
While cats do have some natural inclinations, they typically would need to be taught by their mother or another cat how to hunt another animal or maintain a reliable food source truly. A domestic cat forced to live by itself is unlikely to have a long lifespan unless they find a new owner or a new domestic living situation.
Can Cats Survive In The Forest
A domestic cat is very unlikely to end up living in a forest environment, but if they did, they would struggle to survive.
Typically if a domestic cat ends up in the wild, it has gone missing or was abandoned by an owner. In either scenario, the cat is unlikely to have spent any time in a forest environment and will seek out a more familiar landscape instead.
Most cats would rather stay in a suburban environment, as that is more familiar for them. Cats are also quite unlikely to run a far distance away and are even less likely to wander into the forest independently.
There are far more big predators that would attack a cat in the forest than in a suburban setting, and cats are smart enough to realize this. A forest also does not provide many good hiding places for cats, and they are unlikely to sleep out in the open.
Can Cats Survive Outside In The Heat
Cats can survive outside in the heat, but not for an extended period. While it varies tremendously depending on the cat breed, cats usually do not thrive in very hot climates.
A cat will work hard to conserve its energy when forced to be in a very hot situation. They might do this by becoming as inactive as possible and resting for many hours at a time to keep their core temperature from rising too high.
Additionally, cats will avoid being in direct sunlight if possible and will seek out dark, cooler corners of their environment. The most significant variable for a cat trying to survive outside in the heat is whether the cat will access a water source.
In very hot temperatures, cats require a lot of water to stay hydrated.
A cat will get much thirstier than usual on a very hot day and will need even more water than usual. For a cat living outside on its own, this may be hard to find, and this will cause the cat to become very dehydrated. This will quickly lead to a very dangerous situation for a cat that could result in death.
Can Cats Survive In The Cold
Cats can survive in the cold if they can shelter in a warm and protected place. As the temperature decreases, the threat level increases for a cat trying to survive in the cold. When the temperature is below freezing, it is dangerous for a cat to be outside.
If you see a stray cat outside in freezing temperatures, take action to get them inside and protected from the elements. Feral cats typically do an excellent job of insulating themselves from the cold, but a domesticated cat really will do better if brought inside to a sheltered area.
A cat that is left outside is at risk of catching hypothermia. When temperatures are below zero, the most vulnerable parts of a cat are their external body parts like their ears or paws. If left out in the cold, cats can get frostbite on those external limbs that eventually lead to the cat needing their limb amputated.
How Do Abandoned Cats Survive
When a cat is abandoned, it is not likely to survive for a considerable length of time outside on its own. When a cat is first abandoned, they are initially very distraught and frightened.
Typically a cat will be very thrown out of their routine knowing that they are no longer in their home environment and expend a lot of their energy and strength trying to return home.
In addition to feeling lost and confused, abandoned cats will struggle to find both food and a stable shelter. In the first few weeks after a cat is abandoned, it will likely struggle to survive without a reliable food source and while facing dangerous predators.
If a cat is truly abandoned, their best chance of survival will be if they are re-homed to a farm or controlled location where they can easily prey on mice and other small rodents.
If you consider abandoning a cat, it is a much more humane option to leave a cat with an animal shelter. Cats that live a domestic lifestyle are not suited for life in the wild.
Things To Consider
There are very few situations where a domestic cat can thrive while living in the wild. The great outdoors poses too many threats for small cats between other wild animals, disease, and a lack of food. If you are trying to optimize your cat’s lifespan, it is best to keep them solely inside the comfort of your home.
A cat that lives its life entirely inside typically lives for fifteen to seventeen years, while a cat that spends some of its time outside is likely to shave a few years off of that lifespan. The lifespan of a cat shortens even more drastically if they live their entire life outside.
To optimize your cat’s health and overall quality of life, keep your cat in the safety of your climate-controlled home!