New Nationwide Public Service Announcement Campaign Encourages "Cats Indoors" Efforts

(Washington, D.C., January 14, 2014) American Bird Conservancy and Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation have launched a nationwide television public service announcement (PSA) campaign, calling on cat owners to care for their pets using "Cats Indoors" approaches that are demonstrably better for cats, better for birds, and better for people.

The initiative is targeting 35 key cities with three 15-second PSAs and one 30-second PSA. All television network affiliates in the target cities, as well as numerous cable television outlets, are receiving the PSAs. The PSAs can be viewed online.

"Reducing your cat's exposure to outside safety and disease threats, and reducing cat-inflicted mortality on wildlife, are things that I think everyone will agree are positive steps," said ABC President Dr. George Fenwick. "We hope these PSAs create greater awareness of the benefits that cat owners realize when they keep their pet indoors."

"The issue of cat management elicits strong emotional responses everywhere it is talked about," said Don Thompson, Executive Director of Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation. "However, these PSAs present a friendly, non-confrontational approach that I think will be well received by all interested in animal well-being. After all, there really is no credible debate against the many benefits of keeping cats indoors."

The PSAs speak to the widely known and accepted fact that cats kept indoors live three to five times longer than outdoor cats, since they avoid threats such as dogs, cars, poisons, and predation by wildlife. Further, they are far less likely to contract a host of diseases including rabies and toxoplasmosis:

  • Recent studies led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that cats are now by far the leading vector for rabies among domestic animals.
  • Other studies show that up to 74 percent of all cats may be exposed to the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis during their lifetime. Exposing your pet cat to either feral cats or property where feral cats reside poses very real risks to your pet.

Reducing the incidence of such diseases also diminishes potential health impacts to people. As many are aware, toxoplasmosis presents a significant threat to pregnant women who could suffer miscarriages and deliver children with birth defects following infection with the parasite. However, studies suggest even greater risks:

  • One study found that 78 percent of U.S. mothers with infants with congenital defects resulting from toxoplasmosis—such as mental retardation and other neurological abnormalities, seizures, eye lesions and blindness, and premature birth—derived the disease from either direct contact with infected cats or from contact with substances contaminated by cats such as dirt or even water.
  • Immune-compromised people could potentially suffer fatal consequences from toxoplasmosis, while a just-released study documents a remarkable reduction in certain types of memory functions for elderly people who test positive for exposure to toxoplasmosis in comparison to people who test negative.

Finally, the PSAs point out that fewer cats outdoors also means fewer birds and mammals killed by house pets exercising their predatory instincts. A 2013 peer-reviewed study authored by scientists from two of the world's leading science and wildlife organizations—the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—found that bird and mammal mortality caused by outdoor cats is much higher than had been widely reported, with annual bird mortality now estimated to be 1.4 to 3.7 billion and mammal mortality likely 6.9 to 20.7 billion individuals.