The call of the great outdoors can be tempting for our feline companions! The breeze blowing, birds chirping, sun shining, rodents scampering, and plenty of interesting places to explore is essentially a call to their instinctual behaviors. If your cat has ever sat at the window, longingly and wistfully viewing the outdoors, you might have been tempted to give in to their desires. While all these great outdoor experiences await them, so do dangers. So, what is the answer to the age-old question-- should I let my cat outside?
First and foremost, there will ALWAYS be dangers outside that are not present indoors. From city life with whizzing cars to rural living with predators like coyotes, every home setting presents hazards for your cat. Here are some dangers that you will need to consider:
Vehicles: While a more frequent threat to city or suburban cats, vehicles also pose a threat to less vehicle-savvy rural cats. Even the quietest street will get the occasional car that pulls on to it, and an unsuspecting cat and a distracted driver make for a bad combination. In suburban and city areas, outdoor cats will get a little more aware of vehicles, but the sheer volume means outdoor cats stand a greater chance of being hit by a car.
Predators: Coyotes, bears, stray dogs, and birds of prey are just a few predators that could hunt your cat. While cats themselves are spry and scrappy when it comes to defending themselves, ambushes happen, and eventually, the nine lives run out.
Diseases: Outdoor cats are more frequently exposed to diseases. If they happen to run into a stray cat, they can contract diseases like feline leukemia (FeLV), feline AIDS (FIV), Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia), and upper respiratory infections. Wild animals could expose them to rabies and other zoonotic diseases.
Parasites: Cats that spend time outdoors have a higher risk of contracting parasites, both internal and external. Common parasites they could be exposed to include fleas, ear mites, lice, ticks, intestinal parasites, and fungal infections like ringworm.
Outdoor Toxins: Inside your home, you can control your methods and the products you use to make sure your cat is not exposed to toxins. Outside of your home, neighbors and businesses may use products like poisons, insecticides, fertilizers, and pesticides that could have disastrous consequences for your cat if they come in contact with them.
Cruel People: At the end of the day, some people are just downright mean to cats and view them as vermin. Cases of intentional cruelty are not isolated, and cats must be protected from humans who mean them harm.
In addition to these dangers, these other two points are important considerations when deciding whether to allow your cat outside:
So how can you help to satisfy your cat’s cravings for outdoor adventures?
Leash Training: Some cats take to harnesses and leashes like fish to water, and some will flop over and refuse to walk. If your cat seems comfortable with harnessing and outdoor adventures, leash training might be right for you!
Carriers and Strollers: Have you even seen the cat bubble backpacks?! Special carriers and strollers are available for you to take a walk in the great outdoors while perfectly protecting your cat in the comfort of a carrier.
Interactive Play: Find toys that encourage natural behavior! Toys that move erratically like wands, battery operated toys, and food dispensing toys all will help to scratch a hunting itch your cat might be feeling.
Bring the Outdoors Inside: Try your hand (or green thumb!) at growing cat friendly plants like catnip and cat grass! Other houseplants might satisfy their outdoor curiosity but always be sure to check that they are safe for cats before bringing them home. Make it feel just like the outdoors by opening screen protected windows and adding a bubbler or fountain that your cat can drink out of to their favorite spot in the house. Tree climbing cats will enjoy a good tall cat tree and will likely spend lots of their time perched in it.
Outdoor Enclosures: You can also give your cat a taste of the outdoors by building or purchasing what is known as a cat run! Outdoor enclosures should be fully enclosed, including the top, and your cat should be supervised while in the enclosure.
Your cat will live a longer and healthier life as an indoor pet because there are less threats to them in the comfort of their cat friendly home. If your cat seems curious about a more al fresco lifestyle, they may require special vaccinations and additional preventatives. It is important to carefully assess the risks and dangers before bringing them outside. Whether ending their time outdoors to become inside only kitties or giving your indoor-only cat a safe outdoor experience, it is important to have them fully examined before changing your cat’s lifestyle. Give us a call today to schedule your cat’s next wellness appointment!