Pet Articles

Outdoor Cats

The first time you own a cat, you must decide on several things. You must decide what food will keep it healthy and what toys will keep it happy. Then you must decide what veterinary clinic will take care of your cat. You also get to decide who gets to clean the litter box and the occasional hairball. These are all important decisions that will help you and your cat coexist peacefully and happily.

However, another key decision that you will make is whether or not to let your cat roam outside. Indoor and outdoor cats have entirely different lifestyles and problems. This article will explore the benefits and risks of allowing your cat access to the outdoors. It will also take into consideration that not all situations are the same, and that different cats in different houses may be at various risk levels. Finally we will cover some options for pet owners who would like to get some of the benefits of the outdoors while minimizing the risks to their pet.

Cats are domestic creatures, but unlike many dog breeds, still maintain an uncanny ability to survive in the wild. Therefore, the wild side of cats gives many of them the drive to explore the outdoors, while the domestic side of cats causes them to return to you for easy access to food and attention. Although some cats prefer to remain in the house, many do enjoy being outside. A house can sometimes be a very quiet, and even very dull environment. The outdoors is full of bugs, birds, noises, and excitement. Cats that spend a significant amount of time outside often require less maintenance because they may go to the bathroom outside, shed less hair in your house, and may need less play-time when they return after an exciting day outside. In addition, outdoor cats are sometimes more fit than their indoor counterparts, who tend to burn a hole in their favorite sofa.

With all that going for you, why would you want to keep an indoor cat? There are many risks associated with allowing your cat to roam outside. Most of these risks are increased because the cats are more likely to interact with other cats and wildlife. Rabies, feline leukemia, fleas and other diseases can spread between animals. Some of these diseases can be major (rabies) or minor (intestinal parasites) potential dangers to humans. Fortunately, with proper vaccination and medication, most diseases that your cat can contract outside are actually preventable! The two major risks for an outdoor cat are getting hit by a car and getting into a fight with another cat. Due to their instincts, cats are very good survivors outside. However, most of them still haven’t learned about cars. When a car hits a cat, it is usually a very severe or fatal injury. Although cat fight injuries are treatable when caught quickly, these injuries still cost you time and money, and cause pain for your cat. A cat injured in a cat fight must always go to the veterinary clinic, because cat bite wounds almost certainly get infected and cause great damage to the tissue.

What it comes down to is location. Many cat owners in cities, and rural cat owners who live near busy roads, understand that the car risk is higher for their cats than for cats in areas with less car traffic. These owners may choose to keep their cats indoors. Other cat owners may have previously had problems with territorial tomcats in their neighborhood and may want to avoid cat fights. Take a moment to look at your location and evaluate the potential risks in your cat’s outdoor environment. Weigh those risks against the benefits, and make your decision.

There is a way to decrease these risks! You can walk your cat on a harness and leash. It may take a while to train your cat to walk on a leash, and older cats do not tend to accept it very quickly. However leash-walking is a great way to bond with your cat, and to allow it outdoors in a controlled situation. It is not appropriate to tie your cat up on the leash unsupervised as it can easily get all tangled up. However, a large cage (with a top!) and a couple of cat toys on a sunny day will allow your cat to have a wonderful time observing activity and relaxing in the outdoors. Of course, there is the option of keeping your cat entirely indoors. Providing it with toys and the companionship of another cat are often enough stimulation for an indoor cat.

It is important to understand the risks and benefits of any decision. Spend some time learning about what your cat enjoys, and what your lifestyle allows. Keep your cat as safe and happy as possible, whether that is indoors, outdoors, or somewhere in between.

By Ashley O’Driscoll – writer

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