While veterinarians recommend keeping cats indoors, many people let their cats outside for hours at a time. They may feel guilty about keeping their cat cooped up indoors away from fresh air and sunshine, or their cat may even be an adopted stray that was already used to staying outside all the time. These indoor/outdoor cats seem to enjoy exploring, hunting and socializing outdoors, so what’s the big deal about letting them roam outside a little bit.
While this article will not scold pet owners who let their cat outside, it will present some of the dangers facing outdoor cats as well as steps pet owners can take to minimize those dangers. It is ultimately up to you to decide whether you want to let your cat outside, and if so, what you’ll do to protect your pet.
- Parasites: Cats that spend a great deal of time outdoors have a much higher chance of getting both internal and external parasites than their indoor counterparts do. While external parasites like fleas and ticks are fairly easy to detect, internal parasites can grow undetected for weeks or even months, causing serious problems down the road. Parasites include:
- Ear mites
- Disease: Outdoor cats are more susceptible to potentially feline diseases because they come in contact with homeless cats who carry these diseases. These diseases include:
- Feline leukemia (FeLV)
- Feline AIDS (FIV)
- Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
- Feline distemper (Panleukopenia)
- Upper respiratory infection (URI)
- Fighting: Cats that wander outside often get into fights with stray cats. These fights can leave your pet with open wounds, missing hair and damaged body parts.
- Threats: Outdoors, there are a number of threats to your cat’s wellbeing that you cannot control. These threats include road traffic, people with malicious intent and poisoning from lawn chemicals.
The easiest way to protect your cat from the dangers of the outdoors is to keep him indoors all together. If you play with your cat often and give him the attention he’s looking for, you can help keep his mind off of the outdoors. If you still decide to allow your cat to go outside, you can help protect him by:
- Spaying or neutering: Having your pet spayed or neutered will help make him less aggressive. This should ease his desire to get into fights and even to roam outdoors in the first place.
- Enclosing your yard: If your cat does go outside, the next best thing you can do is create a safe place for him to roam. You should be able to do this with a fence at least 6 feet high or a specially enclosed area.
- Making nighttime off limit: Nighttime is when the most problems happen for cats because it’s when most fights and car accidents take place.
- Vaccinating: If your cat spends time outside, it is absolutely crucial that you stay up-to-date on all vaccinations and veterinary visits. It is also important to apply flea and tick medication once a month.
- Walking on a leash: While it might seem silly on the surface, many cat owners walk their pet on a leash. Walking your cat will give him the opportunity to get out of the house, but also allow you to make sure he’s safe. While almost every cat resists walking on a leash at first, most eventually enjoy taking walks with their owner.
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