Outdoor cats

Go out or stay in? How to keep your outdoor cats safe

Alfie comment:

I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU WOKE ME UP FOR THIS!!

As the old saying goes, *don’t* mess with cats. While we humans are quick to heed this advice, we can’t say that rodents and other pests feel the same way. There are also those other things to consider, like diseases and parasites lurking in the great outdoors. That’s why we’ve rounded up how cats can find their feet and thrive outdoors and will note some risks that cat parents should be on the prowl for.

Reasons why your cat should spend some time outdoors

  • Rodent control - Did you know that cats can help to keep rodents away? This is because they emit chemicals that scare mice away. Mice also know cats can smell them when they enter their house. It’s like an I-know-that-you-know-that-I’m-here situation, so mice are smart enough to scurry away.
  • Combats obesity - Outdoor cats are less likely to become overweight because they’re often out and about, getting their daily steps in!
  • Great for mood - Due to the outdoor stimulation, outdoor cats are less likely to develop behavioural problems like urinating in the house or clawing furniture because they’re less likely to be bored.

The dark side of the great outdoors

  • Road traffic accidents - If you live in a town or near a busy road, the risk of traffic hazards is greater.
  • Poisoning - Cats can be poisoned by chemicals used in the garden or by eating poisoned prey, although thankfully this is uncommon.
  • Disease - Contact with other cats (especially fighting) can lead to infections with feline immunodeficiency virus, cat flu or other viruses.
  • Infestation - Your cat can contract fleas and other parasites from prey and the environment.
  • Stress - A shy or nervous cat may find the great outdoors and particularly other strange cats stressful and may prefer to spend time indoors.

Risk minimisation strategies to try

  • Let your cat out in the daytime and not at night. You can get into a routine of calling your cat in at bedtime and rewarding with some food.
  • Vaccinate your cat and treat them for parasites, ticks and fleas regularly.
  • Check that your cat is microchipped, and make sure your details are up to date.
  • Provide a controlled outdoor territory for them to play, like a front or a backyard or a ‘catio’ if roaming free is not the safest.

Cats are incredibly independent creatures who deserve a lot of credit. If you’re trying to balance being a cautious and a relaxed cat parent, know that it’s a trial you have encountered. The best way to keep your cat away from harm’s way is to place some strategies (as listed above) and stick to a routine, so they don’t need to explore the streets at night.

Contact your local vet for assistance if you struggle to train your cat.