Safe, supervised outside time is great for your cat
Whether or not to let your cat out is a controversial topic among cat owners. Some think that indoor cats are unhappy while others believe that the dangers of the outdoors outweigh the benefits. Fortunately, your cat can have the best of both worlds with supervised outside time.
The benefits of outside time
Most cats love being outside and it is great for their mental and physical health.
- Engaging in natural behaviors – cats love to hunt and explore and the outdoors allows them to behave the way they would in the wild. They can get lots of exercise and can scratch and urine mark. Hunting and stalking prey (even if it’s a bug or a leaf) is a great way for your cat to meet her natural need to hunt. Exercise is essential for your cat’s health.
- A more interesting environment – being outside lets your cat experience new sounds, sights, and smells and watch everything that is going on. Mental stimulation is important for preventing boredom and behavior issues.
- More territory – going outside gives your cat more territory to call her own. Sometimes she needs some time away from the house, especially if it’s a busy environment with a lot going on.
- Stress reduction – all the above benefits reduce your cat’s stress levels, which is great for all areas of their health. Stress is terrible for cats and leads to a deterioration of their mental and physical health and causes many behavior issues.
Letting your cat roam is dangerous
As much as cats love being outdoors, letting them roam unsupervised is so dangerous that many rescues insist on adopting only to homes that keep their cats indoors.
- The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is just 2-5 years, as opposed to 15+ years for indoor cats, who often reach 18-20 years of age.
- The dangers of letting your cat out unsupervised are endless – your cat can get lost, injured, hit by a car, poisoned, attacked by an animal, or harmed by a human. Many cats are euthanized after sustaining life-threatening injuries outdoors because their owners cannot afford the vet bills and many go missing and are never found.
Keep your cat safe with walks and a catio
Your cat can have the best of both worlds with a little help from you.
Take your cat for walks
- Many cats adjust well to walking on a leash. The key is to make it enjoyable and safe for your cat.
- Don’t expect your cat to go for a walk the same way your dog does. Your cat will want to explore at her own pace and might not go very far.
- Watch out for danger. Keep an eye out for dogs, traffic, other cats, and anything else that might frighten your cat.
- Anticipate your cat’s next move. Watch your cat’s body language for signs of stress and to predict what she might do next. Make sure she doesn’t jump over a fence, leaving you on the other side of it holding the leash. If she seems stressed, it’s time to go home.
- Use an escape-proof harness. If your cat gets scared, she can easily escape a regular harness and get lost. There is a variety of escape-proof harnesses available, just make sure to use them only when you are watching your cat because she will not be able to get out if the harness gets caught on something.
- Get your cat used to walking gradually. First, use baby steps and positive reinforcement to get her used to the harness and leash and then go for short walks. Start going for longer walks as she gets more comfortable but stay close enough that she can find her way home if you get separated.
- Makes sure your cat has ID. Your cat should have a microchip, a tag with your phone number and address, and a tag indicating that she is registered with the City. Make sure to update your info if you move and don’t forget to update it with the service where the microchip is registered.
Make a cat sanctuary in your backyard
You can cat-proof your fence or build a catio. This is easy to do yourself and there are many resources available online or you can hire a professional.
- If you are building a catio, use pet fence, pressure-treated wood or cedar, and heavy-duty staples. Put it next to a window so your cat can come and go on her own but always supervise her outside time.
- Cat-proofing your fence is trickier but there are DIY kits available. Keep in mind that other animals will still be able to get in. They won’t like not being able to get back out, so they probably won’t come back but you need to supervise your cat when she’s outside.
- Check your cat-proof enclosure for any potential escape areas or spots where your cat might get her paws or head stuck.
- Check your enclosure regularly for damage.
- Always provide fresh water and don’t leave your cat outside when you’re not watching.
- Plant some cat grass, catnip, and cat-friendly plants and add scratching posts and cat trees. You can get creative and make a space you and your cat will both love!