Should I Let My Cat Outside?
This post is written by our holistic veterinarian at "I and love and you", Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT.
I grew up with indoor/outdoor cats. My house backed up against a wheat field and we were a stray cat magnet. Out of the six cats that I had over my childhood, two of them went out and never came home in their older years. My mother always felt that cats should be allowed to enjoy the outdoors and thought it best for their mental health. In college, I lived in an apartment complex and had two indoor cats. I lived near a busy road and was terrified to let them outside.
As an adult, my cats have always lived inside. In vet school, we were taught to shame cat parents that let their cats outside. We were taught there are too many dangers such as cars, other cats, viral disease, dogs, other people and predators such as coyotes, cougars and bobcats.
After practicing for 14 years, I have seen both indoor and indoor/outdoor cats. I have noticed that there are three categories of cats. First are the cats that live indoors and have never known anything else. Second are the cats that go outdoors but don’t have the street smarts to stay alive (these are so tragic). Third are the indoor/outdoor cats that thrive going outdoors. This third group is the happiest and I dare say the healthiest. These cats are rarely fat and have less stress. I do treat them more often for cat bite abscesses and worms but on balance, they are living their best life.
Over the past year, I have wondered: how can we get the benefits of the great outdoors and reduce the risk? How can our cats enjoy the sun and roll in the grass without the threat of being eaten by a coyote? The following are my recommendations to letting your cat enjoy the outdoors safely.
- Vaccines. If your cat is going to be outside, it’s important to protect them against rabies and panleukopenia. If your kitty will have exposure to other kitties, I would recommend the feline leukemia vaccine as well.
- Fencing. You can keep your cat safely in your backyard by attaching this netting to the top of your fence. These are typically pretty sturdy, but can require repair during big snow storms. You must also ensure your kitty can’t escape via tree branches that hang over the fence.
- Catios. If you don’t have a fence you can alter, try a catio! You can find prefabricated catios here. If you’re feeling crafty, I also love these DIY patterns to build one yourself.
- Day Adventures Only. Bring your kitty inside before the prime predator time window of the evenings and nights. You can make this an easy a stress-free transition by using dinner or treat time to make coming inside enjoyable and routine.
- Up to date tags. Many indoor cats don’t wear their tags or collars, which is understandable. For outdoor kitties, I recommend keeping up to date tags with you and your cat’s information in the event that they get lost. I also suggest break-away collars that will freely release if your kitty gets snagged on something.
I know you want to keep your kitty safe and healthy! If you have any questions, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below!