Are you struggling to decide whether you should let your cat outdoors? It’s a tough decision, and ultimately it is a personal choice.
Statistics show that indoor cats live significantly longer than outdoor cats on average, but the thing is, many cats love going outdoors. Some even insist on it!
It might be hard to sign off on something that seems so likely to shorten your cat’s lifespan, but remember that statistics aren’t everything.
We all have indulgences that probably negatively affect our longevity (cocktails, chocolate, fried food, etc.), but we can all agree that life is a little richer with these “vices” than it would be without them.
So, does that make us hypocrites if we deprive our feline friends of the joys of the great outdoors? Maybe.
While going outdoors can be dangerous for cats, with some planning and preparation, you can help your cat stay safe. Plus, spending time outside offers excellent mental stimulation and encourages exercise, which are great for your cat’s overall health.
Let’s take a closer look at some pros and cons of going outdoors to help you determine what’s right for your cat.
The outdoors pose many dangers
Before you open the door and let your cat run freely outdoors, think through the potential hazards they will encounter. There are actions you can take to help protect your cat from many of these.
· Predators: Between owls, raccoons, and other cats, there’s always a chance your cat will encounter predators outside. If they get into a tangle with one of these animals, they may become injured and at risk of infection. Make a habit of checking your cat for wounds when they return from their outdoor adventures.
· Traffic: Busy roadways are a concern for outdoor cats. Since cats tend to roam long distances, the best thing you can do is equip them with a reflective collar to help increase their visibility outdoors.
· Toxic substances: Outdoor cats may encounter toxins such as antifreeze, contaminated water, and parasites like ticks and fleas. Cats who hunt are also at risk of consuming rodents who have consumed poison. If they eat their prey, your cat could be poisoned by extension. Monitor your cat closely for behaviour changes if they spend time outdoors. Brush up on symptoms of poisoning, and give your cat anti-flea and tick medication regularly.
· Harsh weather conditions: Cats are pretty good at protecting themselves from inclement weather, but they could be caught off guard in extreme heat or cold. Consider creating a little outdoor retreat for your cat that offers shade or warmth (depending on the season), and always leave a bowl of fresh water out for them. That way, they can shelter themselves until you get home to open the door!
But going outside has benefits too
While the outdoors can be dangerous, there are a lot of positive aspects of letting your cat spend time outside.
For one, many cats love being outdoors. They enjoy exploring the garden, stalking birds, and laying in sunny patches on your patio. They may even enjoy sneaking into your neighbour’s house for some extra head scratches (and treats).
Going outside is a dynamic experience which offers your cat excellent mental stimulation. There are always new sights, sounds, and smells to investigate, unlike the indoors, which may be more static.
Cats are also likely to get more exercise when they spend time outdoors. All that exploring, climbing trees, and roaming the neighbourhood will help them stay physically active and keep extra weight off!
Keeping your cat safe outside
If you decide to let your cat experience the outdoors, you can do a couple of things to help them stay safe.
· Update your cat’s microchip. If your cat gets lost, a microchip is the best way to ensure they are eventually reunited with you.
· Get them a collar. If your cat has a collar, it lets people know they have a home and are not stray. In many cases, this will mean people leave your cat alone to go about their business. Or, it will inspire them to get the cat’s microchip checked and locate their owner!
· Keep them in at night. At night, predators like raccoons, owls, and stray cats will be out in full force. Not to mention, poor visibility puts your cat at more risk of being hit by a car. Mitigate risk by keeping your cat inside after dark.
For pet parents who want to be extra cautious, consider teaching your cat to walk on a leash! That way, you can enjoy the outdoors together without worrying about your cat getting lost or injured.