INSIDE AND OUT: 6 Ways to Keep Your Cat Safe in the Great Outdoors

Most cats love nature and it’s only natural that they do! While your furry friend may enjoy cuddling up with you, they may prefer to spend days or nights outdoors. Cats are very curious creatures and have an innate drive to run, pounce, climb, and hunt. Many families decide that it is best for their cat to live an indoor-outdoor lifestyle, providing the best of both worlds. There are always pros and cons when making this decision and safety concerns should always be addressed. Here is a quick run-down of ways to keep your indoor-outdoor cat as safe as possible.

Six Ways to Keep Your Cat Safe

1. Install a Cat Door

Cat access doors in and out of the house provide your cat with a multitude of benefits. The biggest plus is that your cat can decide to go in or out anytime they like – fulfilling their strong sense of independence. If your cat gets into trouble and is pursued by a large dog or other predator, they will have a safe escape route back home.

If you decide to install a door, be sure to select its location carefully. Some install doors to allow their cat a way to escape from larger predators into a garage space that is not technically part of the house. Others install several, allowing full freedom and access between the inside of the house, the garage, and the great outdoors. If you are renting, be sure that your landlord has approved the door before installation.

Always assess your living situation before allowing your cat to go outdoors alone. If you live by a busy highway or where dogs roam unleashed, it may not be safe for them to go outside, even with a cat door in place. Also, brush up on your local laws and ordinances about unleashed pets, as it may be illegal to allow your cat outdoors unsupervised.

2. Build a ‘Catio’ or Outdoor Play Yards

‘Catios’ seem to be all the rage! These “cat patios” allow your cat to enjoy being outdoors while still being fully enclosed. Outdoor play areas provide full protection from predators and prevent your cat from running away or injured. They can feel the grass beneath their paws, dig in the dirt, or just lounge in the sunshine! A few great examples of catios can be found here in an issue of Country Living.

3. Microchip Your Pet

Microchipping your cat is a must if they go outdoors. Microchips are a permanent form of identification and can come in handy if your cat loses their collar. The microchip is a tiny transponder the size of a grain of rice. It is inserted under the skin with a needle right between the shoulder blades. Your veterinarian can apply the microchip quickly and relatively painlessly at your cat’s next wellness visit. You will need to register your contact information with the microchip company. If your cat is missing, many microchip companies will issue an alert, contacting local shelters, animal control, and veterinarians. When your cat is found, shelters and veterinarians will be able to scan, positively identify your pet, and contact you.

4. Safety Collars

Providing your cat with a form of identification is a must. Small ID tags can be made at kiosks at your local pet store or ordered online. Special collars are necessary to keep your cat safe. Collars with rigid snaps can cause strangulation if the cat gets caught on something. Safety collars have breakaway buckles; when enough pressure is applied to the collar material, the snap will break or pop open, allowing your cat to avoid injury.

5. Health Considerations

Indoor-outdoor cats will be exposed to more viruses, parasites and other pathogens than their indoor-only counterparts. Veterinarians recommend using monthly flea and tick control year-round in most locations and monthly heartworm disease prevention in endemic areas. Feline leukemia and FIV “feline AIDS” viruses are common in feral cat populations world-wide and vaccines are available to protect your cat.

6. Don’t Declaw

Declawing is illegal in many countries but can be common in others. If your cat is declawed, it is NOT recommended that it be allowed outdoors unsupervised. Without claws, your cat is unable to defend himself as well against predators. While declawed cats can still climb, many have a hard time doing so and could have trouble avoiding predators or other cats. If your cat is declawed, consider investing in a ‘catio’ or enclosed outdoor play yard.

Before you let your cat out, be sure that these safety measures are in place. If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian for advice. They will help to keep your cat healthy and happy, allowing him more time to do what he likes to do best – be himself.