Does your cat love to spend lots of time outdoors? How can you keep them safe and sound?
Cats will be cats, following their instincts and, despite deigning to share some lap time with their designated human, will fiercely maintain their independence, choosing whatever it is they like to do, when, where, and how. Some cats are real homebodies, who rarely venture outside, preferring the comfort and safety of their favourite indoor lookout and snoozing spots. Others adore the great outdoors, dashing out through the cat flap at the first opportunity, ready to experience all the sights, sounds and smells on offer and, for some particularly fearless felines, the possible chance for adventure.
If you have a cat companion who rarely spends times indoors, causing you many an anxious moment as you wonder where they are and what they’re getting up to, you can rest assured that, in general, the experience is highly beneficial for them.
Stimulating for the senses
Feline charity Cats Protection says: “Allowing your cat outdoor access not only increases the space available to them, but also the variety of environment. The outdoor environment is a complex mix of different smells, sights, sounds, tastes and textures that is constantly changing. It is particularly stimulating and interesting for the cat’s extraordinary senses and provides them with an important mental workout. Cats with outdoor access are able to express their natural behaviour.”
Spending lots of time outdoors also enables felines to exercise more readily, which helps keep them in good physical shape too. The charity adds: “Cats have great agility and engaging in a variety of different types of exercise helps to keep their muscles toned. Active cats are much less likely to become obese and suffer from associated health problems.”
Minimising the risks for outdoor-loving cats
However, when your cat is exploring outdoors, you can’t help worrying that they’ll be OK. Cats Protection suggestions the following ways that you can minimise risks for your feline friend:
- Have your cat microchipped – this is a permanent means of identification and will greatly increase your chance of being reunited with them should they go missing. What’s more, microchipping your cat is soon to be the law in the UK.
- Ensure that your cat is neutered to reduce roaming. Young cats can have kittens of their own from just four months of age so, accidental pregnancy is a big risk, with one female capable of having up to 18 kittens a year.
- Regularly treat your cat for fleas and worms and ensure they are up to date with their vaccinations. Speak to your vet for more information and guidance about your specific cat’s needs.
- Keep your cat indoors at night to protect them from the hazards of the roads. Timing meals to coincide with rush hour may also help to keep your cat away from busy roads. A reflective or fluorescent collar may help get them seen, however, collars are not without risk, so ensure it fits properly. Two fingers should fit snugly between the collar and the cat’s neck, and it should have a quick release fitting to prevent your cat becoming ensnared or getting their leg trapped.
- Collar-fitted tracker devices are a popular idea to keep track of your cat, but the welfare implications must be considered – size, weight, and any risk of entrapment and/or impeding the quick release collar. Also consider how practical or useful they may be such as battery life, geographical range and how tracking data is sourced.
Dial down the danger for your BFF (Best Feline Friend)
From toxic plants to garden ponds, wheelie bins to weed killer – the big wide world can be a dangerous place for cat adventurers. Having a human who’s aware of potential hazards on side is something that all cats deserve.
Explorer cats are very susceptible to poisoning. Anything that gets on your cat’s feet or fur is likely to be ingested when they are grooming. If you suspect your cat may have been in contact with a poisonous substance, seek veterinary advice immediately, even if they appear well. Delaying for just a few minutes may endanger their life. Common examples cats may come across include:
- Antifreeze Lethal for cats, so always keep this out of your cat’s way and avoid using it in water features. Clear up any antifreeze spills immediately
- Slug bait Extremely poisonous, especially if it contains metaldehyde or methiocarb
- Rodent bait Avoid, especially anticoagulant types. Even if kept out of the cat’s reach they can still cause harm if the cat eats a poisoned rodent
- Weed killers Extremely poisonous, particularly those containing paraquat
- Insect killers These can be very toxic to cats
A number of plants can be lethal. Cats can even be poisoned by brushing against certain plants and then licking the pollen from their fur. Common plants that are toxic to cats include: All types of Lily (lilies are so poisonous that a cat can suffer fatal kidney failure just from nibbling a leaf, licking pollen off their coat or even from drinking water from a vase with cut lilies in it), Foxglove, Cyclamen, Ivy and Azalea. Feline welfare charity International Cat Care has a comprehensive list of plants that cat owners should be aware of here >>
DEADLY DISEASES AND PESKY PARASITES
To reduce the risk of infectious diseases, ensure that your cat is fully vaccinated against feline herpes virus (FHV), feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline parvovirus (FPV). Cats can also pick up parasites such as fleas, ticks and a variety of internal worms. Consult your vet to discuss the best protection for your cat.
If you have a pond, cats may be tempted to drink from it. To reduce the risk of them falling in, place some wire mesh securely over the pond, or make sure that there is a low edge, so it is easy for a cat to get out. Ensure that any water butts have a lid on them.
Sun-loving cats with white fur – including those with white ears or noses – can be susceptible to sunburn and sun exposure can be a trigger for a type of cancer. Consider using pet-friendly sunscreen (not the human version) on ears and noses and provide plenty of shady spots in your garden with plants, trees and parasols.
THE DANGERS OF SHEDS, GARAGES AND WHEELIE BINS
Keep outbuildings closed and locked and ensure lids are securely on any bins – always check that a cat hasn’t crept into a garden shed, garage, conservatory or wheelie bin before closing them.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO TO HELP YOUR CAT STAY SAFE?
- If you live by a busy road or have a deaf, disabled or nervous cat, there are still ways to enable them to enjoy some outdoor time. From cat-proof fencing to cat enclosures and specially designed ‘catios’. In fact, the Royal Veterinary College has even recommended catios as a way for pets to enjoy wildlife and not be restricted to life indoors. Find out how to create a safe outdoor space for your cat >>
- How cat-friendly is your garden? By creating an outdoor haven that’s full of feline-focused features such as places to hide, opportunities to climb, a high-up look out post, something to scratch on and sensory experiences with cat-safe plants, you can encourage your feline friend to stay closer to home. Check out these ideas for garden designs for your cat >>
- While keeping a cat indoors ensures they are safe, it’s important that they are provided with plenty of activities to enable them to display a normal range of behaviours that keep them mentally alert and physically fit. Find out more about enriching the lives of indoor cats >>
FASCINATING CAT FOODIE FACT!
Did you know that just 48 hours after neutering, cats need an estimated 20% fewer calories? While neutering has many benefits, particularly for outdoor-loving felines, it does mean a cat’s needs can change. Your feline friend will require fewer calories, as his or her body has less work to do. Neutered cats are also more likely to have urinary tract infections and it increases the likelihood of hairballs. Burgess Pet Care’s in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, advises: “It’s a good idea to regularly monitor your cat’s weight and switch to a diet specially created for neutered cats to prevent them from becoming overweight and to help with other changes.”
CARE MORE Get more advice on caring for your cat from Burgess, the pet experts >>
At Burgess, all our cat food is made using premium ingredients and is high in protein, to ensure excellent quality and superior taste to help keep your cat happy and healthy – from kitten, to adult and mature and our award-winning variety for neutered cats.
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