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Keeping your cat safe in the great outdoors
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Keeping your cat safe in the great outdoors

Cats love to do their thing outside. Whether that’s exploring, observing, territory marking, hunting, interacting with (or stealthily avoiding) neighbouring felines, or simply finding a safe sunny spot for a nap. There’s no doubt that giving your favourite feline the freedom to come and go as they please provides them with bucket-loads of benefits. However, the curiosity of cats means they can get into scrapes from time to time. As a responsible owner, you’ll want to do all you can to protect against unfortunate incidents.

Start with the basics

Begin by following some good basic guidelines. The charity Cats Protection recommends the following:

  • Have your cat neutered – this reduces the risk of your cat fighting and sustaining injury, contracting diseases or become lost.
  • Provide a safe and secure home, with thoughtful placement of their food, water, litter tray, hiding and rest areas. Your cat will need their own space and plenty of enrichment to keep them happy and healthy and encourage them to stay close to home.
  • Provide a healthy diet and appropriate health care – including vaccination, flea and worming treatment and regular vet check-ups.
  • Ensure your cat is microchipped – so if they go missing, your details can be quickly traced allowing you to be reunited.
  • Consider taking out pet insurance, to give you peace of mind and the financial means to treat your cat should anything unexpected arise.
  • Be aware of potential hazards and protect against them where possible.

Hazard awareness

From toxic plants to garden ponds, wheelie bins to weed killer – the big wide world can be a dangerous place for cat explorers. Having a human who’s aware of potential hazards on side is something that all cats deserve...

Poison warning

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 eaten 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.

Perilous plants

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
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Foxglove
  • Cyclamen
  • Ivy
  • Azalea

The 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.

Cat collar challenges

If your cat wears a collar, always choose a ‘quick release’ or snap opening collar, rather than an elasticated one. This means that your cat is less likely to be trapped if the collar gets snagged. The collar must be fitted correctly – two fingers should fit snugly underneath it when the cat is wearing it. Cats can catch their leg or jaw in an elasticated or ill-fitting collar, which can result in serious injury.

Road risk

There is an increased chance of road accidents after nightfall, so it’s best to keep your cat indoors overnight. Their eyes do not adjust as quickly as ours to changes in light intensity, so sudden bright headlights can be dazzling and disorientating. Timing meals to coincide with rush hour may also help to keep your cat away from busy roads. Choosing a fluorescent collar can help your cat to be more visible.

Sun safety

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.

Pond alert

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.

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.

Make your own garden more enticing

You can encourage your cat to stay close to home by planting ‘cat- friendly’ plants such as catnip (Nepeta cataria), mint, cat thyme (Teucrium marum) and lavender. A patch of longer grass can provide a soft bed and cats may also nibble on it to help cough up hairballs. Plants without thorns can provide shady spots to lie in, while logs provide excellent outdoor scratching posts.

If you found this interesting, you may also like:

  • How pet friendly is your garden?
  • Some like it hot: Cats are the ultimate sunseekers – bagging themselves the sunniest spots for a snooze, even on a hot day. But have you ever wondered why?

Sources: icc.org.uk, cats.org.uk

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