Cats love to spend time outdoors and allowing them access to the outside world provides them with valuable exercise opportunities and mental stimulation. But what can you do to help keep them out of harm’s way?
Posted: 25 April 2018
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.
Begin by following some good basic guidelines. The charity Cats Protection recommends the following:
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...
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:
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:
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.
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-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.
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.
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.
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Sources: icc.org.uk, cats.org.uk