Our indoor cat LOVES the outdoors. When we had a warm spell in October, he looked at me like I was crazy for not letting him out and the minute I opened the door to put my kid on the bus, he ran out to enjoy the 80 degree October day.
With all that running outdoors, my cat is vulnerable. I worry like crazy that he’ll forget to come home or get run over by a car or something, not to mention how often does he come home covered in burrs… or worse.
Keeping Your Outdoor Cat Safe All Year Long
I’m not going to have you forbid your cat from going outside, but there are some things you can do to make sure your feline is safe when he needs to take a walk around the neighborhood.
Let’s discover how to keep you outdoor cat safe all year long!
For New Cat Owners
If you’ve just adopted a new kitten, congratulations! Your sweet kitty will make your family very happy. Cats are extremely independent and sometimes they get a bad rap for that. The truth is, many cats are affectionate and can be very loyal too. Keep your cat content by starting now to give him good safety habits.
- Keep your kitten indoors until he’s fully grown. He will just be safer. There are far too many dangers before he grows up or grows claws.
- Don’t declaw him. There are many reasons not to do this, from safeguarding him from pain to protecting him around danger. Let your cat’s nails grow naturally and find other ways to protect your furniture.
- Get him used to your touch. If you can get your kitten used to probing, such as brushing his teeth, examining his eyes and ears, etc., you’ll have an easier time caring for him as he gets older. For example, it’s difficult to give a cat medicine, but if he is used to your hands checking his teeth, he may be more compliant than the average cat.
- Always remember, a cat is not a dog. Playing with a cat means respecting their space. You truly need to teach your family to give your cat space and to treat him gently, especially if you have a child with learning disability or autism. My daughter, for example, can be too rough, and that leads to Bello leaving the house more frequently.
- Give him a tag and collar. That way, if he gets lost they can find you.
- Spay and neuter your cat. This may not eliminate his or her desire to go outside but it could reduce it. It will also lower your cat’s risk of getting diseases via other cats, and it’s been shown to have additional health benefits for female cats, according to the ASPCA. In fact, spayed or neutered felines may live 3-5 years longer than their counterparts. And naturally, it keeps your female cats free of unwanted pregnancies!
For Current Cat Owners
If you looked at the list above, you may have laughed, because you know there’s no way you can do some of those things! Here is what you can do – and if you haven’t spayed or neutered your cat, please talk to your vet about the risks for an older cat.
- Keep your cat’s claws intact and trimmed. Even indoor cats can get out (let’s not talk about my moving day fiasco years ago) so leave him with the best protection he has: his claws. Keep his claws properly trimmed, either by vet, groomer or if you can, with a proper cat nail trimmer.
- Bring you cat indoors at night. This can be tricky, but he may want come in on cold, snowy or wet nights. I recommend feeding him his nighttime meal after you close off access to the outside, such as windows without screens and open doors in nicer weather.
- Give him a comfy spot so he’ll feel warm and cozy …and not be tempted to leave once the weather gets crazy cold! My cat loves to sleep on my daughter’s queen sized bed.
- Brush his coat thoroughly when he comes indoors. Your cat love this and making it a regular practice will keep him free of burrs and dirt clumps. It will also make you aware of any injuries or parasites he’s picked up in his travels too. Consistently doing this will allow you to avoid bathing him, which most cats LOATHE!
- Care for his teeth. After a certain age, he will not put up with brushing so be sure to buy your cat treats that help keep his teeth healthy.
- Vaccinate wisely. Use good sense in following recommendations and state laws. For example, all states by law require a rabies shot, which is a common sense safeguard for outdoor animals, but get the 3-year dose instead of the annual vaccine if possible, to save you time, money and frustration. (Vaccinating animals is not fun for them!) Keep track of what vaccines he gets and when so you don’t over-vaccinate.
- Use a holistic vet, or one that is familiar with natural health, if you can find and afford one.
- Give him a quality supplement made specifically for pets. For example, did you know you could give your cat fish oil supplements? Always check with your vet first.
- Use safe parasite, flea and tick protection. This is really important in my home, because Zoe and Bello rub faces sometimes and I don’t want her to be exposed to fleas OR toxic products. Find a nontoxic solution that is free from harsh chemicals for both protection and treatment. And, you might want to pick up one of those tick removal gadgets in case you’re brave enough to do this yourself!
- Buy climbing towers. These are pricy, I admit, but if your cat has no other options for climbing, he’ll be much more tempted to leave the house. Give him a great reason to stay indoors in inclement weather.
- Keep him out of flea and tick hotspots near your home. I recently learned that under the deck is a perfect place for these parasites, so make sure to block off these kinds of tick prone areas.
- Don’t keep toxic plants in your home. Many plants, like poinsettias, can make your cat sick or even be deadly. Ask your vet what varieties are unsafe in your area and keep the holiday decorations out of reach.
- Tempt him back inside with tasty meals. How can he resist after a long, hard day of chasing birds and exploring the neighborhood?
Our cat Bello is my girls’ best friend so we want him to be safe and sound. Cats are a lot less work than dogs, less demanding, more self-sufficient, and the right cat can be just as loving as any dog. While I know that autism dogs are great for families, the sheer volume of work a dog requires is too much for me, especially house training. With cats, it’s easy – unless you want them to do their business in the toilet, which I wouldn’t recommend!
It’s easy to raise a cat, but these simple tips can keep him safe so he can bless your family as a longtime friend. How do you keep your outdoor cat safe?