Enjoy the outdoors with your cat--safely
August 10, 2012
CATalyst Council offers tips on how to enjoy the great outdoors with your feline
A study recently conducted by the University of Georgia included outfitting 60 cats with “collar cameras” to track their activities while they were allowed to roam outside their homes. Not surprisingly, some of the cats hunted. But more importantly, many also participated in some risky behavior such as crossing busy streets and exploring sewers. Hunting, while a natural behavior for cats, can be risky for your feline friend, exposing it to parasites and other diseases which it can then bring home to you.
In response to this story, the CATalyst Council, a national initiative comprised of animal health and welfare organizations working on behalf of cats, has developed the following list of tips for how you can safely enjoy the outdoors with your cat.
Prior to taking any outdoor adventure, owners should visit their veterinarian to discuss taking their cat outdoors and ensure their cat is healthy, on proper preventives to ward off fleas, ticks, and heartworm, and up to date on immunizations. Once the veterinarian gives the go-ahead, there are plenty of fun things owners and their cats can do outdoors.
· Take a walk. While many people may think that dogs are the only domesticated animals that enjoy a tethered stroll outdoors with their owners, many cats also appreciate taking a walk. Getting the proper equipment is necessary prior to your first excursion, however. A good harness and leash are mandatory. While most cats already have a collar and ID tag, frequently cat collars are designed with a break-away feature that releases the clasp of the collar. If you plan on walking, you’ll need a secure harness that ensures your cat won’t be able to run away if it gets spooked on its great adventure. Another option is a pet stroller, which is an enclosed carrier on wheels that is pushed much like a baby stroller. Either way, the fresh air is beneficial for both you and your cat. And even if you don't foray into the great outdoors, ALL cats should have permanent identification with a microchip. So don’t be afraid to try – just be prepared.
· Create an enclosed outdoor space for your cat. Many cat owners have found that their cats love their screened-in porch and will sit and watch the birds for hours while lounging on the most comfortable chair. Some shelters have even added “cat runs” to their cat adoption areas, where cats can access safe outdoor locations. At home, an owner might want to think about enclosing a deck or outdoor patio to allow cats to experience the natural world. This will provide hours of enjoyment without the worry that the cat will get out or that other animals will get in. Some owners have created a landing ledge on a window sill for their cats, which provides a perfect lounging area on which they can enjoy an open window.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, cat owners can be very creative and often come up with unique ways to get outside with their cat. However, it is important that they first check with their veterinarian to be sure their outdoor idea is safe for both them and their cats, that their cats are protected against parasites like ticks and fleas and that, if the outdoor adventure entails driving, their cat is properly secured in a carrier while in a vehicle so that both owner and cat arrive at their destination safely. Always be aware that the heat affects cats just as it does other pets and people, so be smart about any outing.
Many cats love the occasional trip outside. If your cat seems curious about the world outside his window and you have the ability to both supervise him and to ensure his safety while outdoors, try it! Both you and your cat will benefit.