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While I have experience with indoor cats, mine are all outdoor so I thought I would write a post about all the things we have to consider when letting our cats outside, as well as the warning signs and things to watch out for with an outdoor cat (or cats). I am not overly a worry wort but when deciding on moving house or getting cats you need to consider these aspects…
Contrary to popular belief, foxes very rarely attack cats and they tend to ignore each other. If anything, a cat is more likely to attack a fox to protect its territory, garden or food to scare them off, however in some instances (if they are cornered for example) a fox will lash out. That being said, you will need to try and avoid your cats coming into contact with foxes because they can carry diseases and parasites (although cats can catch more diseases from other cats than from foxes).
As foxes are scavengers they will try to enter your premises is there is food around and this can prompt a fight between them and your cat. To avoid this, make sure bins are secure and that you don’t leave cat food (or scraps) outside. Unfortunately, in heavily populated areas you will probably come across foxes and you should do your best to keep your garden cat-friendly while also blocking holes in fences so that it isn’t easy for them to come through.
Particularly in areas where there are a lot of greenery, forestation or long grass you need to be wary of parasites. In particular, ticks are found in longer grassy areas and climb upwards onto the cat and tend to attach on the back of the neck or head where they are harder to reach. For more info check out yesterday’s Tick Truth’s post.
Most domestic cats set up their own outdoor boundaries and they can usually handle cat politics themselves but in certain instances, you may need to intervene or be wary. For example in shared or common gardens, cats share the same space and find it difficult to set up boundaries as they are all in the same area so it can make them prone to fighting or biting each other. In addition to this, neutering your cats in important because many strays, ferals or even other neighbourhood cats are not spayed which can lead to unwanted pregnancies and large vet bills. For more info on neutering check out my Neutering Advocacy post.
One of the ways to combat this is by keeping your cat on an indoor/outdoor routine, for example in at night or out during the day, you can also co-ordinate with your neighbours so that the cats in the area don’t feel like they are crowded and you can organise letting them out at alternating times.
Many garden or industrial pesticides can be poisonous or harmful to cats, other pets and wildlife so make sure if you need to use them for any reason, that you read the labels and keep your cats/animals well out of the way. This is also something to bare in mind with maintenance companies or agencies that you provide a service charge too, you can ask for less harmful chemicals to be used in the area so that local animals are not affected.
You would think that with cats in the area, rodents wouldn’t be an issue however, sometimes this is not the case. With this in mind, be wary of outdoor rodent traps which in many cases contain poisons (if not physically catching them there) so you should aim to avoid using these or encouraging neighbours to use them. Instead opt for more humane methods that are around.
One of the most common causes of concern for outdoor cats, are cars. If you are living on, or near a main road you should try to keep your cats away from the road or discourage them from crossing the roads because unfortunately some people will not stop or swerve to miss a cat. Night-time is the most likely time for a cat or animal to get hit, particularly in urban areas because they are harder to see with markings (and some of them being black altogether). Ultimately there is not a great deal you can do about cars or road traffic accidents as they affect humans just as much as cats.
I bet you didn’t know that plants can be poisonous to cats too! (yes, now we have to worry about the vegetation as well) even though most adult cats will avoid poisonous plants you may find younger cats or kittens aren’t as smart. You should also avoid having certain plants in your house as well for your cat’s safety. Check out this full (and extensive) list of indoor and outdoor Poisonous Plants from International Cat Care.
Let’s end on a more positive note with a few tips and tricks for a healthy, happy outdoor cat.
Vet checks – It is important to remember to have regular check-ups with your vets, especially with outdoor cats to get their jabs, boosters and parasite checks for all round health!Frequent flea/worm treatments
Flea/worm treatments – Topical treatments from the vets are recommended, particularly with outdoor cats that are more likely to come in contact with fleas or flea carriers. You don’t want them bringing them home! If they do, here’s how to keep flea free.
Microchipping – I would always recommend getting your cat microchipped! It is an inexpensive and excellent way to get reunited with your cat in the event they get lost. Microchipping can also help with ownership disputes and helps to make sure your cat is not mistaken for a stray accidentally.
Talk to your neighbours – This is important whichever way you look at it, if they are cat owners you can know which cat is theirs and make sure you can discuss schedules or any problems easily. If they are not cat owners it is still important so that they know which are your cats and that there is a good relationship there. Don’t forget that neighbours can make things difficult for you as a pet owner if they don’t like your animals.
Collars – Now this is a disputed area because on the one hand, collars are excellent for ownership and making sure your cats are not mistaken for strays as well as helping if they get lost. Additionally, you can get reflective and flea collars which can help them to be seen at night and prevent parasites. On the other hand, many cat owners don’t like the idea of a collar getting stuck on a branch or twigs which could cause a cat to get stuck. Ultimately it is your call but don’t forget there are easy snap collars out there that have a special unfastening clasp to avoid them getting stuck but if you are going to opt for collars then start them with collars when they are young so that they get used to them and will not get annoyed by them.
Call them in at nighttime – If you are worried about the risk of cars or foxes in your area you may find that keeping your cats in at night will help to alleviate the stress on yourself as well as reducing the risk of things happening while your kitty can still go outside (it’s a win-win).
*It is important to remember that most of these situations are very rare and you shouldn’t spend all of your time panicking, or use them as a reason to keep your cat indoors (unless it is healthier or recommended by the vet) as cats are naturally outdoor creatures and will enjoy the stimulation that the outdoors brings. *
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