Outdoor Dangers

So, you believe that cats with the fancy pedigrees are for someone else, thank you very much. You enjoy nature in its basic, pristine form, and the good old Heinz-57 All-American Cat is your companion of choice. Along with that choice, you are convinced that the basic cat, with his instincts fully intact because of natural rather than manmade selection, will be happiest if he is allowed to enjoy the great out-of-doors.

Whether pedigreed or random-bred, the vast majority of cats can be perfectly happy indoors, calmly watching nature from the safety of their home, as long as a stimulating environment is provided.

In fact, most United States cat experts – the Cat Fanciers Association, humane organizations and others – are continually trying to reach the public with the message that keeping a cat indoors protects him from disease and all manner and means of danger. These include the threat of contagious diseases such as feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline infectious peritonitis and rabies, besides the ever-present dangers from cars and larger predators.

However, some cat behaviorists in Great Britain believe that keeping cats indoors may contribute to behavior problems, such as house soiling. They claim that cats are not allowed to vent their natural expression indoors.

Safety Issues

The dangers that a cat can face when allowed out unsupervised depend a great deal on where the cat lives – urban, rural, or suburban area. In general, an outdoor cat faces the following risks:

Dusk and dawn are the most dangerous times for a cat to be out. In rural areas, these are the primary hunting times for many larger predators; in cities and towns, they are the times that visibility for drivers is particularly low. The safest time for a cat to be outdoors is during the daytime hours.

Keeping Your Outdoor Cat Safe

There is a compromise: Free-standing chain-link enclosure designed as a dog run can be adapted to a cat by adding a top. These enclosures are available from fencing companies and some hardware stores.

Another possibility is to train your cat to accept a harness and leash for supervised outdoor walks. The training process does require some patience, but is not nearly as difficult as generally portrayed, and both of you can enjoy the outdoors safely.

If you believe your cat should be outside, you can take steps to reduce the risks:

Before applying any product to your lawn, vegetables, or ornamental plants, remember to read the label and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Many of these products are designed to endure in the environment days to weeks after application, so a pet can have an exposure days to weeks after initial application.

Safety collars. A collar with your name and phone number will reduce the risk of your pet being euthanized as a stray. Without some form of identification, the cat is likely to become a victim of the system.

Microchip technology is permanent and relatively inexpensive. Microchipping is also a good way to identify your pet if he/she would appear at a local veterinary hospital, emergency clinic or humane society. Check to make sure that shelters in your area do scan for microchips on incoming animals, and that their reader is one that will at least detect the presence of a chip, even if the chip is a competitor's brand.