Instinctually cats are driven to explore, hunt and spend time in the great outdoors. Most cat owners can attest, if your cat wants to do something they will either find a way to do it or they will let you know they are angry that they can’t do it. That may include surprises left outside of the litter box zone or perhaps a few rolls of destroyed toilet paper. So letting them outside to roam may keep them happy, and it provides them with plenty of stimuli to keep them busy and tire them out when they do return home. Your cat may also use a nearby tree as a scratching post instead of your couch, and they may decide to use the garden as a litter box which reduces the smell in your house and the need to clean it as frequently.
Cats that are allowed outdoors should have their claws intact and should not be allowed to wear a collar. A declawed cat is unable to protect itself from predators and may have a more difficult time climbing in the event it needs to do so. Collars can get caught on tree branches or various other things posing a risk of strangulation. Get your cat microchipped so it can be identified if it gets lost, and also provide fresh water outdoors in case the cat can’t get back inside for a duration of time.
Being outside the confines of your safe home and watchful eye presents some obvious risks to your cat. Cars, other animals, poisons, traps, inclement weather and various other things may pose a risk to a cat that is free to wander. The added risks may mean that your cat will have a shorter life span. Any cat allowed outdoors should be spayed or neutered.
Your cat is also more likely to come in contact with contagious and potentially deadly diseases if allowed outside. Along with illnesses contracted from other cats like feline AIDS or feline infectious peritonitis, your cat will also be exposed to diseases from other animals like rabies. Be sure your cat is fully vaccinated and in good health before being allowed outdoors. Cats may also be exposed to bugs and parasites which will be brought back into your home and may contaminate other animals.
Cats are natural hunters and are likely to go after birds, lizards or other small creatures. Many domesticated cats have no desire to actually eat the prey and many times they don’t even kill it. They simply stalk it and play around with it, which could lead to a mess and an animal that has to suffer. In some areas cats are responsible for destroying the native bird population and environmental groups are trying to encourage owners to keep their pets indoors.
Finally, your cat may pose a nuisance to your neighbors. Cats often travel farther than you think and they may use your neighbor’s patio furniture as their napping spot or their garden as their litter box. Much like how you wouldn’t appreciate someone’s dog doing their business in your yard, a cat is no different.
The ideal solution may be to let your cat outside in your fenced backyard while you watch them. Of course some cats may escape quickly even under your watchful eye, but at least you can monitor where they go and bring them back if necessary. If letting them outside isn’t an option, be sure to give them access to an open window so they can get a small taste of the outdoors.
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