Cat owners, today, have been put into a quandary. You know that your furry best friend would probably enjoy frolicking outside, stalking butterflies and climbing trees. The truth is, the great outdoors can be a terrible place for your beloved cat to roam. Loose dogs and wild animals, such as coyotes, can attack or even kill felines, and cars are an ever-present danger.
Another issue for conscientious feline owners? Domesticated cats have had a devastating effect on the environment. Domesticated cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals in the United States each year.
Is there anything you can do to help your cat enjoy being outside while also being safe? Fortunately, yes. The following are several ways that you can safely satisfy your cat’s natural love for the great outdoors.
The Importance of the Outdoors
Have you ever spent a few days stuck indoors? Perhaps, a snowstorm or an illness kept you from leaving your house. Do you remember how good it felt to finally get out and take a walk, breathe in the fresh air, and feel the sun and wind on your face? Like you, cats enjoy the mental and physical stimulation of being outdoors. It gives them something new to look at instead of the same old things they’re used to seeing day after day in their homes.
Mental and physical stimulation is crucial for your cat. Without it, your cat is likely to get bored and even stressed. That is when a cat will tend to get into trouble. For example, bored or stressed cats will often knock over plants and scratch furniture. They may meow excessively or display other neurotic behavior, such as repeatedly licking or pulling their fur. In addition, some cats will even become aggressive toward their owners.
Carry Your Cat
One way to get your cat outdoors for short periods is to carry it in your arms. It’s also a nice way to spend some bonding time with your feline. One caveat: If you decide to carry your cat outdoors, it’s important that it is wearing identification and is micro-chipped. It just takes a second for your cat to squirm out of your arms and scamper out of sight.
A safer way to get your feline outdoors is to give your cat a ride in a stroller that has been specifically designed for pets. The best ones for cats have a front mesh panel that zips shut to prevent them from escaping.
Another option is to take your cat outdoors in its carrier. The drawback to this idea is that some cats associate their carriers with going to the veterinarian and will resist getting into one. Alternatively, you could always try a pet backpack. A combination between a pet carrier and a backpack, these bags feature mesh panels, so that your cat can view its surroundings while having proper ventilation.
Never heard of a “catio”? The word is a mashup of cat and patio, and it describes an outdoor enclosure built specifically for felines. The beauty of a catio is that you can tailor the size to fit your cat’s needs. For example, if you have a large backyard, you could build a full-size enclosure that is almost as big as a screened-in porch. On the other hand, if you prefer a small enclosure, you could build a box that is just large enough for your feline to take cat naps in the sunshine.
On good weather days, you can let your feline spend hours in its catio. Some owners even build pet doors into their enclosures so that their cats can enter and exit their enclosure whenever they feel like it.
A side benefit of catios? All of the mental and physical stimulation your furry friend will experience during its time in the catio is sure to wear out your feline. A tired cat is less likely to engage in destructive or annoying behavior while indoors. In addition, your cat will probably sleep better, which, in turn, means that you’ll get a better night’s rest.
Leash and Harness
It may take a little time, but it’s possible to teach a cat to wear a harness and walk on a leash. First, get a harness that has been specifically designed for a cat — not a small dog harness. Once your cat gets accustomed to wearing the harness, you’ll want to attach the leash and work with your pet indoors on getting comfortable with the feeling of being attached to the line. Experts recommend keeping the training sessions short — about five minutes at a time — so as not to stress your cat.
Leash training a cat should never be rushed. Heading outdoors with your cat before it’s fully comfortable with the leash could be disastrous. Remember, your cat will be experiencing many new sights and sounds — some of them possibly frightening — while outdoors. If your cat should suddenly become frightened, it could slip out of its harness.
Create an ‘Outdoor’ Space Indoors
What should you do if your cat refuses to walk on a leash, hates its carrier, and your home has no outdoor access for a catio? Consider creating an area inside your home where your cat can look outside. Some feline owners will install a perch or a cat cot next to a window, so that their felines can view the outdoors.
For added stimulation, you may want to place a bird feeder outside the window. One word of warning: Do not leave the window open unless there is a screen. Unfortunately, many cats accidentally fall out of open windows during warmer months. This problem is so common, veterinarians even have a name for it — high-rise syndrome.
The Best of Both Worlds
In a perfect world, it would be fine for your cat to explore nature by itself — but this is far from a perfect world. The good news is that with a little effort on your part, you can provide your cat with the next best thing — a safe indoors life combined with the opportunities described above to enjoy the great outdoors.
Author bio: Randy Wilson is CEO and founder of Metro Screenworks Inc. He has over 40 years of experience and specializes in all screen types, porch enclosures, rolls of screen and more.