Tips and Products For Cats That Love The Outdoors
What’s not for your cat to love about the great outdoors? Turns out, a lot.
A common argument for giving a cat unrestricted outdoor access is that it allows them to lead “a fuller life” similar to what their wild cousins would. Perhaps their cat was born feral and refuses to stay indoors. But the fact is, house cats have been domesticated, removed thousands of years from their wildcat ancestors, and as such are not a native species any longer. No matter where you live, cats are an invasive species, and one of the most problematic invasive species at that.
It’s estimated that free-roaming cats in the US kill between 1.4-3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals a year. Cats are responsible for the extinction of 33 species worldwide, and for huge declines in the population of native birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. They are especially dangerous to island ecosystems.
In addition to killing off native wildlife, cats kept outdoors face many risks themselves. Diseases outdoor cats can contract include: Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS, Feline Infectious Peritonitus, Feline Distemper and Upper Respiratory Infections. Unspayed and unneutered cats allowed to wander will create more cats, adding to the already overlarge population.
While cats can be given vaccinations for some of these, they are also at risk for various parasites, including fleas, ticks, ringworm, ear mites and intestinal worms. They may be attacked by feral cats, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, or any number of wild predators. Outdoor cats often run afoul of cars or humans with ill intentions.
Indoors, these risks are virtually nonexistent. Though many outdoor cats manage to live long lives, there is no reason to expose a cat to these risks. Cats can live happily indoors given the right environment and stimulation. It’s the owner’s responsibility to see that their cat is healthy and entertained in a safe manner.
If your cat rushes out the door every time you open it, he or she probably isn’t getting enough indoor activity. Make sure to provide adequate climbing and sitting areas, such as a cat tree. Midwest’s Feline Nuvo line includes stylish and functional cat trees that will satisfy your kitty’s need to climb. Ware also provides several different models of cat furniture. For the best results, give your cat several choices, placing them next to a window so your cat can observe the outside world. An exhausted cat is a content cat. Make indoor time playtime, especially in the evenings so your cat is settled during the night. All cats are different, so try a variety of toys to see what they respond to best. Cosmic sells a wide variety of small, chaseable toys infused or able to be filled with real catnip. Chomper’s Kylie’s lines have everything your cat needs to play, from small toys to teasers to danglers.
The outdoors need not be entirely off-limits though. Cats can be harness-trained just as dogs can, and with some patience it can be a great way for them to have stimulating, supervised outdoors time. Alternately, if you have the resources, a cat porch or catio will allow your cat to experience the sights, sounds and smells of nature without risking their well-being.
Above: My cat Bowie enjoys a walk with his harness (such as those available from Coastal Pet), and a cat porch built by the folks at http://www.gibsonswildliferehabcentre.org/catswild.html.