Some people value the safety and security of home and hearth, while others prefer the adventures of the great outdoors. Those values are often reflected in cat owners' decisions about whether their cat will be an indoor or an outdoor cat. While it's true that on average, indoor cats live longer, many people believe that the possibility of a longer life isn't worth giving up the many experiences that life has to offer. If you are one of those that believes that cats should be able to experience the joys of the great outdoors, here are some of the risks you should consider, as well as some ways to reduce those risks.
In a study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, researchers used radio transmitters and other equipment to track the movements of 42 cats. Some of the cats were owned, and others were feral cats. In tracking their every move over the course of time, they discovered that the average range for pet cats was 4.9 acres. That's the equivalent of about three and a half city blocks. The study observed the cat's activities as they ran, stalked prey, and rested. They found that in addition to getting lost, the pet cats were often challenged by feral cats that dominated a specific area.
To keep your cat from being lost, it's important for the cat to have a collar with a tag with your contact information. Because cats often jump over fences and climb trees, it's important that the collar have a clasp that will release in the event that it gets caught on something. Many people also use microchips which contain their home addresses. Microchips last a lifetime and utilize RFID technology in which a scanner reveals the ID number. The process of inserting the microchip is relatively painless and the average cost is $45.00.
There are a number of infectious diseases that outdoor cats are susceptible to, including rabies, cat scratch fever, and feline leukemia. Feline immunodeficiency virus is also increasingly common. While vaccinations won't protect your cat against all potential illnesses, they can greatly reduce the risk of contracting some of them. In addition to reducing the risk of contracting them, vaccinations can also reduce the severity of the disease if your cat does contract it. Most last for one year. For outdoor cats, it's even more important to keep them up to date.
Another source of potential diseases are fleas and ticks. Protecting your cat, as well as yourself and your family, from fleas, ticks and other potentially disease-carrying insects is an important consideration. Many people are justifiably wary of traditional flea collars that contain toxic chemicals. While they may repel insects, those chemicals also pose a number of health concerns. Fortunately, technology has produced a new non-toxic alternatives, too.
While in the great outdoors, it's likely that your cat will encounter other cats. Sometimes those encounters are not friendly, and other times, they might be a little too friendly. That's why it's important to spay or neuter your outdoor cat. In addition to eliminating unwanted pregnancy and reducing the risk of cancer of their reproductive systems, spaying and neutering also reduces aggression in cats. A great deal of aggressive behavior in male cats is associated with competing with other males for the attentions of available females.
Spaying or neutering your cat makes an encounter with another cat far less likely to result in a fight that could cause a potentially life-threatening injury. The cost is low in comparison to that of surgery to repair a wound. If your cat has been declawed, it would be unable to defend itself against other cats, and so probably should not be allowed outdoors except in a protected enclosure.
The option of building an enclosure is becoming increasingly popular. One reason is due to the increase in traffic. While there are things you can do to make your outdoor cat safer while exploring the great outdoors, traffic continues to be a leading cause of death for outdoor pets. Enclosures allow your pet to experience some of the benefits of the outdoors, such as fresh air and sunshine, without the dangers.