When choosing to get a cat you have to decide what breed, age and temperament will suit you. But now there’s another important question: will your cat be an indoor or outdoor cat? What advantages will your cat have if it can explore the outdoors freely? Do indoor cats live longer? What are the pros and cons of each lifestyle?
The choice of having an outdoor cat isn’t always up to the owners. Some cats simply adore the outdoors and are at their happiest when exploring the wild.
The Question of Breeds
Whether your cat prefers to run free or not often depends on their breed. Outdoorsy breeds like Norwegian Forest cats and Maine Coons often want nothing more than to have the freedom of the outdoors. Even active breeds, like Bengals, may choose to be outside more.
On the other hand, calmer breeds like Persians and British Shorthair cats are quite content in a relaxing home environment. The Devon Rex is a typical breed for house cats – due to their thin coats, they are quite sensitive to the cold!
Having a free roaming cat, is it safe? The risk of injury towards your cat depends on their environment. If your house is located on a busy road, then there is a higher risk of your cat being struck by a car. Owners who live in the countryside may not have to worry about cars, but should be aware of larger predators, such as foxes or birds of prey posing a risk to their cats.
For those who think roaming free is too dangerous for their cat, they may want to consider letting their cat roam in a controlled environment such as in a walled garden or on a balcony. This is an ideal way for city dwellers to provide their cat with a bit of freedom and safety in a busy city.
Some people opt for using leashes with their cats, but it is important to make sure your cat is accustomed to a leash so it doesn’t injure itself. Make sure that they can’t get tangled and hurt themselves in a panic. Cat’s bodies aren’t as sturdy as a dog’s, so instead of using collars with a leash we suggest specialised “cat walking jackets”. These distribute the pull of the lead along the cat’s chest, making it a much safer and comfortable option.
It is important to remember that every cat is different and how big of a risk it is, to let your cat run free, depends primarily on their personality.
Before you let unleash your cat onto the outside world, it should have a check-up with the vet. Your vet may suggest certain vaccinations or protection against parasites for your cat, depending on your area.
Having your cat vaccinated against Feline Parvovirus (FPV), for example, is very useful if you live in an area where cats have FPV.
All cats should be regularly checked for worms and parasites and even more so when it comes to outdoor cats. Not only are they a risk to your cat’s health, but it can also compromise the health of any children or elderly too. Consult your vet on appropriate parasite prevention.
It should not need to be said that only neutered and sterilised cats should be allowed to roam the outdoors freely. Whilst kittens are cute, you should ask yourself if you are up for responsibility of caring for and rehoming a litter. A mating pair of cats can produce up to 80 million kittens in only ten years! Neutering is a small and simple procedure that protects you and your cat from any unwanted offspring. More information about neutering can be found in the corresponding article in the zooplus magazine!
A short and sweet summary: letting your cat roam free is completely healthy, as long as appropriate precautions such as vaccination, parasite protection and neutering, are taken.
Healthcare alone isn’t the only thing you need to look out for with outdoor cats. Grooming and care is also vital. Cat’s with long or thick fur can have half a garden trapped in it when they come back inside! Whether your cat likes sneaking through the undergrowth or not, you should always check if your cat needs a good brush when its back indoors. This also gives you a good opportunity to look for any ticks or other parasites that could be carried into your home.
Outdoor cats may not always look as if they just got back from the groomers, the question is do they need to?
What do outdoor cats eat?
Outdoor cats require more energy and therefore calories than cats that spend their days indoors. But what if your cat is sneaking extra food whilst its away from home? These sorts of things need to be considered when adapting your cat’s diet.
Cat’s that freely roam the neighbourhood can happily wander into a neighbouring house and help themselves to another cat’s food bowl. You may find that your cat’s food bowl is untouched, especially if your cat has found a tastier option elsewhere! This makes it quite difficult for cat owners to determine how much their cat is eating and even what type of food they’re eating too. In this situation it is best to discuss this directly with your neighbour and see if you can come up with a solution. If your cat has food intolerances, providing your neighbour with your cat’s specific food may be a way around this problem. However, if your cat hunts and catches its own food, then there’s not really any way to stop it!
What’s in it for your cat?
After all these pros and cons, there’s still the question of: What’s in it for your cat? Our cats are very similar to their wild counterparts, both mentally and physically. They are small hunters that need challenges and to be kept busy. Allowing your cat to roam outdoors offers them exactly this. For your cat to enjoy being outdoors they should, above all, be safe. It is up to you, as their owner, to weigh up all the above factors when making this decision.