Reprinted with permission from Missy Zane, How to Live with Cats. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright January 14, 2016.
Letting a cat go outside doesn’t necessarily mean just opening the door and letting him go. There are all kinds of ways to keep a cat safe outside.
Leash training a cat is easier than you may think. Or try supervised outdoor time with your cat. Most cats love hanging out with their humans outside, and if you’re outdoors, your cat will probably stay with you. Walk around the yard together, or work in the garden, or just sit in the grass and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. If your cat wanders further than you want him to go, don’t run after him. A cat can outrun a human anytime. Walk a few feet behind him and pick him up when he stops to eat some grass or watch a bird flying by. When you’re back inside, give him some treats or wet food as a reward for going in when you want him to.
Another possibility is to build an outdoor enclosure for your cats. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just large enough for the cats to have room to run and chase the bugs flying by. At least some of the enclosure should be on the ground, not a patio, so the cats can roll around in the dirt and nibble grass.
If you have a fence, putting PVC piping on top of the fence will keep the cat in your yard.
Letting Cats Go Outside On Your Terms, Not Theirs
Cats are creatures of habit, and if you establish a routine for letting a cat go outside, he’ll probably be there waiting when you want him to come in. First, establish your own routine. Decide when you’re going to let him out and back in and try to let him out and in at about the same times every day.
For most cats, food is a powerful motivator. If you give your cat wet food the second he comes in, he’ll be at the door waiting at dinnertime. If he doesn’t eat wet food, give him some treats as a reward for showing up when you want him to.
You can also establish a routine for taking a cat out on a harness and leash so he doesn’t nag you nonstop to go outside. Try to establish a consistent walking schedule. Will you go out every day when you get home from work? Or will you go out just on weekends, after you’ve finished running errands and doing your weekend chores? Get the cat’s harness and leash out and ask him if he wants to go outside. Use the same words every time you go out. He’ll learn your cues and get used to your schedule and won’t ask to go out at other times.
Your Cat Needs An ID
Even if your cats never, ever go outside, they should be microchipped and wear breakaway collars with tags. If your cat is wearing a collar, no one will mistake him for a stray if he gets out. And if he gets lost, the person who finds him will know how to contact you.
Microchipping a cat isn’t without controversy. Complications are rare, but they can occur. According to the WebMD website, it’s possible, although very rare, for cats to develop tumors at the site where the chip was inserted. Microchips can migrate away from the place where they were inserted, too. While this won’t cause health problems, it can make the chip hard to find.
Still, the benefits of microchipping a cat, even a cat who stays indoors, outweigh the risks. A microchip will never fall off and get lost in the woods, and it will always be readable. Most shelters and vets scan lost cats to see if they’re chipped. If your cat gets lost, that microchip could be his ticket home.
Precautions If Your Cat Goes Outdoors
- Keep your cat inside on Halloween, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. It’s too noisy and too busy outside. And people can do terrible things to cats on Halloween.
- It’s also a good idea to make sure your cat is inside during heavy storms or when there’s a lot of snow on the ground. Snow can cover his familiar scents and the signposts he created with his claws.
- If your cat doesn’t come home within a few hours of his usual time, begin searching for him immediately. Look under bushes, in trees and inside neighbors’ sheds and garages. Post fliers and file a lost report with your local animal control agency. The longer your cat is missing, the harder he’ll be to find.
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Missy Zane’s journey within into the heart and mind of cats began more than 20 years ago when she discovered 16 beautiful feral kittens living in a parking lot. According to Missy, the purpose of her website is to serve as s a “how to” guide for those of us who live with cats. The articles aren’t just based on research and study, but also on what she has learned from the cats themselves after years of living with them, working with them, and rescuing them.