Indoor cats typically spend half the day near a window seeking the warmth of the sun or yearning for a taste of freedom.
Maybe you’ve considered letting your cat outdoors but as a responsible pet parent, you know better. Or perhaps you feel guilty keeping your cat indoors without access to fresh air and the stimulation of nature. After all, of the 10,000 years they’ve been domesticated, cats only began to live indoors about 70 years ago.
Indoor Cats Live Longer
If you’re lucky, your indoor cat can live to see their 17th birthday. The odds of an outdoor cat living a long, healthy life is very slim. Cats who are allowed to roam freely outdoors live just two to five years, on average.
Some of the most common risks to an outdoor cat’s life include:
- Injury from vehicles or predators such as dogs, coyotes and raccoons
- Diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), Feline Leukemia Virus Infection (FeLV), and rabies through contact with infected cats or wildlife
- Poisons from common garden plants like lilies and tulips or human related toxins including antifreeze, fertilizers, pesticides and rodent bait
- Getting lost or locked in a neighbor’s garage
However, there ARE ways that your indoor cat can safely enjoy the outdoors.
8 Ways to Protect Your Cat While Outdoors
There are several ways to create a safe outdoor experience for your cat. By taking these precautions, you can reduce the risks and worry while they enjoy the wind in their whiskers.
- Maintain up-to-date vaccines to protect your cat from heartworm, fleas, ticks and other potential infections. If unsure, always check with your vet before letting your cat outdoors
- Use a leash with a harness to keep your cat within reach (avoid using a collar or break-free collar). A small dog or cat-specific body harness is recommended to minimize the risk of escaping. Be sure to gradually condition your cat to a harness before you head out for your first outing
- Never leave your cat unattended in your yard
- Make your yard feline friendly. Check your garden for plants that are poisonous to cats and keep other toxic home and garden related products out of reach
- Cat-proof your fence with extensions that curve inwards, making it difficult to escape from your yard
- Only feed your cat indoors to avoid attracting stray cats and critters to your backyard
- Neuter or spay your cat to decrease their urge to roam. This also helps eliminate the chance that they’ll have kittens if they do escape your yard. Keep in mind, even fixed cats are adventurous and may leave your yard in pursuit of food or prey
- Build a catio. No matter how feline-friendly your yard, or how closely you watch them, there’s a chance your cat can escape or get injured. One of the safest ways to let your cat enjoy the outdoors is in catio or “cat patio”
Build a Catio – A Safe, Enclosed Space for Your Cat
A catio is a screened, escape-proof space that allows cats to safely experience the outdoors. From a cat-friendly enclosure surrounding a window to a freestanding structure, catios range in sizes for a window, porch, patio, deck or yard.
There are many benefits of catios and most cats don’t need a lot of territory to be happy outside. Whether small and simple or large and luxurious, catios can be an attractive addition to your home for the safety and wellbeing of your fur family. Large catios can include space for human seating. After all, nature and fresh air are good for cat guardians too! Catios also provide birds and wildlife.
Looking for some catio inspiration? A variety of online resources are available from do-it-yourself catio plans, kits and custom designed catios. Catio Spaces offers Free Catio Tips and a variety of DIY Catio Plans that you can build yourself (or hire a local carpenter to build it for you). The plans take the guesswork out of building a catio and include a material list, tool list and step by step instructions for a successful project.
If you are one of the 80 million cat guardians pondering the indoor/outdoor dilemma, there are many ways to create a safe outdoor experience to enrich your cat’s life and provide peace of mind. Your cat will enjoy the bonding time with you too!