safety for outdoor cats and kittens

Outdoor Cat Safety

It might seem fun, but letting your cat out is dangerous given risks like predators, fleas, parasites, injuries or even losing your cat. A proper review by a home advisor can assist in making your yard safer for your cat. Most fences will grant some safety but a determined cat will find a way to sneak out. If a home advisor reviews your home while installing a fence, let them know to take into account your outdoor cat.

Is it Safe To Let Cat Go Outside?


Hi Simba - I have 2, 5-month-old kittens,
Oscar and Lucinda. They are both climbing the walls to get out into the garden. They have had all their shots so there is nothing to stop me from letting them outside. I guess I am just scared they will run away if I let them out. I have taken them out tied to long pieces of string so they can acquaint themselves with the garden. What is the best way to introduce them to outside living. Julianne
Dear Julianne,
One of the best ways to introduce your kittens to the outside is through a Cat Harness. Harness Leashes hold the kittens in safely by crossing their shoulders & torso. They are much safer than a regular neck leash, which as you can imagine, can choke a cat.

That said, I am a big believer in keeping cats indoors. Indoor cats live longer (14 to 20 years on average) and are more likely to be injury free. In contrast, outdoor cats usually live less than 8 years! To better understand why read through the letters in Wounded, Lungworm and General Health sections.

In addition, you can also review a study conducted in 2009 by a group of researchers that used cameras to monitor outdoor cats. The results were disturbing:
  • 45% of cats crossed two lane roads and highways!
  • 25% of cats came accross other unknown cats
  • 25% ate food stuffs from outside the home
  • 20% spent time exploring storm drain systems
  • 85% of cats were witnessed exhibiting at least 1 of the above risk behavior.
  • Male cats were more likely to engage in risk behavior than female cats.
In addition, outdoor cats were active hunters. The study found:
  • 44% of free-roaming cats hunt wildlife
  • Hunting cats captured an average of 2 animals per seven days outside. That's 100+ animals per cat a year!
My advice is to spay or neuter your kittens and to keep them indoors. Buy them plenty of toys and keep them entertained and safe at home! Simba




Risks for Indoors / Outdoor Cats and Kittens



Hi Simba
I have got two lovely 3-year-old cats, brother and sister, they're used to having a free reign of the house and also being able to go outside via a cat flap. We have relocated recently. What are your thoughts on this matter? Are there any hard and fast guidelines as to how long they need to stay in?

They're desperate to go outside!, I am sure they just want to explore more of their "new" territory, but we are only on day 4 of being in the new home, although they appear to have settled in fine. We've not yet got a cat flap installed here ... I am nervous to let them go out incase they do not come back!! Paul S, UK.

Dear Paul S,
It is probably a good idea to let your friends get acclimated to their new home for 5-10 days before you take them outside. There are a couple of things you should take into consideration before you allow your cats outside in the new neighborhood:
  • Proximity to Roads?Cars are one of the biggest threats to cats. While all outdoor cats are at risk, those that have recently moved to new areas are at particularly high risk of accident. See how far away your home is to a major road or intersection to determine how safe it is for your cats.

  • Neighbor Dogs?The presence of dogs, even those kept in their own yards, can represent a danger to your cats. Find out where the dogs are and what their prowling habits are. If the dogs are mostly indoor dogs that are taken out for walks on regular occasion, then you are in good shape. Backyard or free-roaming dogs are a danger.

  • Other free-roaming cats?While kitty may enjoy making new friends, free-roaming cats can carry all sorts of diseases, carry fleas and are susceptible to lungworm and other parasites. It is important to figure out if these alley cats are present. This may require you to more carefully screen kitty for fleas and mites upon his returning home. Additional risks involve fights & pregnancy. Lastly, make sure that all of their shots are up to date!

  • Fixed?A female cat in heat can become impregnated quickly. Be sure that your cats are fixed prior to their wandering outdoors. Note also, that un-neutered male cats tend to be more aggressive and are more likely to get involved in fights than their neutered peers

  • Claws?If kitty has been de-clawed, then kitty should not go outside. Claws help cats protect themselves from attacks and enable them to better climb trees for safety. A de-clawed cat is a vulnerable cat. Do not let him outside.
In general I take a strong position on this matter. The dangers of the letting your cat play outside far outweigh any possible benefits. A properly equipped home can provide plenty of fun for a kitty cat. However, should you choose to let kitty play outside, I recommend either supervised play or enclosed gardens. Anything else and you're risking your cat's life.
  • Supervised PlayThis involves taking your cats outside in a leash or harness so as to allow them to explore and play outside, but under your direct supervision. Do not tie your cat's leash to a fixed object as this could cause kitty to choke. Walk kitty around the garden, play catch with him, but do not let him loose. You will feel better for taking him outside and he will be the safer for the way you did it.

  • Enclosed GardensThis involves constructing a garden or porch that has either a covered top or a very high walls that will keep your cats from wandering off. This allows your kitties to get all the fresh air they want, but does not place them at risk of cars, dogs or other cats. Many readers have built these with great success.
If the information you gathered persuades you that it is safe for your cats, make the introductions gradual. Take your cats our on a harness or leash for the first couple of times and walk them back home. Have tuna and other smelly foods available for them on the inside of the cat flap door. I hope all goes well with the new digs. Keep me posted. Simba


Dear Simba,
I have a 6 month old black Bombay kitty
cat scratch postUltimate Scratch
that I adopted from the shelter, Bubba. The problem is that he is always trying to 'escape' the house. If you even jiggle the door handle he will become alert and move toward the door. I bought a harness to take him on walks, and I do as often as I can. The walking is not enough. He will bolt out the door whenever it is opened. We live right next to a very busy street, in an apartment complex, people speed past our house at all hours of the day. My boyfriend thinks I should let the cat out to 'go play’; he thinks the cat is a prisoner in the house.

I just do not know what to do, and no he starts whining and crying at the door. Should I let him out? Should I keep him in? More walks? I just do not know. Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,
You are absolutely right in wanting to keep him inside. As you know from the other letters having your cat outside is very dangerous. Letting a cat go outside to 'play' is as responsible as giving in and out privileges to a toddler.

Over 5 million cats get hit by cars each year, with most accidents taking place at night. I do not know the incidence for black cats, but can imagine that their accident ratio is hither. Cats aren't stupid and they know cars can be dangerous. What happens is that they confuse car beams with cars so when the lights go by, a 'smart' cat will assume it is safe to cross. That’s when tragedy happens.

Stock your house with playthings for your cat. Exercise him. Also, you can condition him to not go crazy when he hears the door jiggle, by doing it frequently event when you're not going outside. He will get excited at first, but after a while of seeing no 'light' he will stop associating the sound with the lure of the outdoors.

Lastly, it is unclear from your letter whether Bubby is neutered. If he is not, please make sure he gets fixed, in addition to reducing Aggression, neutering your cat will reduce his urge run outside to seek the company of female cats. Your Pal, Simba



Dear Simba,
I am studying medicine in an island on the Caribbean. A friend and I were driving back to school when we saw 2 kittens by the side of road. We hit the brakes but do not know if we hit them or not.

Being unsure as to their condition, we got out of the car to make sure they were ok. By then there was just one kitten, since the other had run away. The other kitten was just laying there on its left side, with a small pool of blood next to its head. Its right leg was moving jerkily as though it might have been having a seizure. I put on a pair of gloves from my CPR mask pouch and picked it up move it off the road. It stopped shaking its leg, and I could see that the bleeding was coming from its mouth. It had a very faint pulse, which faded completely after a few minutes.

I petted the little guy for a few moments, but it did not seem to respond. Because there was nothing we could do I moved it further off the road and put it under a tree. He was so little and helpless.

I wish there was something I could have done. I feel really bad for all the stray cats on the island. I hope it wasn't in pain. Scorp

Dear Scorp,
Sorry to hear about this. It appears as though the kitten suffered some sort of trauma. These things happen. Kittens are by nature playful creatures and often don’t consider the dangers of being by the road. Millions of cats die like this every year. It’s a tragedy that can only be alleviated by keeping cats indoors, or where there are stray cats by aggressive spay and release programs (you might want to consider starting one in your island…). You did the right thing by the kitten. I hope you and your friend are well. Your Pal, Simba



Predators Threaten Kittens



Hello,
We have 2 Siamese cross kittens that are 6mos. old. We let them out in our garden. They are usually supervised during daylight. When we let them out in the evening they stay in the garden but a couple of times a fox has come into the garden whilst they are playing. My question is do foxes pose a threat to kittens or should we not worry? They are still quite small but very fast!!!! Thanks Mike, Jo, George & Nancy

Dear Mike, Jo, George & Nancy,
Foxes are predatory creatures that often hunt small mammals. Though their prey are often comprised of mice, shrews and voles, they ocasionally eat birds and small rabbits so kittens are not out of reach. Foxes are fast (they can reach a full speed of 45 mph and their hunting style is very similar to that of cats (they stalk and pounce).

So though your kittens are are quick and may be able to evade the fox, I would not chance it. it is generally better for cats that they remain indoor animals. the outside is very dangerous for them and other creatures. Check out this note for additional information. Your Pal, Simba


Protected Garden for Kittens


Hi Simba,
I need your advise on something. I live next to a busy main road so I do not want to let my two kittens out (they are both 8 months old), so we have built a pen on the side of our house which is about 5 and a half feet high and 8 foot long, we have also laid some turf and put a few climbing objects, etc in the enclosure. They can enter the pen whenever they wish as they have a run going from the house to the pen via the cat flap. Do you think this is good for them or is it a tease to the 'outside world'? Joanna

Dear Joanna,
I think that the pen is a great idea! Cats love fresh air. This is no more a tease than keeping the blinds up so kitty can look outside. Great job!

My only concern relates to whether the kitties will be able to make it over the fence. As you know cats are terrific jumpers and all they need is to get their claws up on the pen in order to pull themselves up. The climbing objects in the pen could help them 'escape' as well. My suggestion is to make the pen a bit higher if possible and to place all climbing objects away from the edges where they can be used as 'jumping off' points. Your Pal, Simba


How to Walk Kittens and Cats on Leash


Dear Simba,
My girlfriend and I have 2, 6-month-old female kittens. They live with us in a small apartment in the city. We got them from a shelter and they were sick for a while. The only time we have taken them outside is in their carriers. With spring weather here, we wanted to take them each outside for walks. We put a harness and leash on the first kitten and carried her downstairs and outside. Upon reaching the front door, she began meowing loudly (a nervous meow). When we put her down on the ground outside, she cowered to the ground and crawled to the side of the building. She did not move much, and we could tell that she was not getting any more comfortable, so we took her back inside and brought the other kitten out in the same manner. She reacted in much the same way as the other kitten, so we took her back inside almost as soon as we brought her out.

Is there a way we can ease them into going for walks with us? Should we open the door and let them walk out themselves? Should we take them outside a little each day and reward them with treats? We would like our kittens to enjoy the fresh air, cool breezes, and sunlight. -Rod & Carol

Dear Rod & Carol,
Poor little gals! Best way to get the little ones comfortable is to start slowly. Here are some tips.

Phase I
I recommend that you first take them outside for short periods of time inside their Carrier. Comfort them and give them treats (as you noted). What you want to do is familiarize them with the smells and noises of the outside. Cats can be easily spooked so getting the comfort level up is key. Do this for 3-5 days, stay outside with them a little longer each time.

Phase II
Go outside with them in their carrier and leave the carrier door open. Let them know that they can go outside of it comfortably. Give them treats and comfort them. Be sure that they have their Cat Harness on should they step out. Again, do this for a few days and stay outside longer each time. In time the cats will become comfortable with the outdoors and will step outside of the carrier on their own.

Phase III
Once they have stepped outside, they may run back in. It is ok. Just let them know that they are free to stay in or out of the Carrier. Take small walks with them near your building. Let them sniff around the door and the steps and get to know the area. Little by little they will feel more comfortable and will walk with you.
I do not recommend that you let them out on their own without your supervision. Cities are dangerous places for unsupervised kitties, there are lots of cars, people and things that can spook or even harm the little ones. Best of luck. Keep me posted. Simba