We all know that cats love being outside playing, stalking, chasing, exploring and being a ‘wild’ cat. Although this takes them back to their roots, being outside can be dangerous for cats, especially if there is no supervision. But there are ways for your cat to safely entertain herself and stimulate her mind outside.
A very popular way to allow your cat to breathe in fresh air and soak up the sun without typical outside dangers is a catio, aka cat patio. It is essentially a huge cage that can be any size, shape or fixed structure attached in some way to the house. Cats can have easy access in and out of the catio through a cat flap, open window or even a tunnel.
You can decorate your catio and make it interesting for your cat with different ‘obstacles’, such as fixed platforms, scratch posts and even stairs. She will also love cat-friendly plants where she can hide, and a substrate that she can claw into. The more interesting the catio is, the more your cat will enjoy her little kingdom.
Make sure the catio is sturdy and made of good, safe material, such as chicken wire, that won’t allow your cat to escape and offers her protection from dangerous elements. It is very important that she has an area that she can use for shelter from the rain and sun, and a perch to observe the world from a height.
There are so many ideas on the internet on what a catio can look like and what it should contain, and it doesn’t have to be expensive either.
Leash and harness
Some cats can be trained to walk on a harness and leash, and they love it. Other cats don’t really like it, but the only way to find out how your cat feels about it is to try it. Begin by teaching your cat how to walk on a leash (see the article in the October 2017 edition of Animaltalk magazine on how to teach your cat). Walking your cat on a leash will allow you to take her for walks in unfamiliar territory where she can explore nature without the worry that she might get into a dangerous situation. The two of you will be the talk of the town.
A cat playpen is another way to allow your cat to spend time and play outside. Choose a playpen that is safe and that your cat cannot escape from, and other cats or animals cannot enter. A portable playpen is ideal, as you can move it inside or outside into the garden. Ideally, the pen should be out of the sun and your cat should never be kept in the playpen for long periods at a time.
When you like your cat close by, and if your cat allows it, then consider a cat carrier. Your cat can enjoy the outdoors and time with you without the risk of getting lost. Not all cats will enjoy a cat carrier and cats shouldn’t be in the carrier for too long either.
The benefits of being outside
Some of the reasons why you would want your cat to spend time outside include:
- healthy, fresh air.
- a change of scenery and providing enrichment.
- keeping fit while playing, stalking and chasing bugs.
- stimulating her mind with games.
There are so many dangers lurking outside that we have to protect our cats from. If your cat roams freely outside, you risk her life by exposing her to:
- the possibility of contracting diseases.
- other animals attacking her.
- typical dangers in the street, such as cars.
- neighbours injuring your cat because she wandered into their gardens.
- access to plants and chemicals that are toxic to cats.
Food and water
It doesn’t matter which option you choose for your cat to enjoy the outdoors, always ensure that she has fresh water available, and easy access to a litterbox. Also remember to always supervise your cat while she is outside.