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Keeping cats safe outdoors

How to keep your pet cat safe when they are venturing out of the house.
Written by Mayhew team
Updated 3 months ago

By taking some simple steps you can help your cat stay safe whether they prefer pottering around the garden or venturing further afield.

Allowing your cat access outdoors is beneficial for exercise and mental stimulation. While it is possible to create a suitably enriched environment indoors, cats that have outside access are much less likely to suffer from behavioural problems than indoor cats. We spoke to our vet team to find out more.

Neutering

Not only is neutering your cat vital in order to prevent unwanted litters, it will also significantly reduce the risk of illness and injury when going outdoors. Neutering can reduce aggression between cats, making it much less likely that your cat will be involved in a fight. It’s important to avoid fighting as it can lead to painful injuries such as cat bite abscesses and is also the main cause of infection with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

Unneutered cats, particularly entire males, also tend to roam much further from home than neutered cats so are at a higher risk of getting lost or being involved in an accident on the roads.

Vaccination and Parasite control

While outdoors your cat will come into contact with other cats, so it is important that they are up to date with their vaccinations. We recommend that all cats are vaccinated against Feline viral rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus, the viruses that cause cat flu, and Feline panleukopenia. Cats that go outdoors should additionally be vaccinated against Feline leukaemia (FeLV).

Outdoor cats are also more exposed to parasites such as fleas, ticks and worms so it is important to make sure that you are regularly using flea and worming treatments. We recommend getting flea and worming products from your vet to ensure you are purchasing a safe and effective product for your pet. Ensuring your cat is neutered, up to date with preventative veterinary treatments and microchipped will give you additional reassurance whilst they are on their adventures and help keep them safer.

Microchipping

Microchipping your cat will greatly improve the chances of you being reunited with them should they go missing. If your cat were taken to a vets or rescue organisation, they would be able to scan your cat with a microchip reader and access your contact information from the microchip database.

This is particularly important if your cat is injured as the vets will be able to contact you to allow you to make decisions about your pet’s treatment. A microchip is only of use if the contact details are correct so if you move house or change your phone number your should contact the microchip database to update your details.

A garden fit for a cat 

The garden is your cat's very own jungle. It contains lots of places to explore, tons of things to play with, exciting things to hunt, and even serves as a handy toilet (usually the neighbours). But there are some hidden dangers as well.

The good news is that you can create your cat’s very own oasis just yards from their cat flap! Size doesn’t always matter, as you can make any space as interesting for a cat as you like from the addition of cat friendly plants to trees to scratch on. You are only limited by your own imagination. Take a look at some of our tips on how to create a fun-filled, pet-friendly garden.

Dangers lurking outdoors

The biggest dangers in your garden are lethal lilies. These plants are the hidden killer - if cats ingest any part of the plant it can cause kidney damage. This type of damage is sadly progressive. In most cases, the cat ingests the pollen as they brush past lillies and then groom themselves to remove the offending stain on their fur. People think by removing this part of the flower the cat will be safe but it is still as much of a risk if they eat the leaves or drink the water from some cut flowers.

Antifreeze is also a killer, so be sure to be careful how you store any chemicals like this, along with cleaning products and weed killers.

Cat Collars

At Mayhew we don’t believe cat collars are an essential item for a cat to have to wear. The dangers of using the wrong type of collar and the cat getting caught in a tree or it slipping over the head and causing injuries to their legs/armpit far outweigh any perceived benefits.

However, if you do want your cat to wear a collar, all we ask is that you use a safety collar that has a quick release buckle system so your cat can free itself from any danger. Never use elasticated collars and remove the bell as it will just annoy your cat, and if left on may even make your cat a better hunter by making them even more stealthy.

Staying safe after dark

Cats are at a greater risk of being involved in a road traffic accident after dark. A reflective collar can help them to be more easily seen by road users but it is crucial that any collar has a safety clip that will snap open when pulled to prevent your cat from getting trapped or injured by the collar.

Depending on the individual cat and where they live (near busy roads, in the countryside etc), it can be sometimes safer to keep your cat inside overnight.

If you feel that your cat will cope with staying indoors overnight, you can encourage your cat to come home by timing feedings with rush hour so that they are inside enjoying their food when the roads are at their busiest. You could use an automatic feeder to do these if it doesn’t fit in with your schedule. During the longer winter nights, it is a good idea to try and spend a little extra time playing with your cat indoors to make sure they are getting enough exercise and mental stimulation.

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