Outdoor Cats: What to Consider

Outdoor kitten explores the garden

An outdoor kitten exploring the garden.

Outdoor cats have a fun and varied life all on their own terms. However, numerous dangers lurk outdoors. Find out here what you must pay attention to.

Outdoor access: Living situation and surroundings

The decision whether your cat should live as an indoor or outdoor cat primarily depends on your living situation: It will be almost impossible to keep an outdoor cat on the third floor of an apartment building in a urban metropolis.

A house with a garden is ideal, but a ground-floor flat with access to a terrace is also suitable. The surroundings of your home are important: Is it in a quiet neighbourhood in a rural area? Or is it close to a busy road?

Bear in mind too that a cat’s territory can be large. Often owners underestimate how far their cat can travel.

A cat’s territory

A cat’s territory can be divided into a central and roaming area. The cat feels at home in the central area, which is where its feeding and sleeping spots are found.

A cat goes exploring and hunting in the roaming area, covering distances of a mile or more. You should keep this in mind if you allow your cat outdoor access.

It’s also good to know that males normally have a larger roaming area than females. The roaming areas of several females can also overlap.

Which cats make suitable outdoor cats?

In principle, you can allow any cat outdoor access if it is fit enough. After all, climbing, chasing and running are part of day-to-day life for outdoor cats.

On the other hand, you should think twice about outdoor access if your cat is handicapped. A blind or deaf cat is not very well armed to deal with the dangers of the outside world. Even if your cat is sick or injured, you’re best off leaving it indoors.

Which cat breeds are suitable for outdoor access?

Indoor or outdoor housing is also a question of breed. Nature lovers like the Norwegian Forest Cat or Maine Coon are overjoyed with outdoor access. More active breeds like Bengal cats also enjoy being able to frolic outdoors.

In contrast, British Shorthair and Persian cats are calmer in nature and are happy with solely being kept indoors. Due to its lack of fur and sensitivity to the cold, the Sphynx is also more suitable for the indoors.

Beware that expensive pedigree cats are sometimes victims of robbery. Therefore it is preferable for them to stay at home.

On the other hand, an ordinary domestic cat from a farm or stray cat from an animal shelter normally need their freedom and shouldn’t be solely kept indoors. Alternatively, you can offer them plenty of activities indoors such as tall cat towers and toys. Given you have a large enough home.

Outdoor ginger cat © BestPhotoStudio / stock.adobe.com
It’s very tough to get an outdoor cat used to exclusively living indoors.

How to get an outdoor cat used to indoor living

A cat that has got a whiff of freedom will always want to go outside. If you permanently keep a former outdoor cat in your home, it will probably be very unhappy.

You should take this into account if, for instance, you plan to move from a house with a garden to a flat.

Health protection

Healthcare provision for outdoor cats

Your outdoor cat will inevitably meet other cats out on the streets or in the garden. They can catch several diseases when coming into contact with fellow felines. Before you let your cat outdoors, you should therefore definitely speak to your vet about the required vaccinations.

Vaccinations recommended for outdoor cats

  • Panleukopenia
  • Cat cold
  • Rabies
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Leucosis

If your pet is suffering from an infectious disease such as cat aids (FIV), it should not be allowed outdoor access, otherwise there is the danger that it will infect other cats.

Worms and ticks

Worms and ticks

Outdoor cats often suffer with parasites like worms or ticks. Regularly deworm your cat and ideally check its fur for ticks on a daily basis.

You can find anti-tick remedies such as tick tweezers and tick hooks to remove these pests in the zooplus online store.

Castration and sterilisation

Although baby cats are cute, you should ask yourself whether you can really find a good home for all the little kittens that will result if your cat isn’t castrated or sterilised? In purely mathematical terms, a pair of cats can produce offspring of up to 80 million kittens in 10 years!

Besides, mating and paring exposes male and female cats to unnecessary dangers.

Responsible owners get both their male cats castrated and their females neutered. This is a small procedure that protects you and your cat from unwanted offspring and is in most cases absolutely safe and straightforward.


Microchipping outdoor cats

Get your cat tagged

You should get your cat microchipped at the vet’s in case it gets lost. A tiny microchip or transponder is injected into the left side of the throat with a syringe. It has an individual 15-digit number that can be read with a special device.

Branding is not advised as a tagging method, as this can fade with time and become illegible.

However, a chip is useless without additional registration. The registration ID will be registered in the cat microchip database. Depending on where you live the fee to microchip your cat will cost between £20 to £30. If you adopt your cat from charities such as Cats Protection, the microchipping will be included in the adoption fee.

Adapting to outdoor access

Getting cats used to the outdoors – how it works

You should wait at least four weeks for outdoor access after a move or after your cat has just moved in with you. The cat first has to internalise that it is now at home.

Once the time has come, go outside to the garden with your cat for the first few days. Leave the door open so that it can slip back inside at any time if it has had enough.

Tip: In the morning, put slightly less food in the bowl than usual. A hungry cat is more likely to return to you in the evening.

Call your cat every evening at the same time and then feed it. This way, it learns to always show up at home on time for dinner.

Outside or inside?

Are you familiar with this? Sometimes cats simply can’t decide if they would like be to be outside or inside – and you will get pretty tired at some point if you constantly have to open and close the door.

In this case, you should fit a cat flap in your house or apartment door so that your cat can leave or come back in even without your help.

You can find a large selection of cat flaps in the zooplus store so that your cat can go out whenever it wants to.

Diet of outdoor cats

Outdoor cats have higher energy requirements than cats living indoors. At the same time, they are exposed to more pathogens. The diet of a cat with outdoor access should be tailored to this style of housing.

Sometimes it tastes all the better for not being at home. Many a cat has plundered the bowl of the neighbour’s cat or accepted snacks from cat lovers in the surrounding area. Hence, it is often difficult for cat owners to understand what a cat has eaten and where.

This is particularly problematic if your cat receives special food. Here it helps to directly approach the neighbours about potentially feeding your cat.

A dead mouse as a gift

Don’t punish your outdoor cat if it occasionally brings home a dead – or half-dead – mouse. On the contrary, praise it for this lovely gift and dispose of it discreetly later on.

Cats consider their owners to be poor, incapable hunters who must be given some prey now and then.

Outdoor cat with its prey © Romuald / stock.adobe.com
Outdoor cat with its prey.

Outdoor cats: The advantages and disadvantages

Outdoor access is considered the most natural mode of housing for cats. In fact, there are many advantages if your cat can make the most of its freedom:

  • Cats get the chance to act on their hunting instinct
  • Plenty of exercise in the fresh air
  • It has variety
  • Cats can befriend fellow cats – if they wish too.

Unfortunately this freedom also comes at a price. Outdoor cats live dangerously and usually die sooner than indoor cats. Here are some of the dangers that lurk for cats outdoors:

  • Danger of being hit by a car
  • Cats can negatively affect wildlife (for example by killing birds and hedgehogs which are already declining in numbers)
  • Accidental shooting by a hunter if you live by woods
  • They can fall into the hands of animal abusers
  • Cats often disappear without a trace and never turn up again.

Despite the risks, outdoor access is probably the most species-appropriate form of housing in comparison to solely being kept indoors.

Compromise: Secure outdoor access

A compromise between freedom and safety is what is known as secure outdoor access. This refers to a garden that is fenced so that cats can’t disappear and potentially run out in front of a car.

Alternatively, you can build an outdoor enclosure in your garden for your cat or get it used to walking on a lead.

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