Outdoor cat or house cat? Cats love to roam the outdoors and pursue natural behaviors such as hunting, sneaking, and climbing. The topic of outdoor access is for many cat owners a question of faith. Find out which pros and cons to weigh here.
Advantages for the outdoor cat
Free-range access has many benefits for your cat: Free-rangers are often better exercised, less bored, move more, and prevent unhealthy obesity. A cat that is outdoors most of the day also makes less work for its human: when it comes home, it will probably sleep a lot and process the experiences of the day. This is also positive for the apartment and the furniture, which often have to serve as a substitute for scratches. As a final important point, outdoor cats hunt, sneak, lurk, and interact with other animals, sharpening their senses in ways that an apartment cat will never experience.
Disadvantages of outdoor access
On the other hand, of course, there are also some contra points, because you have to be aware as the owner of an outdoor cat that you give up a certain amount of control over the cat. Statistics show that the life expectancy of outdoor cats is far below that of indoor-only cats, which is of course related to the risks that "outdoor" cats are exposed to. These can be territorial fights with aggressive conspecifics or encounters with other animals, for example martens or foxes. Also the threat of larger dogs is not to be despised. In addition, outdoor cats come more in contact with parasites, poisonous plants or other objects (rusty nails, ponds without exit, frozen ponds), which can be a great danger.
There are also problems if your outdoor cat has to take medication regularly at the same time due to an illness. How will you implement this with a cat that comes and goes as it pleases? Even if your cat suffers from allergies or intolerances, outdoor access can be devastating if fed by strangers on their forays or get food themselves somewhere.
Another point concerns the phenomenon that cats "disappear" again and again. Especially often busy roads are connected with it and become the velvet paws to the doom. Some cats simply look for a new territory and decide not to come back because they like it better there; others are unwillingly "adopted" by strangers and simply taken away.
Usually, this problem is only considered for free-roaming dogs, but unfortunately, free-roaming cats are often affected as well: Poison Bait. Again and again one hears of dogs or cats, which become seriously ill or in the worst case even die by deliberately laid poison baits. This risk should also be considered.
Important questions about free access
If you are considering allowing your cat to go outside, there are a few things that should be included in the consideration. We would like to address the three most important points here.
This is probably the most decisive point in the consideration about free running, because if you live in the middle of the city or directly next to a highway, you should better refrain from the unlimited free running. The risks are simply too big. So ideally, you should live as far away as possible from possible sources of danger: This includes, among other things, roads with heavy traffic as well as highways or hunted forest areas. In general, such potential hazards should be at least 400m away for female cats and neutered males, and even up to 1000m away for unneutered males. You should also get the opinion of the neighborhood on the subject of free-roaming cats, before you start a fight with the neighbor, who is panic-stricken about his beloved koi carp.
Health condition of the cat?
Another important point is the state of health of the cat. Finally, outdoor cats are exposed to more dangers than indoor cats. These dangers do not necessarily "strike", but either way the precaution causes increased veterinary costs. This includes, for example, costs for additional vaccinations (u.a. against rabies) and more frequent worming treatments. In general, the risk of getting infected with parasites like worms, ticks, fleas or mites is much higher outside. Only in the rarest of cases does a free-roaming cat never have such a vermin problem.
If your cat is chronically ill (see disadvantages) or has a handicap that restricts it (for example blindness or amputation of a limb) then it should not be allowed to roam free, at least not indefinitely. Another important point is that every outdoor cat should be neutered. They then have a smaller territory, involve themselves less in territorial fights and do not contribute to the uncontrolled reproduction, which brings so many cats to the shelter.
If the cat is marked?
As a matter of course as the previous neutering should also be that your cat is marked. The best method here is to have them chipped. The chip inserted in the neck under the skin makes it possible to read all important data about the cat and the owner very quickly with the help of a reader. If your cat gets lost, the finder can quickly find out where it belongs at appropriate institutions (often veterinarians or animal shelters).
Less suitable and also only rarely used is the tattooing of an identification number in the cat’s ear. This method is considered outdated and unsustainable, as the tattoos often fade. Under no circumstances should you send your cat outside with a collar. The danger is too great that your velvet paw gets entangled somewhere and strangles while trying to free itself.
The realization of the free access
Even before you get a cat into your house, you should consider whether you want to allow it to roam free. Keeping a pure free-roaming cat only indoors will make neither you nor the cat happy.
If one gets now a new cat or moved, the cat should be held in principle first four to six weeks in the house, with shy animals also longer. This gives her a chance to get used to the new home, settle in and build a bond with the place. Only in this way can you ensure that she also finds and comes back. It becomes problematic if the new home is only a short distance from the old one. Often cats then return to their old territory again and again.
Even a previously indoor-only cat can be offered outdoor access without making it an outdoor cat. But here there is the risk that she has a less strong immune system and is less able to cope outside. That’s why most apartment cats are skeptical about their newfound freedom and always stay close to the house, so that they can quickly escape to safety in case of problems.
Keeping her indoors only
In general, cats can also be kept in a species-appropriate manner within an apartment or a house, if this is designed in a cat-friendly manner. This includes sufficient cat toilets and scratching opportunities, a clean feeding place and preferably several water points. Also quiet places to sleep and enough toys are important. In addition, it is advisable to get a second cat, because cats are also social animals, which usually do not feel well without contact to conspecifics.
If you don’t have the possibility to offer your cat outdoor access, there are also certain alternatives: For example, a balcony can be cat-proof netted and thus become a sunny island for your house cat. Gardens can also be cat-proofed with certain systems, but this is a greater effort. On the other hand, if you are handy and there is enough space, you can also build an outdoor enclosure. This is then even safer than any fencing system. However, these procedures should be discussed in advance with the landlord to be on the safe side. And if none of this is possible, many cats enjoy at least a barred window through which they can get fresh air and relax in the sun.
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