Today we will be talking about Steps to a Healthy Outdoor Cat.
Whether you’ve just adopted a grand old cat or a feisty kitten, you’ve got to decide if you want to keep your feline indoors or let them roam outdoors. Learning what it takes to keep your cat healthy and happy outside can help you choose.
It’s easy to imagine kitty lounging at your feet, soaking up the sun, or relaxing in your yard. Anticipating the dangers outdoor cats face may not be so easy:
- Fights with other animals. You may not realize your kitty has wounds until they’re infected or need surgery. Fights often require a trip to the vet for bite wounds, which can turn into abscesses. Also, cat bite wounds are one of the primary routes of exposure for infectious diseases.
- Outdoor cats are more susceptible to herpes, rabies, and heartworms. They’re also at risk for fatal infections like feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. We will discuss more about these later.
- Cars and other vehicles.Some studies estimate that cars strike as many as 5.4 million cats a year. This would make it the first or second most common cause of death among outdoor cats, depending on age group.
- These include fleas, ticks, and worms. These can be tricky pests to get rid of as well as an extreme annoyance for you and your cat. Cats who hunt birds and mice are very susceptible to tapeworms, which can also infect humans.
- These include antifreeze, bleach, fertilizers, herbicides, as well as insect and rodent bait. Also, there is a chance your pet could be poisoned by secondary exposure, like eating infected prey (i.e. a mouse that has ingested rodent bait).
Before you and your feline friend head outside, plan for your cat’s safety.
- Make an outdoor enclosure.These keep your cat safe and provide plenty of enjoyment. An enclosure can be small or large, and you can set it up to stand alone or attach to a house, balcony, or deck. The best enclosure for your cat depends on where you live, how much room you have, and how much you want to spend.
- Collar your cat. Always put a collar on your cat and attach ID tags. This helps others know your pet has a home and makes it easy for them to contact you. Be sure kitty’s collar has a “break away” feature. If your cat gets caught on a fence or branch, this type of collar snaps open.
- Microchip your pet.This permanent form of identification ensures that someone who finds your kitty can quickly return them. A vet checks for the ID embedded in your cat’s neck which contains a number that they can put it in a database to find your contact information.
- Keep vaccinations up-to-date.Discuss with Dr. Doub which vaccines are most helpful for your outdoor cat’s health and how often he needs them. Follow through to protect your cat from diseases and infections.
Outdoor Fun for Indoor Cats
Your indoor cat can enjoy a bit of the outdoors and stay safe with these feline-friendly ideas:
- Harness and leash training. With a little time and patience, leash training is another way to let your kitty get outside. Use a harness when leash training since cats can escape from simple collars when they’re spooked.
- Indoor window boxes and window perches. In several rooms of your house, set up window boxes and perches to give kitty some sunshine and fresh air.
- Opening windows and doors with screens. Another good way to make sure your cat enjoys the healthy benefits of the outdoors. Make sure the air inside your house doesn’t get stagnant, which you both can benefit from.
- Setting up a bird feeder outside of the windows. This can help your pet stay stimulated and enriched when exposed visually and audibly to the outside world.
Why does my cat need vaccinations?
One of the best things you can do to give your cat a long and healthy life, indoors or out, is to ensure that they are vaccinated against common feline diseases. Vaccines help to protect against specific infectious diseases caused by some viruses and bacteria. They stimulate the body’s immune system to destroy the organism and “remember” it so that it can fight against infection again if necessary in the future. Without vaccination, many cats become seriously ill or may even die from diseases that their immune system is unable to fight effectively on its own. The use of vaccines has prevented death and disease in millions of cats. In addition, vaccines protect people from disease, such as rabies, that could be transmitted from cats. With the help and advice of Dr. Doub, you can choose which vaccinations to receive depending on the environment, heredity risks, and lifestyle of your pet.
- Rabies – This incurable viral disease affects the central nervous system of almost all mammals, including humans. It is spread through contact with the saliva of infected animals (including skunks, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and bats) through bites or any break in the skin. Vaccination will provide cats with a much greater resistance to rabies if they are exposed to the disease. You must be aware that there is no cure once it occurs. For this reason, it is required by law to have your pet current on all rabies vaccinations.
- FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia)
- Rhinotracheitis – Just like the human common cold, the virus that causes this upper respiratory tract infection is easily transmitted from one cat to another, so vaccination is imperative if your pet will come in contact with other cats. Its symptoms may take the form of moderate fever, loss of appetite, eye and nasal discharges, and sneezing. Kittens are particularly affected but this disease can be dangerous in any unprotected cat, as effective treatment is limited. Even If a cat recovers, it can remain a carrier for life.
- Calicivirus – This virus is another major cause of upper respiratory tract infection in cats. Widespread and highly contagious, its symptoms of fever, ulcers, and blisters on the tongue and pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs) can range from mild to severe, depending on the strain of virus present. Treatment of this disease can be difficult. Even if recovery does take place, a recovered cat can continue to infect other animals as well as experience chronic sneezing, runny eyes, and severe gum disease. Vaccination is therefore tremendously important.
- Panleukopenia – Sometimes known as feline distemper, this disease is caused by a virus so resistant, it can survive up to one year outside a cat’s body! Therefore, as most cats will be exposed to it during their lifetimes and infection rates in unprotected cats can run as high as 90-100%, vaccination against this potentially fatal disease is absolutely essential. Symptoms can include listlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, severe dehydration, fever, and death. Happily, the vaccine itself is very effective in preventing the disease, as treatment is very difficult.
- Feline Leukemia (FeLV) – Infection with the Feline Leukemia Virus can result in a multitude of serious health problems for your cat – everything from cancerous conditions such as leukemia to a wide range of secondary infections caused by the destruction of the immune system. In fact, it is a leading cause of death in North American cats. After initial exposure to the virus, a cat may show no symptoms for months, if not years. Testing is available to determine the FeLV status of your cat. If they have not yet been infected, but are likely to come in contact with cats that are, vaccinations against this potentially fatal disease is highly recommended.
Now that you have learned about what it takes to keep an outdoor cat healthy, you can decide if you want your feline friend to be indoors or outdoors. I love my cat siblings!
Straight From the Dog’s Mouth,