A question we frequently ask when you and your cat are visiting the clinic is “do they go outdoors?” because knowing if a cat goes outdoors can help in making a diagnosis. It is also important to know if the other cats in the home go outdoors as they can carry viruses in. Roaming outside offers a lot of opportunities for risks and it is important to weight the risks and benefits before allowing your furry friend to roam unsupervised.
One risk of roaming is fighting and the complications that can arise afterwards. Cats are naturally predatory animals and therefore are more likely to engage in fights. There is also the opportunity to become prey for another animal. Dangerous encounters can occur with other cats, dogs, porcupines, coyotes, and more. The most common concern we see with cats that go outdoors are cat bite abscesses, which mean that they have been bitten and have an infected and swollen area filled with pus. Treatment may include lancing the abscess, flushing it, and putting the cat on antibiotics to clear the infection.
Cats going outdoors also face the risk of vehicles that they may come into contact with. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for cats to be hit by cars. This may result in fractured bones, displaced organs, or even death.
It is important for cats that are going outside to be properly identified. A collar with at least a phone number lets people in the community know that they have a home. People also like to feed stray cats, so if your cat is unidentified they may end up getting overfed. Although tags are useful, they can easily fall off and/or the collar can slip off. A microchip is also a great way to identify your cat. A microchip is a small chip the size of a rice grain that is inserted under the skin. The microchip is registered to the owner with their contact information so that in the case the cat is lost the cat can be linked back to the owner.
If you are wanting to let your cat have some outdoor activity there are some safer options. We always recommend supervised outings if you want them to go outside. A harness and leash are great to allow them to explore without being able to run away. Outdoor enclosures are also nice to let your cat roll in the grass and get fresh air. If you are choosing to let your cat roam and hunt, be sure to take responsible precautions such as vaccinating them and regularly deworm. Weigh the pros and cons and make an educated decision before letting your furry friend explore, and always call your vet if you have any questions.
Written by Liz Espejo, RAHT