Is It Safe to Let Your Cat Go Outside?

Learn if it is safe to let your cat go outside from board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. E'Lise Christensen, DVM in this Howcast video.

Transcript

Are you wondering if you should take your cat outside? That's a great question. Taking your cat outside can be a really great form of environmental enrichment and keep your cat occupied and wear him out a little bit. However, you want to make sure that you do it safely. As you can imagine, cats that are outside are at a high risk of injury and death from toxins, other cats, larger animals such as dogs, and getting hit by cars, or just getting injured as they traipse around high areas. So if you are going to go out with your cat, you want to make sure that he's safe, but you also need to make sure that the environment is safe. Remember, cats can do a lot of environmental damage when left to their own devices.

They'll kill off songbirds relatively quickly, and for many people this is an unacceptable part of having cats outside. So if you are going to take your cat outside, the best thing you can do is make that you're doing it in a controlled way. One way to do that is to create a little cat fenced-in area. Remember, you're going to need a top on that as well, because they can climb right over. Or, you can teach your cat to walk on a leash. There are many different leash and halter set-ups that you can find at the pet shop and online. I like this one, it's called the "come with me kitty" and it has a little bit of a bungee effect to it, so that it doesn't get as strained against the cat as other flat-leash objects do. If you decide you want to use a halter though, it's really important to teach your cat to be comfortable with one. And the way you start, is by just pairing the appearance of the halter with tasty food treats or games that your cat enjoys.

Now Cheech here, she's just stressed out regardless of the halter, so I know she's not going to take a treat from me right now, but if she were more calm, I would pick up the halter and give her a treat. And do that 3 or 4 times. As soon as I'd done that, every time she looks at the halter, I would give her a treat. And so on, until she will voluntarily put her head in the halter on her own for a reward. Then you're at the point where you can actually take your cat outside and walk around. If you want to go the easier route, you can always put your cat in a little cat carrier, or in a cat stroller. But some cats don't like confinement, so if you decide to do that, you're going to have to train them in a similar way. But if you do this, you can take your cat outside safely both for the cat and for the environment.

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