Your backyard is a great place to create a fun area and let your cat explore, play, and connect with their instinctive behaviors.
Cats are natural hunters, like their wild relatives. They stalk prey and pounce on it using their sharp claws and teeth. Cats are also great nocturnal hunters as their light-reflecting eyes allow them to see their prey in a clear vision. Finally, they have acute hearing, are nimble and agile beings, and their tails help them maintain their balance.
There are many benefits to letting your feline companion outside, including increased physical activity and natural stimulation. It can also be an outlet for instinctive cat behavior, such as exploring. But, there also are definite risks, which include cars, aggressive animals like foxes and dogs, diseases, parasites, toxic chemical products, plants, and the risk of getting lost and trapped.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of letting your cat outside, ways to make your yard and garden cat-friendly, and the risks and tips of letting your cat outdoors.
Benefits of Letting Your Cat Outside
Cats, and specifically domestic cats (Felis Catus), have had a relationship with humans for a long time. As early as 4,000 years ago, Ancient Egyptians first domesticated cats. Their skills in killing rodents may have first earned the affectionate attention of humans.
They are inquisitive and the environment outside gives them opportunities to explore and encounter new sights, smells, textures, and experiences. This will maintain their mental stimulation and reduce their stress.
Here are other benefits of letting your cat outside:
- Cats will have more opportunities of getting physical activity through climbing, running, and exploring. They are free to roam around the limited space in your yard. This activity will keep your cat fit and lessen the chances of gaining weight.
- Outdoors, cats have the freedom to be curious and engage their instinctive behavior, like scratching, which might not be appropriate to do indoors on your precious chairs, tables, or curtains.
- Outdoor environments reduce cat behavioral issues, like unwanted urinating and others.
- The outdoors lessen cats’ aggression towards humans and other household pets.
- Cats help cut down the population of rodents through their “barn and working” mode.
- The outdoors help reduce the emotional stress of cats due to environmental stimuli.
Should I Let My Cat Outside?
Allowing your cat to explore the outside world prevents them from getting bored and developing severe diseases. Separation anxiety is one of the chronic diseases that may severely affect the health and well-being of your kitten.
Being bored may also lead to the development of mental illnesses, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Symptoms include meowing, grooming, or becoming destructive to your furniture or other pets.
There are few considerations you need to know when you want your kitten to explore the outdoors. From the perspective of your feline, your house only offers small exploration and discovery opportunities.
The outdoors, however, is a large, fun, and scary place. However, you don’t need to rush your cat to experience the fresh air, the sunshine, and the chance to venture into things based on their curiosity. It’s important to respect safety considerations before letting your feline out of the comfort of your house or apartment.
10 Tips to Safely Take Your Cat Outdoors
Here are some tips before you let your cat outside. Mentally note these tips, so next time you let your little feline outside, it will be safer for them and will put you at ease.
- Before you let your kitten outside, make sure that you completed the first course of vaccination, fleas, and worm treatment. This will protect your kitten from catching an infectious disease.
- You can also have your kitten microchipped before you let them out.
- Remove any sharp and harmful objects in your yard as your kitten might walk on or even ingest them.
- Set a time when you want your kitten to be outside. Make sure that during that time, it is quiet and no construction is being conducted around as loud noises may disturb and frighten your kitten.
- When your cat or kitten is outside, make sure you are nearby or watching them closely to prevent other animals from potentially attacking them. Always accompany your cat outside and allow them to play for some time.
- To avoid your cats falling and drowning, cover any water sources, like fountains and ponds.
- Putting up an angle fence is a great idea to prevent cats from jumping out of your yard.
- When you want to walk your cat, you can opt to use a harness. This is one of the safe ways to give your cats access to the outdoors.
- Outdoor exploration should only be allowed during the day and only when you are around to watch them.
- Practice training a recall on your cat, so when it’s time to get back inside, it will be easy for you to call them back inside.
Feral cats are homeless cats that will likely stay anywhere where they feel secure and comfortable. They can be spotted in abandoned spaces or areas where they can find food, such as someone’s backyard, garage, and more. If you do not want them in your property, here are 8 tips to get rid of feral cats in your backyard.
13 Ways to Make Your Backyard Cat-friendly
Creating a little paradise for your cat isn’t impossible. You can do this by making your backyard cat-friendly. Outdoor access is a great idea, but make it more attractive by making a few simple, inexpensive make-overs to your yard.
Below are ways to make your backyard cat-friendlier. These ways will likely make your cat venture less in the neighborhood.
1. Create Cat Fencing
Cats can jump high, so it is recommended to have a cat-proof fence. Place it at a 45° inward angle at the top of a 6’ standard fence. Cat fencing prevents your cat from jumping over, and containing your cat outdoors might not be a smart thing to do. But a cat fence is the best option to allow your cat to enjoy the outdoors.
You can check companies that specialize in manufacturing cat fences that can be applied to both new and existing fences. You may also hire a landscape professional if you want to make your cat fence look more appealing and artistic.
Only use sturdy material like wood and metal with angled parts of your cat fence. Some homeowners prefer plastic because it doesn’t wear, but it is easier for other animals, like squirrels, to chew on it. Also, check any requirements for the final fence height permit.
2. Provide Shelter
Offer a shelter when your cat is exploring outdoors. Shelters give your cat a warm place when it is raining and a place to hide and stay for some relaxation. Trees, large shrubs, and garden umbrellas are the best examples of shelter you can provide for your cat.
Outdoor cat houses and pens are becoming ideal now to every feline lover and owner. This secures them from lavishing a relaxation experience with some fresh air and sunshine. You can make your own custom cat houses. They are usually open-air, with chicken wire around the sides.
Meanwhile, cat pens are enclosed portable play-pens. These are less expensive and easy to carry around, especially when you are traveling with your feline. You can attach some toys to the cat house and pens to keep your cat busy.
Ensure that your cats have good shelter to stay in and that protects them from heat strokes due to overheating. Besides, your cat’s skin is vulnerable to skin cancer, such as white cats and cats with pink ears and noses.
3. Eliminate Gaps
Ensure that the yard’s fence isn’t a single gap larger than a few inches as your cat will easily shrink themselves to be able to pass through these small crevices, although some cats can’t fit through the spaces. Known for their curiosity, cats will surely stick their paws out, and you can’t tell what’s on the other side. It could either be safe or could harm them.
Thus, don’t let your cat be tempted to break free in those gaps. When cats are comfortable and safe in your yard, they won’t try to escape.
4. Provide Outdoor Toys
Cat toys are not for indoor use. But, you can provide toys when your cat is playing in your yard. A fun way to make your cats enjoy their toys outdoors is to put a string to the toys and attach them around the tree or anywhere in your garden. This will surely keep your cats entertained.
5. Create Hiding Places
Provide areas or places where your cat can hide. This way, your cat will feel more secure in your backyard. Cats tend to feel safer in their hiding spots if there are many other cats in the neighborhood while they explore their territory. You can make your DIY hiding places or make use of the available resources. For instance, large plant pots work well.
6. Create Opportunities to Climb
Cats love to climb. If you have trees in your yard or anything made of wood, a cat will surely climb it and make it a scratching post. You can prevent any scratches from your trees by installing vertical logs, depending on the heights your cat can climb.
This will make your cat happy and allow them to climb up for a quick survey of their territory. A high post is a perfect place for them to lounge when the sun is shining bright. Although, make sure to provide a high perch that your cat can easily access.
7. Create a Cat-friendly Garden
Cats are nature lovers. Some even say that spending enough time outdoors makes cats healthier and happy.
Do you have a beautiful garden filled with flowers and a cat who loves to roam and explore around? Here are some ideas to make the plants in your garden cat-friendly:
Plant a Cat-friendly Garden
Does your cat love to munch your plants? Is it safe for them? Here are some types of plants you can plant in your garden that are safe for your cat to eat and can provide them fun:
- Grass: Add some patches of grass if your outdoor space is made of concrete and full of hard surfaces. This is a great place for your cat to roll and sunbathe in.
- Catnip: Do you want your cat to roll with joy? You should try planting catnip as they make most (although not all) cats happy and active after smelling it. This herb belongs to the mint family and gives an ecstasy-style reaction to your cat. Catnip’s effects only last for a few minutes.
- Catmint: Another one of cats’ favorite plants. It resembles catnip, is easy to grow, and has grey-green leaves and purple flowers.
- Cat grass: Cats love to munch on this plant and experts say it is best to grow indoors in a pot. It is the same as wheatgrass. The only difference is that cat grass makes your cat content after craving it. You can take the cat grass outside when it is your cat’s outdoor playtime.
Avoid Toxic Plants
Although the plants mentioned above are safe for your little feline, some others can put them in danger. It is important to avoid these types of plants as your cat will wander into other plants and bushes. Here are some plants that can toxify your kitten:
- Tiger lilies
If your cat has chewed on these toxic plants, immediately bring them to the nearest vet clinic.
8. Supply a Toileting Area
Try to ensure that your yard has a toileting area for your cat to use. A spot of loose sand will encourage your cat to do their business there. Have it on a specific area in your garden, as this will also deter them from going to your neighbors’ yard to poop and pee.
9. Cover Sandboxes
Always keep your sandboxes covered as some cats use sandboxes as litter boxes, which isn’t ideal when you also have kids playing around your yard. Covering the sandboxes prevents your cat from burying unpleasant and unwanted surprises.
10. Avoid Chemicals
When you have a cat, use an organic and cat-friendly garden improver. Indeed, using garden chemicals such as slug pellet can be harmful and toxic to your cat.
11. Safety and Deterrent
To keep your rascal feline out of the pond, it is best to put a wire mesh over it. And if you’re about or planning to install a pond in your yard, build a low edge pond that will allow your cat to scrabble out. If there are areas in your yard that you don’t want your cat to damage, like areas where you planted delicate plants or where there are other pets, use a herb rue or any peeled citrus fruits.
Cats don’t like their cute paws being bothered, so having prickly plants or stone chipping deter them from infiltrating these protected areas.
12. Deter neighboring cats
As territorial creatures, cats don’t like other cats on their territory, which can cause bad blood. Thus, having another cat around may reduce your cat’s outdoor time. To discourage other neighboring cats from approaching your property, put a strip of plastic mesh at the top of your fence. This will also keep your cat in your yard.
13. Provide Fresh and Clean Drinking Water
Make sure your cat is hydrated when playing in your yard. Some cats prefer natural water sources. Thus, you may provide them with rainwater, which is beneficial to your cats. To do so, simply fill up an old container or leave it out to collect rainwater when it rains, and give it to your cat.
Having many water sources around your yard reduces trouble and conflicts if used by more than one cat.
6 Risks of Letting Your Cat Outside
Before you let your cat wander outdoors, think carefully and ask yourself some questions regarding their safety, how confident you are about leaving your cat outdoors, and whether or not they actually need to be outside.
These are important questions you should take into consideration because there are some risks in letting your cat outside, including the following ones.
- Busy roads and cars are some of the greatest risks to letting your cat outdoors. It might not be surprising if your cat startles and gets injured by a car on a quiet road. Hiding under the bonnet of the car may also put your cat at risk.
- If possible, avoid putting a tight collar on your cat as it may pose a risk of strangulation. Instead, make your cat wear a well-fitted, break-free safe collar with an ID disc as they may wander and get lost.
- Other aggressive animals may pose a threat to your cat, although this depends on where you live. Dogs and foxes are examples of cats’ rivals.
- Your cat might be exposed to other infectious diseases if they fight and contact other cats. Common infectious diseases include feline leukemia, AIDS, abscesses, and respiratory infections.
- Slug pellets, antifreeze, and rat poison are examples of toxic substances that can put your cat in danger. Even flowers like lilies or poinsettias are toxic to them.
- Outdoors, your cat may be exposed to some parasites, such as worms and ticks.
Tips to Minimize the Risks for Your Cat
Below are some tips to minimize the risks of an outdoor environment to your feline companion.
- Make sure your cat has completed the course of their vaccinations. Regularly have your cat dewormed and treated with tick and flea medications.
- Have your cat microchipped. This will serve as their permanent identification. It will then be easier to find them once they get lost and wander far from home.
- Have your feline companion neutered to keep them from wandering far from your yard.
- If you live near a busy road or areas where there is a lot of traffic, try not to let your cat out at rush hours.
- Even with their special night vision when hunting for prey, cats are more at risk at night as they can be blinded by car headlights. Therefore, encourage them to come home at dusk.
- If possible, talk to your neighbor. Ask them and check whether your cat is using their yard to relieve themselves. Provide an accessible litter area both indoor and outdoor, which will discourage them from invading your neighbors’ property. Always ensure that it is clean and place it where your cat isn’t exposed and feels safe.
- Remove any harmful objects and toxic chemicals from your yard. Ensure that your garden doesn’t contain any poisonous plants that might be ingested by your cat when they get bored.
- Install or create a garden enclosure to keep your cat from roaming further.
Now that you have gotten an overview of the main issues to consider when deciding what is best for your cat, whether in the indoor or outdoor life, you are in a much better position to make a decision that will work in the long run for both your cat and yourself.
Remember that this is a very personal decision, intimately linked to your cat’s personality and history, as well as your specific home environment. Cats can be happy and healthy whether they live indoors or outdoors as long as you pay close attention to meeting the full range of their physical, psychological, and emotional needs and take the necessary precautionary measures to keep them safe and stimulated throughout the different stages of their lives.