Most cats in the UK live an indoor/outdoor lifestyle, having free access to the outside world to come and go as they please for at least part of the day by means of a cat flap or some other form of access.
For most of us that have adult cats, we don’t tend to give much thought to this on a daily basis because the majority of cats are streetwise and savvy enough to keep themselves safe – but if your cat is younger, you are just about to start letting them out for the first time or if you’re not sure if there’s anything special you should be doing to help your cat to stay safe outside, this article is for you.
In this article we will look at some of the steps that you can take to help to keep your cat safe when they are outside of the home. Read on to learn more.
The area immediately surrounding your home itself – such as your garden – should always be safe for your cat, to give them somewhere to chill outside without having to go too far if they don’t want to.
This means that you should consider the most appropriate place to locate your cat flap to give them access to a quiet and ideally enclosed space so that they can take the air, assess their surroundings and decide where they want to go next – and get back inside quickly if necessary.
Whilst it isn’t really possible to dictate or control where a cat roams when they go outside of the home, again, there are some steps you can take in the immediate vicinity of your own home to help your cat to feel secure, establish their home territory and to be able to stay safe when close by.
Hedges, bushes or trees provide better cover (and entertainment) for cats than fences or low walls, and will enable your cat to stay out of sight and hidden if something threatens or scares them.
Many cats tend to develop a loosely set routine of when they like to go outside, although for many cats they will spend much of the day going in and out whenever it suits them, and keep rather busy!
If your cat doesn’t come in at the usual time or if they seem to have been out for longer than usual, this is probably just due to the vagaries and whims of your cat, but do try to ensure that you find your cat or know where they are if you haven’t seen them for a day or so, just so that you can keep a loose monitor on what they do and where they go.
It is a good idea to take a walk around your immediate neighbourhood and the sorts of places your cat tends to visit, to look out for any potential hazards that you may be able to mitigate. Hazards can be variable and you may not know what you are looking for until you spot it – such as an old abandoned shed that your cat might explore, and potentially become trapped in if the door shuts behind them.
Some cats like to make friends with other households when they go out – or at least, they like to check out new places and if there is already a cat in residence, eat their food or beg for their treats!
While it can be useful to know where to look for your cat if you haven’t seen them for a while, it is also a good idea to ask other people not to feed or encourage your cat, in order to reduce the likelihood of your cat going off with a stranger who pets them, or taking food from someone who has bad intentions.
One thing that most owners of indoor/outdoor cats will already know is that it can be hard or impossible to know with any certainty where your cat goes when they are out, and some cats cover a large territory and may be spotted quite far from home on some occasions.
However, if your cat always heads off in the same direction or if you can see clear cat tracks and paths through long grass or undergrowth, this can help to provide you with some pointers, which may allow you to build up a picture of where your cat goes when they are out, and where to look for them if you haven’t seen them for a bit.
When you live in the same area for a while, you soon get to recognise the regular faces that also live there – including the local cats and dogs that pass by regularly. Other neighbours with cats will also soon learn to recognise the regulars, so talking to other cat owners in the area and letting them know which cat is yours and asking them to let you know if they spot anything amiss can be helpful.
When it comes to cats and safety outside of the home, the daylight hours usually provide the most obvious and prolific potential hazards to your cat, such a lots of traffic, dogs, activity and movement, which theoretically means that night time is quieter, and both more enticing and safer for your cat.
However, this is not necessarily the case at the moment, given the spate of attacks on cats and other animals over the last two years by the UK Animal Killer, who so far has proven to be most active at night.
This means that cat owners whose cats go outside might want to consider keeping their cats in at night and only allowing them to go out in the day time – which means that you will always know where your cat is at night, and will be able to rest easier.