Your newly acquired family member Phil, a gray short haired cat, sits gazing out the living room window. A tinge of guilt comes over you while watching him and you start to wonder if your decision to make him an indoor cat was the right choice. Well, you’re not alone. Cat owners everywhere struggle with having to make the same decision.
“In Florida it’s a lot more dangerous outdoors (for cats) than it is in a lot of other places” says Dr. Frances Collier of the Collier Cat Hospital in Naples. Besides the fleas, ticks can be a big problem, especially around the Golden Gates area. “We always see the ticks that carry the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever but occasionally see the ones that carry Lyme disease, too.” says Collier.
Fleas and ticks aren’t the only risks involved by letting your cat roam around unsupervised outside. Dangerous situations like being hit by a car, chased by dogs, getting into a cat fight, tormented by unkind people or contracting rabies are other potential problems. “Then there are the viruses that cats get like Leukemia, Cat Aids virus, and the FIP virus which spreads from cat to cat.” explains Collier. “So they’re making their lives a little riskier by adding the potential to get those viruses, not to mention the nonfatal ones, like the respiratory virus.”
With all the outside hazards, keeping your cat indoors is definitely the safest for your pet. In fact, the average indoor cat lives to be ten years old while it’s outside counterpart only lives to be two.
But being indoors all day can be boring for your pet. To combat this, set regularly scheduled play times. And when you’re not at home, make sure there are some toys around to keep him occupied. You don’t have to spend a fortune on store-bought toys either – an empty brown paper bag laid on its side or a ping-pong ball can give hours of entertainment.
But let’s face it, even though it can be dangerous, being outside is fun and exciting for your cat. But one way to let him safely go outside is by training him to walk on a harness and leash on. Harnesses are available through your local pet store and should be made of nylon or felt backed leather. Getting the proper fit is important, make sure it’s snug enough so your cat can’t wiggle his way out.
Most trainers seem to think a gradual introduction works best. Start by leaving the harness in places where your cat can see it and get used to its scent. After a couple of days of doing this, try putting the harness on for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, do this for several days. Once he becomes accustom to the feel of the harness the next step is to attach the leash and follow your cat around the house providing direction with GENTLE pulling. Don’t yank or pull hard, this will only make him more reluctant to walk on a lead.
With consistency and patience, you’ll be walking around the neighborhood in no time. Just be sure to keep a look out for any dogs off-leash on your stroll.
Another way to let your cat experience the great outdoors, minus some of the risks, is to build an outdoor cat house. These enclosures are usually homemade and come in all shapes and sizes. A shaded building place should be chosen and for durability, chicken wire or wire hardware cloth secured around a simple wood frame works well. Most owners equip their cat houses with climbing and resting furniture inside.
Making the decision to keep your cat indoors is certainly the safest for your feline friend but that doesn’t mean he can’t occasionally enjoy the great outdoors, too.
Please, tell us what do you think: are you feeling guilty for keeping your cat indoors?