For those of us who are owned by a cat, we know that next to the great “to declaw or not to declaw” debate, “to let your cat outdoors or not to let your cat outdoors” is one of the most controversial topics.  Some might feel like their kitties need to roam free, much like their big cat cousins do, allowing them to explore the world’s critters and just “be a cat”.  Others feel that the risks associated with outdoor cats far outweigh the rewards, and that the domestic cat should be housebound with plenty of indoor activity to keep them occupied and svelte.  This week, Wisconsin Pet Care tackles this topic for those who ‘yay’, those who ‘nay’, and even those people who fall somewhere in between on allowing housecats outdoors.


Let’s first take a look at where we got this notion of kitties being allowed to prowl around the neighborhood.  For most of us, it was probably a common occurrence to watch your parents or grandparents unlatch the front door to let the tomcat out and about.  He’d get his fill of the nightlife and then come on back home, softly scratching as a signal to let him back into his cave of comfort.  Still others may have grown up in a rural area where farm cats earned their keep as barn dwellers who kept the mice away (they might not have even seen the inside of the house).


So why isn’t it a good idea to let kitty outside at his own accord?

* They are more susceptible to contracting FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) and FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis).


* Human harm – such as those who wish to torture or poison cats, or even animal control authorities.


* Animal harm – It’s not just the feral creatures that can put your kitty in danger (like raccoons or foxes), but other household animals, such as dogs and other cats who are trying to protect their territory.


*Vehicles – Rural neighborhoods offer less traffic, but regardless of where you live, cars and trucks are a grave concern for outdoor cats.


But why should dogs be the only domesticated animal allowed to experience the fun and freedom of sunshine and fresh air?  From a feline perspective, it seems so unfair to watch the world go by from the glow of a patio door!  As a matter of fact, studies show that cats who are allowed to go outside tend to exhibit fewer behavioral issues due to boredom and receive more than the recommended amounts of exercise/mental stimulation, without additional effort from their pet parents.


Is there a happy medium for those who wish to let their kitty outside, and still keep them safe from the dangers of outdoor life?  Here are a few suggestions for those who want to give their cats the best of both worlds:


* Leash train your cat – With a leash and cat harness, your kitty can be on her way to enjoying a warm day on the deck.  However, it will mostly likely take your cat some time to get acclimated to a leash.  At first, she may just stay in one place until she gets the hang of her environment (and the extra “equipment” she’ll be carrying around).  Be patient and let her linger a little longer outdoors each day.

* Create a “Catiary” in your backyard.  A sectioned-off area outdoors, where your cat can be “free” to be a cat, is the perfect solution for those who want to offer their kitty time to bask in the sunshine, as well as outlets for exercise (such as trees to climb and grass to run upon).  It also keeps unwanted critters away so your cat is in a “safe” outdoor environment.


No matter if you choose to let your cat outside on her own, on a leash, or inside of her very own catiary, being outdoors can provide a lot of benefits for the health and wellbeing of your kitty.  However, there can be risks associated to being outdoors, so weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding what’s best for your feline friend.  Next week, Wisconsin Pet Care will discuss “How Dogs Help Us Heal”.