Caring for outdoor cats: How to keep them safe and healthy

9 August 2021

Your outdoor cat loves living life in the fresh air. But what about safety? Find out how to keep your outdoor cat safe with these ten tips.

outdoor cat outside surrounded by plants

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

You’ve got your feline friend used to being outside – or maybe they’ve always been an outdoor cat. And they wouldn’t have it any other way – they love to roam free, exploring the neighborhood and following their natural cat instincts. Although your cat comes home regularly, you still worry about them running away. Or that they’ll get sick, injured or in trouble. So, what can you do to make sure they’re safe when you’re not with them? Here are 10 things to consider when it comes to keeping your outdoor cat safe.

Make sure your cat can be identified

If your cat goes outside, your number one worry is probably them getting lost. That’s why it’s crucial, first and foremost, to make sure your cat can be properly identified if they are lost and found by someone else.

Make sure your cat has:

  • a proper fitting safety collar with a breakaway mechanism (check out our cat collar training guide for tips on getting your cat used to a collar)
  • ID tags on the collar, with your name and phone number
  • a microchip (keep your contact details up to date)

These options are just the minimum you need to keep your kitty safe. Since ID tags could fall off or become faded, and cat microchips can’t actively help you locate your lost cat, it’s a good idea to get extra security with a GPS tracker for your cat. That way, you’ll always know where they are, and where they’ve been.

Tractive GPS Cat Trackers

Spay or neuter

Like microchipping, spaying or neutering your cat is also a must before letting them outside.

Neutering your cat before they go outside will help protect them from unexpected pregnancies, diseases which can be contracted through mating, running away, and fights with other cats. Fighting can also cause disease and injury in outdoor cats.

In some countries, neutering outdoor cats is now mandatory, so make sure to check your local laws before making the decision to have an outdoor cat.

Make sure your cat is properly vaccinated

Cats exposed to the outdoors are more at risk of viruses, such as cat flu. In some cases these viruses can be deadly, so make sure your cat has all the necessary vaccines before letting them outdoors. Additionally, your cat may need protection against other tiny invaders such as worms and fleas.

Consider the environment

outdoor cat - small brown/grey cat outdoors

Think about the surroundings and environment where your cat will be roaming. Each setting brings a different set of hazards for cats, so learn about the risks and reduce them if possible. For example, do you live by a highway, or have a neighbor who threatens your cat? In that case, it may be better to keep your cat indoors when possible. On the other hand, some areas, such as a farm, may be safer for your cat to explore freely.

Provide enough food and water

Cats that go outside will likely get a lot more physical activity than cats who stay indoors. You may need to feed your cat accordingly, and always make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh water. If you’re curious to see active your cat has been – and to see how many calories they’ve burned – try using an activity monitor for cats.

Beware of toxic plants

In case you decide to let your cat outside, be aware of potential plant-based dangers that could threaten your cat’s health. There is an extensive list of plants that are toxic to cats, some of which can even lead to liver failure and death. Toxic plants for cats include:

  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons
  • English Ivy
  • Oleander
  • Spanish Thyme
  • Tulip and Narcissus

Keep this in mind as well when considering your indoor plants.

Use a GPS cat tracker

It’s natural to be curious (and also worried) if your cat roams out of sight for hours on end. The best way to know where your cat is at all times is by using a GPS cat tracker. For the same price as a pack of cat treats a month, you can get 24/7 peace of mind. Unlike Bluetooth pet trackers, Tractive GPS lets you track your cat no matter how far they roam, thanks to unlimited range and worldwide coverage.

outdoor cat wearing a tractive GPS tracker

Train your cat to come home

The safest outdoor cats are those who are well-trained and come home regularly, or stay within close range of your house. You can use treats, calling, and of course, lots of affection, to ensure they stay nearby. Some Tractive GPS users have even been able to train their cat to come home when they hear the tracker “beep”.

Build a cat enclosure

If you want to keep your outdoor cat nearby, a “catio” (a.k.a cat patio) or cat enclosure are good options. These are small enclosures, usually in the garden or backyard, that your cat can enjoy the outdoors in.

Here are a few tips on how to design your cat’s catio:

  • If you’re building the catio yourself, make sure to look for claw-resistant mesh.
  • Depending on the catio’s size, you can fill it with cat trees and scratching posts, but make sure they’re either waterproof or otherwise bring them inside when it rains.
  • Build a variety of shelves of different sizes and heights to give your pet several spots to enjoy the view.
  • In winter, or when it’s colder, your cat may still be willing to enjoy the catio if you cover the floor with fabric to protect their paws from frostbite and provide them with blankets and heating pads to stay warm while still getting some fresh air.
  • If you don’t have a backyard, look into catios that can be attached outside your windows They might be small, but can still provide your cat with lots of fresh air and a different view.

Keep your outdoor cat warm in winter

If you cat stays outside during the cold winter months, it’s important to make sure they can stay warm. Make sure kittens, senior cats, or sick cats are never kept outside if the temperature is below 45°F (8°C)1. If possible, give your cat shelter for the winter or at the very least, build a heated outdoor cat house. Another option is to install a cat flap, so you cat cat go outside when they want, and return indoors for shelter anytime.

So, those were our tips for keeping an outdoor cat safe! Is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know by writing, and check out the video below for even more tips:

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