How To Mentally Stimulate Your Cat With Outdoor Time, Without Putting Local Wildlife At Risk

A guest post by Emily Parker,

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) estimates that there are nearly 4 millionpet cats in Australia (16 cats for every 100 people), making them the country’s second most common pet next to dogs. Most of these cats are kept indoors, but others are allowed to come and go as they please, a situation that has brought on a controversy in recent years.

So why is this an issue?

According to a 2017 study, feral and pet cats collectively kill more than 1 million birds in Australia on a daily basis.

Its authors reach that number by reviewing more than 90 previous studies on cat population densities in the country and another batch of studies about what those cats usually hunt.

The majority of these deaths were attributed to feral cats, but pet cats have undeniably contributed to wildlife mortality as well, at an additional 61 million birds per year.

Various conservation groups have encouraged cat owners to keep their pets indoors for the protection of wildlife. Animal welfare organizations have seconded this notion, stating that keeping cats indoors will allow them to live longer since they’re protected from disease, traffic, and attacks from other animals.

However, not all pet owners are in favour of this. Some animal experts also vouched for outdoor cat activities in spite of the dangers and risks, each having their own arguments.

According to the Smithsonian, domestic cats still have their ancestor’s wild instincts. Cats have retained their hunting skills and compared to other household pets, they’re less dependent on humans for food. Scientists say there is little that separates the average house cat from its wild relative, and that pet cats aren’t truly domesticated.

There’s also a ton of evidencethat indoor-only life may actually be detrimentalto the health of some cats.

Cats that only live indoors can suffer from various health issues such as diabetes and obesity. Additionally, they may also develop behavioural problems due to boredom, including refusing to use the litter boxand aggression.

At the end of the day, experts have very little influence as to whether an owner decides to keep their pets solely indoors or allow them an outdoor time.

It’s a good thing that there are several ways cats can be mentally stimulated and physically active both indoors and outdoors, without putting wildlife at risk.

Outdoor Time Safety Tips

If your cat craves outdoor time, by all means, let him out under your supervision.

In preparation for any outdoor activity, make sure your cat has a collar that includes his name and the address to your home. Some pet parents even opt for a GPS cat collar, to find your kitty quickly if he does evade you.

Ensure that he is spayed or neutered and is fully vaccinated.

With careful planning, you can help you cat venture outside in an environment that’s safe for all animals and together, you can enjoy the benefits of nature.

Create a Controlled Outdoor Environment

If it’s your cat’s first time to go outdoors, prepare him for the experience by allowing him to look outside at a screened porch.

You can buy a catio(cat patio) or build your own, or design a similar enclosure to give your cat the experience of what it’s like being outdoors without the risks to your cat or to wildlife.

When you allow your cat outside your yard, make sure that you’re always there to check on him since a regular fence may not be enough to prevent other animals from entering your property.

If you let your cat outside your house or the catio, make sure your yard is cat-proofedand there are no escape routes.

Walk Your Cat

A lot of cat owners have now discovered that they can “walk”their cat. With a bit of training, cats can be taught to wear a harness or a leash while outside. Some cats will need a stroller, which can give them an ample view of the sights and sounds of your neighbourhood while making sure he’s still in an enclosed space.

Carrier– With a carrier, you can carry your kitty wherever you go and also guard him against other animals. Carriers are comfortable and can be adjusted according to the size of your cat. They are also best for transporting disabled or sick pets.

Leash– Most cats don’t like the idea of a leash, so you must train him to use it. For first-timers, start walking your cat early in the morning or late evening when it’s quiet since cats will most likely go out when there are very few people around. It will take a few days before your cat gets used to it, so be very patient.

Harness– A collar wont cut it for a cat walking on a leash. You should be using a harness instead. This will give you better control when you’re walking your pet.

Other Wildlife-Friendly Activities for Your Kitty

Daily Play Time

Having a cat involves the responsibility of playing with your pet each day. Try different types of toys that will allow him to kick, pounce, chase, and stalk. When he’s done playing, store away toys as they could cause harm.

If your pet still wants to play but you can’t supervise, leave out makeshift toys such as cardboard boxes or paper bags. Introduce a variety of toys so your cat won’t get tired of them quickly, thinking it’s “new” all the time.

Tree Time

Cat trees are quickly becoming a staple in many cat parents’ homes. Also called a kitty condo, you can buy ready-made ones in pet stores ormake your own cat tree.

Kitty condos encourage your cat to stay active and allow them climbing opportunities where they can also rest and sleep. You can place a cat tree next to a screened window so your cat can see what’s happening outside.

Outdoor Time = Happy Cat

In the end, it’s up for you to decide if you want to allow your cats to explore the outdoors. That’s of course after weighing in the benefits and drawbacks. Should you want your cat to explore what’s outside, keep the considerations outlined above in mind.

Having said that, a catio is the best way to protect birds and wildlife while making sure your cat gets enough fresh air and sunshine, and give them the stimulation they need. They are easy to make and are abundant in the market, plus it can be a nice addition to your yard or garden, too.