It’s a Wild World

cat in grass _ bhlpAhhh, Spring: the time when the long cold shadow of the groundhog is lifted and the world outside is awash with colors looking like an Impressionist painting. It is no wonder that you might feel like spending a Sunday in the park with George, FiFi or Rex. However, even though we have sprung forward to daylight savings time, shaken off the icicles of winter, and are giddy to allow our BFFs (best furry friends) to press some grass, we need to stop and consider some things before we let them smell the flowers. Because, oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.

When nature calls to dogs, answering it on an outside line is a no-brainer. Our canine companions are always keen to enjoy the great (and even the mediocre) outdoors. To them, it’s just the place to go and play and we are usually right there with them to deal with whatever arises — or drops. However, for those of the feline persuasion, beckoning to the call poses some questions, principally one, “Should I let my cat outside?” It is not an easy question to answer, unless yours is declawed and the answer is clearly “No. Not ever. Don’t even consider it. Without claws, Kitty is just prey”.  If your cat does have claws, there are those who would also say the answer is fairly clear to be “No. Not ever. Don’t even consider it. Kitty is still prey.” But for the rest of us, watching Mr. Whiskers gaze longingly, maybe even a little hungrily, out the window, leaves the question pulling at our heart strings, and thus, feels like more of a conundrum. So, here are some things to consider when weighing the pros and cons.

In lieu of a loo, kitties use litter because they like something to scratch and push to bury their treasure. In essence, the whole of outside is just one big litter box. And since it is more than likely that Puss will go outside, when he does, that’s one less sift for you, and a definite pro. As another pro, cats like to eat grass. Grass helps digestion and breaks up hairballs, which means one less clean up for you as well. But, where there are pros, there are always cons. 

The truth is that it IS a wild world out there, and for cats, it may be hard for them to get by with just a purr*. The outside world presents many hazards for Felis Catus. What jumps to mind immediately are the all the parasites (fleas, ticks, worms, ear mites, et al.), who will jump at the chance to jump on your cat and burrow their way into her life, fur, skin, ears and intestines. To minimize this con, you should check with your vet to determine the best shield for your pet. After this step, make sure she is wearing it before going out the door. In addition, the alphabet soup of cat diseases out there, feline leukemia (FeIV), feline AIDS (FHIV), infectious peritonitis (FIP), distemper (panleukopenia) and upper respiratory infections (URI), certainly can appear as a major set of cons. Provided you keep up on the vaccines, these cons can be minimized. 

Another potential con to beware of is not as much the nature of nature as it is the nature of cats. Cats like to chase, scratch and climb and outside definitely affords them ample opportunity to indulge in any of those activities. Thus, seems like a pro to let them chase, climb or scratch away outside as they please. We recommend you consider how adept Fluffy is at these activities.  She may be able to go up that tree, but will she challenge the laws of gravity and not come down? Is the what she is chasing bigger or smaller than she is and can it catch her? And… well, you get the picture. Giving cats the opportunity to be cats outside may be more of a proceed with caution situation.

Along those lines, cats also have a tendency to push their boundaries farther than the ones your lease or deed (or patience) may designate. While you are wondering where Waldo is, there is a real risk of vehicles crossing his path at speeds greater than he can run from. Also, there are toxins and poisons ranging from natural to chemical that linger as other potential perils, which may require downgrading the above-mentioned pro of eating grass to a pro and con if you or your neighbors don’t show a preference for the “safe for pets” approach to lawn care or pest management. But be careful with “safe for” claims. Just because an ingredient is safe for human consumption does not necessarily mean that it is safe for feline consumption. (A good hint will be when your cat throws up or has a seizure.) 

All of these considerations, when you think about it, kind of makes letting Kitty out into the yard feel like a really bad idea, or at least a con with a capital C. You may want to to start by reconsidering your cat’s relationship with nature. There are plenty of substitutes to keep kitty happy indoors, such as: keeping toys handy as something to chase, providing scratching posts or a nice perch to climb, reserving a spot by a screened window from which to enjoy the sun, and if you can handle it, a companion with whom to interact. 

As for outside, just remember that there’s a lot of bad out there, so stay aware and make sure to take good care before you let Felix or Sissy roam free. After all, oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.*

*Apologies and thanks to the minstrel saint of Felines, Cat Stevens.