Can I Let My Cat in the Backyard?

Cat owners sometimes are uncertain about how to handle their kitty’s freedom wisely. Perhaps you have been wondering lately if you should let your cat out into your backyard for some fresh air and exercise. However, this may not be the best choice, due to multiple issues that could endanger your pet.

So, can I let my cat in the backyard? Due to the many risk factors such as pregnancy, disease, and the possibility of your cat running away, letting your cat into the backyard isn’t advised.

However, if you are fixed on allowing your cat to enjoy the sunshine directly, there are many things you can do to provide safety for them as they caper outside. This article will inform you about the risks associated with letting your cat outdoors and provide you with multiple ways to protect your kitty from these dangers.

Risks for Disease

When you let your cat outside, you are exposing them to a multitude of disease-carrying insects including fleas and even ticks. Since fleas are bloodsuckers, too many flea bites can result in anemia for kittens.  

Additionally, if your cat has Flea Allergy Dermatitis (which means they are allergic to flea saliva) only one flea bite can inflame their skin and cause aggressive and destructive scratching. This scratching can result in hair loss, open sores, and exposure to infection.

Fleas can also pass on bacteria and diseases to your cat. Tapeworms, for example, which live in the intestines, result in pain, difficulty with excretion, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Bartonella bacteria (another disease often carried by fleas) doesn’t usually affect cats, but when a cat that carries it scratches their owner, cat-scratch disease (CSD) can follow.

Ticks are notorious carriers of Lyme Disease. Its symptoms include exhaustion, lack of interest in food, and joint pain. Tick paralysis, which results from toxins in ticks’ saliva, can cause immobility and heart problems. 

Anaplasmosis, another infection carried by ticks, has similar symptoms to Lyme Disease, such as sluggishness, fever, and an indifference to food.

Avoiding These Diseases

While these diseases sound terrifying, most of them can be easily prevented or treated. The best course of action is to keep fleas and ticks off your cat entirely, which reduces their risk of contracting such diseases. To stop insects from gathering on your kitty’s coat you can use products such as spot treatments, tick collars, medicated shampoos, and chewables.

If you do let your cat outside, be sure to closely examine them afterward for ticks and fleas. Spraying your lawn and shrubbery with certain insect focused pesticides can also help keep your pet free from fleas and ticks, though it is recommended that you should not expect it to totally alleviate your pest problem.

If your kitty does show symptoms of flea or tick carried illnesses, don’t panic. Your local vet is more than well-equipped to handle most insect-borne diseases and usually, the treatment is as simple as a month or so of antibiotics.

These can get expensive, however, and therefore it’s better to eliminate the need for them entirely by either keeping your cat inside or using one of the aforementioned preventative strategies.

The Threat of Other Animals

Even if your backyard is fenced and netted to prevent escape, there is always a chance that your cat can sneak out into the wild or that other animals can make their way through your boundaries. If your cat is especially aggressive, this can increase the chances of rabies or wounds from fighting with outside animals.

Let’s say that your cat is laid-back and calm, and you are certain that they won’t get into fights with other animals. Encounters with outside animals can still have unwanted results, such as pregnancies.

If you have a female cat and haven’t spayed her yet, you might want to consider doing so, especially if you plan to allow her outside and don’t want a litter of kittens on your hands in the very near future. Though they may look adorable and cuddly in online pictures, kittens are expensive to feed and care for, assuming that your cat comes back at all after getting pregnant.

Obviously, male cats can’t get pregnant, but there are still other problems that can arise if they are allowed outside. Unneutered males are far more likely to fight with other cats or animals in general. These fights can lead to injuries that might result in infections, long-term health complications, or even fatal wounds.

Besides the risks for cats themselves in the wild, letting them out can harm the ecosystem due to the massive numbers of birds and other small animals that cats regularly kill. Birds especially are endangered when cats are allowed to roam free.

Birds exert a heavy impact on their surroundings through their spreading of seeds and other environmental services. Because of this, when cats kill birds, the local ecosystem suffers.  Keeping your kitty indoors might just be good for the environment as well as their health.

Additional Dangers

Even without the problems of disease, wild animals, and pregnancy, the outside world poses many other threats to your cat’s wellbeing.

Every year, many cats are seriously injured or killed by cars. Though you may not live near a highway or a busy road, you should still be wary of letting your cat outside and remember that most drivers will not have your beloved pet in mind while traveling.

If we forget the issues of cars and animals, there is still no guarantee that your cat will return safely once let outside. 

According to a survey of 1,015 households done by the ASPCA, 15% of cat owners had lost a cat in the last five years; a fourth of that 15% did not find their cat after it went missing. To reduce this possibility, you might want to consider getting an ID tag or microchip for your cat, along with keeping an eye on them while they are outside.

Many toxic substances are more readily available to cats in the outdoors. Even plants such as lilies, rhododendron, chrysanthemums, and the bulbs of tulips are all poisonous to cats if ingested. 

You may think, “My cat is well-fed at home, so why would they ever want to eat plants outside?” However, though cats are commonly considered carnivores, it’s actually quite customary for them to snack on plants because they like the taste or to aid digestion.

Other dangerous and harmful items that cats might eat in the outdoors include antifreeze, cocoa mulch, mouse bait, paint, fertilizers, and ice melts.  

While not all of these items are instant killers, the largest danger arises when you don’t know whether your cat has eaten one of them and can’t get them to help in time.  If your cat is wandering around outside, you might not realize what they have put in their body until it is too late.

Contact your vet or a poison control center immediately if you suspect that your pet has gobbled down a toxic substance.  Also, before you let your cat outside, ensure that you do not have any poisonous plants available to them and that you returned that bag of ice melt to the garage.

Conclusion

The concerns I have listed may seem daunting, and I totally understand if you promise yourself never to let your cat outside again after reading them. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways your cat can lead a wonderful and fulfilling life indoors, especially with a loving owner and exciting toys.

However, with vigilance and some preventative measures, you can let your cat into your backyard with minimal anxiety. Having a fenced area for them to play in is a great start, along with scanning the area for toxic plants and products.

When your cat is outside, go and play with them!  You can both get some exercise, and you can then keep an eye on them. If you are especially worried about other animals encountering your pet, don’t just let them roam freely.  

Check your cat for insects once they come inside, and talk to your vet about the best insect repellents for your situation should they bring home any.

Letting your cat outside is ultimately up to you, and the right choice is always dependent on the circumstances and the cat. Some cats have a more aggressive temperament and shouldn’t go outside if you know that there are a lot of similar cats in the area.

If you live near a highway, be careful about letting your cat out without supervision. In the end, you know what’s best for you and your cat and can ultimately make the best decision about whether or not to let them into the great outdoors.

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