Does your cat spend hours staring out the window and try to get outside when you open the door? Though some people frown upon letting pet cats outdoors for fear that they might become injured or run away, many cats are happier when they're allowed to roam outside. Of course, declawed cats should never be let outdoors because they lack the means to defend themselves, and you should probably not let your cat out in a busy city where there are cars zooming around. If you live in the country however, letting your cat outside sometimes might be the right choice for you and your pet. Weigh these pros and cons as you make your decision.
Pros of Letting Your Cat Outside
If you let your cat outside, he or she may be less prone to scratch your furniture or chew on your houseplants since he or she will engage in these behaviors outside the home. Cats have an instinctive need to scratch and dig, so these behaviors are never going to go away entirely. Letting your cat outside can be a good way to manage them.
Cats who go outside tend to get more exercise, so you won't have to worry as much about your cat becoming obese. As a result, your cat will be less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related conditions.
Going outside may also be good for your cat's mental health. It will give your pet a chance to run wild and feel free, so he or she is more calm and relaxed upon returning home. Cats have a natural urge to hunt, jump, explore, and play. If they cannot carry out these behaviors in their indoor environment, they sometimes become depressed or anxious. You might notice a huge improvement in your cat's mood once you let him or her out for a few hours per week.
Cons of Letting Your Cat Outside
The major downside of letting your cat outside is that doing so greatly increases your cat's risk of illness. Outside, your cat can be exposed to all sorts of terrible illnesses such as feline leukemia, feline distemper, and even rabies. You can protect your cat from these illnesses to some extent through cat vaccinations--but no vaccine is 100% effective. If your cat runs across an infected cat or other animal while exploring outdoors, there's always a chance he or she will contract the disease.
Parasites are also a problem for cats who go outside. Fleas are everywhere outdoors, and your cat can easily become infected with tapeworms if he or she eats an animal that's carrying tapeworm eggs. Fleas can be kept away with flea treatments, and deworming medications are available to treat cats infected with worms, but these parasites can do substantial damage to your cat's health if they go untreated for a while.
Of course, the biggest worry associated with letting your cat outside is that he or she will just disappear. A hawk may pick your kitty up, he or she might be eaten by a coyote, or another person may take your pet home. These risks can only be alleviated by keeping your cat on a leash or a cage outdoors.
If you decide to let your cat outdoors, make sure you talk to your vet before doing so. Your vet can make sure your cat is up-to-date on all vaccines and also recommend flea and tick products to prevent parasites. Most pet owners prefer to protect their cats by keeping them inside, but if your cat is longing for the outdoors and displaying destructive behavior, letting him or her venture out and explore, even if on a leash, might be a good solution.