Tobin Emrich, DVM
Assisi Drive Animal Hospital
1114 14th Street NW
Rochester, MN 55901
A common struggle for most cat owners, as their favorite feline is displaying the will of a lion to slide through that door, is whether the great outdoors is such a great idea. The cat’s determination and persistence causes one to take pause and contemplate if the mental stimulation and exercise of the outdoors outweighs the risks to their safety.
While some indoor/outdoor cats live long and happy lives, approximately half won’t live past ten years of age and many will be affected by viral infections, abscesses, injuries, and abuse. The ideal situation is to not allow your cat outdoors at all. Some cats are content with this situation while others are not. Options do exist for those willful few that insist life’s greatest adventures wait outside. These include leashing and harnessing, enclosures, fence-in systems, and electrical devices.
Leashing and harnessing work well for some cats but do require direct supervision. Owners must be present while their cat is leashed to ensure neighborhood cats and dogs do not cause harm. Tie-outs and leashes can lead to dangerous entanglement if the cat decides to chase an unsuspecting prey. Harnessing and leashing can be ideal while the owner reads a book on the front steps or soaks up some sun on the back deck.
Enclosures can be simple or extravagant and range from modified dog kennels to gazebos. Any enclosure which prohibits other animals from entry while housing your cat is ideal. If the cat prefers to remain in the enclosure for long periods a cat house and litter box should be provided.
Cat fence systems are made of a polypropylene netting that attaches to the top of an existing fence with special brackets. Some systems are designed to keep your cats in your yard and stray cats out. These systems allow your cat more freedom to move around. Cat fence systems do require maintenance due to heavy snow, leaf debris from trees, and squirrels.
Electrified wire devices can be installed underground or at the top of existing fencing. The cat wears a collar which will emit a beeping noise as the cat nears the electrified wire. If the cat continues to go closer to the wire a shock is emitted from the collar. The cat quickly becomes conditioned to not advance beyond the beeping noise. These devices allow your pet more freedom but care must be taken with neighborhood and stray animals because they are not deterred from entering the yard. Also, if your cat would ever get beyond the boundary of the yard it would not be able to re-enter the yard due to the electrified wire.
No option is completely void of risk and owner supervision is always the best way to keep your pet from harm. If staying entirely indoors is not a choice for your cat, options do exist for letting your cat experience the outdoors. After all, we’re here to please cats; dogs are here to please us.
Home for Life® is a new kind of animal shelter, the long-term animal sanctuary. Home for Life® provides life-time care for the special needs animal, the cat or dog that, while still able to lead a quality life, is unable to find a home due to age, chronic treatable disorder, handicap or similar reason. Once an animal comes to Home for Life®, it truly has a ‘home for life’.
Home for Life® has is a prototype sanctuary facility in Star Prairie, Wisconsin, and it serves as a model for the establishment of other ‘home for life’ sanctuaries around the country. The residents live in a setting that is appropriately scaled to allow for individualized attention and specialized care giving them a quality live and not just a warehoused existence.
Home for Life®
Post Office Box 847
Stillwater, Minnesota 55082