From harnesses to strollers to enclosures, there are several hazard-free ways for your cat to enjoy the great outdoors.
The mantra today is that cats should be kept indoors, although letting them wander through the garden is common practice in England and Europe. There’s something pleasant about watching a cat stroll through grass, sniffing the fresh air and enjoying the sunshine. It seems so natural, and many cats love exploring the great outdoors if given the chance. The problem is, it really isn’t safe to let your cat roam at large. Busy streets, confrontations with other animals, and a variety of additional hazards ranging from cat-hating neighbors to in-ground swimming pools, can result in injury, illness or death.
Happily, there are several ways you can let your cat enjoy the outdoors while keeping him safe and secure.
Harness or walking jacket
The simplest way to take your cat outside is with a harness and leash. A properly-fitted harness offers much more security than a collar, which a cat can easily slip out of. Even more secure is a walking jacket. Harnesses and walking jackets are sized according to the cat’s measurements and are usually adjustable, either with snaps, Velcro or buckles. We have a walking jacket by Sturdi Products (sturdiproducts.com) that has adjustable snaps; it comes in small, medium and large sizes. For comfort and security, a good fit is important regardless of the manufacturer.
The younger the cat, the easier it will be to get her to accept a harness or walking jacket. Start getting her accustomed to it by putting it on inside the house. Wait until she’s acclimatized to it before taking her out. Watch for any signs of stress or fear once she’s outside; start with short outings and extend the time (and distance) as she becomes more comfortable. Always supervise her – never tether her in the yard and leave her unattended.
A stroller designed for cats or small dogs is another option. One downside is that your cat doesn’t get any exercise while riding in it, but she does get fresh air a change of scene. It’s a good choice for older cats or those with mobility problems. There’s a growing number of models on the market, including ones you can jog with, and all are designed to enclose the cat securely inside while giving her a view of the passing scenery. Websites like petstrollerworld.com offer a wide selection of cat and small dog strollers from many different companies.
A cat enclosure offers the ultimate in outdoor feline fun. You can build your own if you have the carpentry skills, or buy a kit or custom-designed product from a manufacturer. Tineke Hofma created her own outdoor enclosure for her five Russian Blues. This kitty wonderland includes access doors to and from the house, along with a variety of beds and shelves for the cats to lounge on. It also has plants and an area for Tineke to sit and spend quality time with her felines. If you’re building your own enclosure, be sure the wire you choose will prevent furry bodies from squeezing through. A corrugated roof allows for all-weather access.
Depending on your yard and budget, a cat enclosure can be a modest and simple “play pen”, or a spacious multi-storied “feline family room”. It can be vertical or horizontal in configuration, and be free-standing or built against the house and accessed through a door or window. Many companies will create custom-designed enclosures based on your specifications and number of cats.
Mobile enclosures such as the Kittywalk (kittywalk.com) can be moved around the yard, deck or patio to give the cat some variety. Some consist of tunnels that can be snaked through the yard for exercise and exploration. Yet another option is the Purrfect Fence (purrfectfence.com), which works with existing fencing or as a stand-alone system. The material is flexible and bends at the top under the cat’s weight, making it escape-proof.
Many cats are quite content to spend their lives indoors, but for those who crave outside time, the options covered here can help expand their boundaries, prevent boredom, give them extra physical and mental exercise – all while ensuring they stay safe and secure.