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How to Keep Your Cat Safe Outdoors

October 28th, 2018 by Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

This family let their cat outside to play with their daughter.

“The backyard is calling, and I must go.” – Cat mantra

The best way to keep your cat safe… is to keep your cat indoors.

But that’s not always possible or desired. (We get it!)

Here are 10 tips from our veterinarians on how to keep your cat safe outdoors.

#1: Make sure your cat is healthy and up-to-date on shots

Before you open the door to the great outdoors, make sure your cat has gotten a physical exam in the last year and is up-to-date on shots.

In Colorado, the cat vaccinations that are important for outdoor exploring are:

  • Rabies
  • Feline distemper
  • FELV

FELV stands for the feline leukemia virus. Typically, veterinarians like ours will test for it first, and then, if your cat is healthy, vaccinate for it.

This life-threatening disease is a much bigger risk for cats that spend time outdoors. Your cat is more likely to come into contact with unknown cats.

A little preventive care will help you protect your cat.

Plus, you’ll reduce the chance your cat spreads disease.

#2: Make sure your cat wears a collar with an ID tag that contains your phone number

If your cat doesn’t return home, this is a way for neighbors and others to easily track you down.

You’ll improve your chances of a happy reunion.

The outdoor cat, Caramel, wears a blue collar.

#3: Microchip your cat… and stay up-to-date

Let’s say your cat wanders off, gets found and ends up in a shelter.

Somewhere along the way, your cat has shed its collar like a little Houdini.

Typically, shelters will scan animals for microchips.

If your info is up-to-date and your registration is current with the microchip companies, the shelter should be able to trace your cat back to you.

If you recently moved to Castle Rock, log into your microchip provider’s website and update your contact info today.

(Learn moreWhat every pet parent should know about microchipping pets)

#4: Don’t declaw your cat

Cats use their claws to defend themselves.

They’ll use their claws to fend off a foe.

Or, if your cat is more of a lover than a fighter, your cat will use those claws to climb a tree to escape.

If your cat is declawed, your cat is not a good candidate for outdoor activities.

The exception is if your cat’s only outdoor activity is wearing a harness and leash in your backyard while you’re out there.

And on that note…

#5: Supervise your cat to the best of your ability

If you want to give your cat outdoor time, you’ll ideally want to keep you kitty in a space that’s under your supervision.

“Yea, right,” you’re thinking.

“One taste of freedom and my cat will be up and over the fence.”

If you can, put your cat on a harness and a leash out in the backyard, so your cat can be outside, but has clear boundaries.

Keep your cat safe outdoors with supervision and a harness.

#6: Give your cat access to a safe, sheltered place

If your cat will be outdoors a lot, make sure your cat has access to a safe place — a shelter.

For example, you may want to give your cat a “doggie door” into your garage or set up a little cathouse.

This shelter can offer much-needed protection for your cat in bad weather, from 95-degree days, to the snow and cold temps in the heart of winter.

This place also offers your cat protection.

Dr. Melanie recently had a client whose cat was attacked by an owl in their backyard.

Cats are both predator and prey in the great outdoors.

When your cat’s in trouble, a shelter offers a potential place to escape.

Bandit, the cat, spends time outside, so his family gave him a safe shelter - complete with doggie door.

#7: Be aware of any poisonous hazards in the environment… that you can control

Some of the big hazards to watch out for are rat poison and (if your cat takes shelter in the garage) anti-freeze.

#8: Get your cat flea and tick protection

Fleas and ticks aren’t as big of an issue in Castle Rock as they are in other parts of the country.

Nonetheless, there are neighborhoods in Castle Rock that are adjacent to prairie dog territory.

(Prairie dogs can be carriers of a variety of problems, including fleas that can transmit plague.)

And it’s possible for your cat to get a tick, particularly in tall grasses and wooded areas.

The best option is to put your outdoor cat on a monthly medicine to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm.

Groaning at the thought of giving your cat a pill?

Rest easy, it’s topical.

(Learn more: Protect your cat from fleas, ticks and insects called bot flies)

#9: Avoid letting your cat out at dusk and dawn

These are the hours when local predators — including coyotes, foxes and birds of prey (like owls) — are more active.

#10: Get your cat spayed or neutered

Sleep well knowing that you aren’t adding to the growing number of unwanted cats ending up in shelters to be euthanized.

Don’t become a surprise grandparent to seven or eight kittens!

What to watch for when your cat returns home


If your cat has a taste for mice, your cat has a high chance of ending up with tapeworms.

Generally speaking, there aren’t medications to prevent tapeworms.

Rather, we can prescribe a medication to kill the tapeworm once your lil’ mouser has one.

Outdoor cats can get tapeworms from eating mice.

So, be on the watch for evidence of tapeworms.

If you see segments that look like grains of rice on your cat’s rear end or in the feces, it’s time for a veterinary visit.

(Learn more: Preventing and treating tapeworms)

Wounds from catfights

One of the most common injuries we see in outdoor cats is an abscess from a catfight.

An abscess is a swollen area of infected skin or tissue from a cat bite.

It needs to be treated promptly.

When your cat returns home, check his or her body and paws to look for any swelling, redness, discharge (like pus or blood) and pain symptoms.

If you see anything that you’re concerned about, call our veterinarians.

Be ready for an endless desire to go back outside

Once your cat gets a taste of outdoor freedom, you may be in for a lot of crying at your back door.

Your cat wants to be outside!

If this type of behavior will annoy you, give it some thought before you open the door for the first time. 🙂

Keep your cat safe outdoors

Get your cat outdoor-ready! Call our Castle Rock cat vets at 303-688-3757 or:

Book your visit here 

Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance on how to keep your cat safe outdoors. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call.)

© 2018, Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

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