Enjoying the Outdoors Safely
By C. M. Saracco
It’s a dilemma many cat parents face: they want their cats to enjoy the outdoors while remaining safe and protecting wildlife. What if it wasn’t strictly an either/or choice?
Leash / Harness Training
Training your cat to tolerate a harness and leash can help your cat explore the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors while remaining safely near you. Combined pricing for both units is affordable, often $15 – $40. For more than a decade, I’ve used this option with my now 19-year-old cat Ezekiel, a rescue who had been accustomed to roaming outdoors and occasionally fought with neighbor cats or dashed across the street. He’s now indoors-only except when we harness him for a backyard sunbathing or garden exploration session. It took a while for him to adapt to the arrangement, but now he enjoys it. Initially, we trained him to wear a harness indoors. Once he became comfortable with it, we brought him outside and attached a leash. Now he sits at our patio door when he wants to go out, signaling us to retrieve his harness from a nearby cabinet and get him “suited up” for his outdoor adventure.
Pet strollers are popular with people who have small- to medium-sized dogs, although a number of cat parents swear by them, too. Like a baby stroller, these units allow people to take their kitties on a walk. Unlike a baby stroller, pet strollers feature seating areas that are fully enclosed, often with mesh-like windows. Pricing varies from $40 for a basic model to more than $200 for high-end models
with all-terrain support, weather coverings, detachable components, and more.
Pop-up (temporary) and permanent enclosures are arguably the most hands-off approach to giving your cats a relatively safe outdoor experience. These are self-contained units of various sizes where you can place your cat outdoors for a brief period of time. Few are designed to safely house an animal outdoors on a permanent basis. Models that require minimal set up include pet playpens, kennels,
“condos”, cages, and tents. For cats, units that are fully enclosed — not those with an open roof — are most appropriate. Small pop-up enclosures start at $35 or so, while elaborate, multi-tiered interior structures with ramps, ladders, etc. may exceed $250. Permanent outdoor enclosures are also available. These are heavier-duty units that often feature fencing and doors. Pricing ranges from $250 – $400, depending on size and materials. Finally, some ambitious homeowners build elaborate “catios” (cat patios) and cat tunnels on-site, often enclosing a balcony, backyard porch, walkway, or other outdoor areas for use by their cats. Some basic construction plans can be downloaded for free, while others sell for $40 or so.
With supervision and some creativity, you can help your cats enjoy the outdoors without compromising their safety or the safety of wildlife.
Edited by Alexis Meehan