Have you been thinking about finding a way for your indoor kitty to experience the great outdoors? Maybe you have seen the videos of adventure cats that have become more prevalent, or you’ve seen a neighbor taking their feline family member for a walk. Or maybe you’re thinking more along the lines of a catio. Whatever your thoughts, there are some things that you should consider before taking fluffy outside for the first time!
Make sure to think about the personality of your cat before you make the decision to start bringing them outside. Not every cat should be an outdoor cat. Many kitties are too frightened to enjoy the new experience. And while some may come to love it in time, it is important not to force the experience or cause them undo stress.
Plan to either have them on a leash or in a confined place that will do double duty, keeping them from wandering while also keeping predators away. Never leave them unattended! If a predator or other cat comes into the space the possibility of injury or death is high if you are not there to intervene.
If you plan to leash train them, start inside with just the harness. Leave it on for short periods and allow them to get used to the extra weight. Most cats do not like harnesses, so expect some flopping. Once they are used to the harness you can plan your first excursion!
Plan on starting with trips that are less than 5 minutes. And prepare yourself for them asking to go back inside almost immediately. Try to avoid busy streets as the car noise will frighten them. A comfort item might also help ease the transition.
My cat, Lyric, absolutely adores baskets. When I first started bringing him outside on a leash, he always asked to go back inside immediately. I listened to his needs and did not force it. Then, one day he was sleeping in his favorite basket and I decided to carry him outside in that. I set him on my lap and he sat purring for several minutes before he started to show any agitation. When he showed me he was ready to go back in, I always listened to him right away. Now he asks to go outside regularly during the summer. Remember, the goal of outside time is for your kitty to enjoy it! Not for you to make them into the adventure kitty you saw in that cool TikTok. If they are showing agitation, let them go back to a safe place.
My other cat, Ari, took to leash time immediately and will spend significantly more time outside then Lyric before he asks to come back in. On the hot days of summer I have to end his adventures before he likes to keep him from overheating.
I bring my cats outside with me when I am gardening or visiting with friends. I do not take them for walks. I also only let them out in my backyard because the front of my house faces a busy street.
General Safety Considerations:
When you first make the decision to take your indoor cat outside, make sure to make a veterinary appointment. They can get you proper medicine to protect against fleas, mites, and ticks that may find their way onto your cat over the course of their adventures. They can also let you know if your area has any other parasites or diseases that may impact your cat.
Before going outside the first time, take some time to look at the plants around your space. Try and identify what they are so you can determine if they are poisonous plants. Lilies are especially deadly to cats. Do not let them hang out near these plants as a few mouthfuls can be deadly. Chemicals can also be dangerous for your cat. Make sure that the space that you are using has not been treated with gardening or lawn chemicals.
Many of the general considerations listed above are applicable to taking your cat out on a leash or using a catio. If you are thinking about creating a catio space check out our blog on the subject here.
Written by: Heather Mains
One of the most avoidable pet-fatalities occurs when pets are left in cars. Whether you’re running into the grocery store or popping into the post office, it is never safe to leave an animal in a hot car unattended.
According to studies, hundreds of pets die from car-related heatstroke every year; studies also show the first 15-30 minutes are critical. Parked cars can become ovens fast. Even on a day a moderately warm day, a parked car can rise from 75˚F to 100˚F in just ten minutes. You may have heard of a “safe period”, the amount of time in which your pet can be left in a car. However, it is not prudent to follow a “safe period” since there are external factors that you can not control, such as the sun shifting. Since there are many factors as to why a car heats up, there’s not a safe amount of time to leave your pet.
Another thing to remember is your pet’s inability to sweat. You’ll need to keep in mind when you’re warm your animal is even warmer! Most dogs and cats are covered with a thick coat of fur making it difficult for them to dissipate their body heat. Warning signs that your pet is in distress include heavy panting, tongue hanging out, restlessness, anxiety, clawing at window, trembling, vomiting, disoriented, foaming at mouth, diarrhea, collapsing, and seizures.
What can you do if you see an animal trapped in a car that appears unsafe? The state of Minnesota prohibits leaving a dog or cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety. For this reason, you can feel justified calling law enforcement. You could also wait nearby for a few minutes to see if the owner returns quickly.
All pets are at risk of developing heat stroke if left in a car, this can lead to severe illness or death. We urge you to recognize it is always your responsibility to keep your pet safe and spread awareness! Ultimately, the goal is to avoid the heartache of losing your pet’s life to a hot car.
Written by: Gracie Butler
The dog days are in full-swing, and you may be wondering how to keep your pup happy and healthy during this warm season! From hydration to feet protection, read on to learn how to keep your dog healthy and happy as you enjoy the warm weather together.
The first step to beating the heat with your dog is to always have a supply of water. Whether you’re going for a stroll, drive, or running an errand, it’s important to keep your dog hydrated both indoors and outdoors. Many public beaches and parks have a spout of clean water, but it’s never safe to assume; error on the side of caution and bring water. You’ll also need to know how to identify signs of dehydration, the more noticeable signs can include vomiting, loss of energy, excessive panting, and the loss of elasticity in your dog’s skin. However, there are less spottable signs; here is a resource that identifies all possible signs and can help decipher if your furry friend has had too much sun. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/warning-signs-dehydration-dogs/
The next thing you’ll want to know is how to protect your dog’s paws. We all know the pain of a bad sunburn, but did you know your pup can catch a burn too? Burned paws are more common than you may realize, wildly uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous for your dog. The signs you should look for are limping, avoiding walks, licking or chewing feet, paw pads appearing darker than usual, pads looking visibly damaged, and blisters or redness. To avoid burned paws try using dog booties or socks to shield hot pavements and avoid walking on streets during the peak temperature of the day. It’s important to regularly check their paws and monitor the weather app before strolling on hotter surfaces. Since your dog may not realize there’s a problem, it’s up to you to recognize the signs and protect your furry friend.
As much as you and your pup may love to bask in the sun, we all need a break! Whether you’re on a walk, spending time at the park, or chilling in the yard, be sure to scout out a shady area for your dog to catch a break from the rays; tree shade and tarps are prime places since they don’t obstruct air flow. We recommend paying attention to how long your dog has been exposed to the sun, and make sure to monitor how strong the UV rays are that day. Always remember when you’re warm, your dog with a fur coat and inability to sweat, is especially warm.
Take a Break
The final thing we want you to keep in mind is to give your dog a rest! With all the adventures summer has to offer, it’s important to take a break from your summer activities, head indoors, and enjoy a nap. We suggest monitoring your dog’s activity and building in breaks on the particularly hot days. Despite how much energy your pup exhibits, we all need downtime. Make sure to know your dog’s limits in order to have the happiest and healthiest summer yet!
Written by Gracie Butler
Animal Care Foundation
Providing elderly and disabled community members access to veterinary care for their beloved pet.