Spring is a glorious, sunny and outdoorsy season for us humans but it can be busy time for roaming outdoor cats, especially those that are not desexed.
Cats make wonderful companions and certainly the ones I’ve met have been full of personality and character from independent, cuddly and cheeky to downright bossy!
But it’s not all fun and games – being a pet owner comes with responsibilities.
Over the years I’ve been lucky to have shared my home with cats and my little furball companions have always been inside when I’m at work, free to have outside time in the afternoon when I get home, an open door over the weekend when I’m around and they’ve ALWAYS been inside at sunset / dinner time and for the night.
While every pet owner is different and has their own preference, for me this has been the best combination of safety for both my kitty and the local wildlife as well as ample play time in the yard to frolic in the grass and roll around in the dirt (and peace of mind for me knowing they are safe).
So what is the recommended way to care for a pet pussin?
To help you make sure your furry friend stays happy, healthy and free from drama, I chatted to Sydney veterinarian, Dr Anne Fawcett.
Dr Fawcett is a fellow animal lover and, of course, her home is filled with pooches and kitty cats. You may remember my Fab 5 chat with Dr Fawcett a while back – you can also find her sharing loads of information online at Small Animal Talk.
Dr Fawcett kindly shared some thoughts on how to care for a cat.
As a vet, what is your definition of a responsible pet owner?
A responsible pet owner is ultimately someone who looks after their animal to the best of their ability, as well as minimises the impact of that animal on others and the environment. There are two parts to this.
The first part is meeting your cat’s needs. I believe that if we are going to keep companion animals, we have a duty to meet their needs and give them a good life. That means ensuring they are able to express normal behaviours (for example, climbing, playing, eating, scratching, grooming etc). I personally think that some outdoor access is fine, it allows cats to get out, explore and exercise.
The second part is about minimising impact. Cats that go outdoors should be appropriately identified with a collar and tag, and a microchip (this is required by law in New South Wales).
Is it recommended to leave cats outside all night?
I believe responsible cat owners do keep their cats inside at night as night time is when cats are more likely to hunt and fight. This is when they pose most risk to wildlife – and to themselves. I treat plenty of cats with fighting related wounds and motor vehicle trauma, predominantly occurring at night when cats wander. I cannot condone keeping cats outside all night – the risk to the cat is too great, and the risk to wildlife is too great.
Why is it important to have outdoor cats desexed?
Because cats are prolific breeders, they should be desexed. Female cats that are undesexed or entire that have outdoor access will inevitably become pregnant. There are already far too many cats without homes – the average rate of euthanasia in cats in Australian shelters is around 70 per cent. Unless you are personally prepared to rehome every kitten in each potential litter (this will require each and all to be microchipped and vaccinated) you should desex your cat.
Male cats that are not desexed will mark their territory with incredibly pungent urine (that territory could include your front door or your favourite handbag) and are much more likely to fight. Cat fight abscesses can be incredibly nasty, and cat fighting is the primary route of transmission for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (aka feline aids).
I own two cats, Michael and Hero, both adopted from work. Both have daytime outdoor access but they come in at night, where they sleep on my bed. They come inside for dinner, and that’s it. Yep, they try it on and make me feel guilty on occasion for not letting them out after dark. But as a vet I am intimately acquainted with the consequences of nocturnal feline wandering, so they stay in.
Animal shelters and local pounds already have a tough time finding loving homes for unwanted cats. More are surrendered every day. Make sure your kitty pals are desexed so they aren’t creating more lives that will need forever homes.
With the holiday season and hot weather fast approaching, check out these handy tips from the RSPCA on caring for your catto or woofa over the coming months.
- Tips for surviving the Christmas season
- Keeping pets safe during fireworks and storms
- Heat stress in animals
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