Should I Introduce My Cat to the Outdoors?

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, cautions against allowing the cat to venture outside without supervision.

Q: I just got a 2-year-old Manx cat. He has a lovely nature and talks to me regularly. His previous owner gave him away because his wife is pregnant. The cat has lived in a city apartment all his life, and I live in a house with a backyard. Is it wise for me to slowly introduce him to the outside world? I brought a harness today to take him for small walks around the backyard.

Also, I work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Is there anything I can do to amuse him while I’m away? I have read that Manx cats don’t like to be alone. I have only had him three days, but we love each other already.

A: Congratulations on becoming a new cat owner. I hope his previous owners didn’t give him away because they were worried about toxoplasmosis with the wife being pregnant, but either way, it sounds like he has a nice home with you. 

Cats that go outdoors unsupervised are at increased risk for a variety of illnesses, and I do not recommend letting your cat become an indoor/outdoor cat. However, if your cat has a secure harness and is always under your watchful eye, I don’t see any harm in letting him enjoy some sunshine. Make sure he is shielded from some of the dangers of the outdoors, such as other cats, cars, dogs, etc.

Your cat should be administered a topical monthly flea and tick control product, and should also receive heartworm preventative every month, as his exposure to parasites will be increased.  He should be current on his distemper/upper respiratory virus vaccination, as well as his rabies vaccinations. You may want to vaccinate him against FeLV and FIV and have him microchipped. This will help in the unlikely event that he slips out of his harness and is gone for a while.

As far as keeping him amused while you’re away, don’t worry. Most cats are perfectly happy at home by themselves. Do what you can to provide a mentally stimulating, enriched environment (lots of toys, scratching posts, window perches so he can look out into your backyard), and I’m sure he’ll be fine.

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