Cats and the outdoor world

Cats love to roam through nature and pursue their natural behaviours such as hunting, sneaking, and climbing. Spending time outdoors doesn't just promote exercise and activity, but also social contact with other cats in the neighbourhood. But as well as freedom, there are also some potential dangers waiting outside in the fresh air. Many cat owners face the question of whether to let their cat outside or not.

An outdoor life - pros and cons

Sneaking, lurking, hunting: this behaviours are in a cat's nature. Many cat owners who let their cats roam free outside argue that this is the only way to keep them in a way that is appropriate for their species. But should you leave your cat free to roam? This is not an easy decision.

Cats that are allowed outside can follow their instinctive behaviour more easily. It is much easier to exercise outdoors than indoors. Natural social behaviour can also be promoted in contact with neighbouring cats. For the owner, allowing their cat to roam freely also means less work as the cat will not scratch their furniture, wallpaper, or carpets, and will largely go to the toilet outside. In addition, outdoor cats are less likely to be overweight because they can move around more outside than indoors. 

Many cat owners face the question of whether to let their cat outside or not. Many cat owners face the question of whether to let their cat outside or not.

But being left free to roam can also be life-threatening for a pet. This is the case, for example, if the cat and cat owner live in a city or on a busy main road.  In addition to cars, buses and other vehicles, outdoor cats also face other hazards. Accidents don't always involve a vehicle. If your outdoor cat wears a collar, it can get caught in it, seriously injure itself or, in the worst case, strangle itself. When choosing a collar, it is therefore imperative to look for a model with a safety clasp that opens in an emergency - or to do without the collar altogether. In addition, unneutered male cats in particular can get into territorial fights outdoors - and sometimes they can be bloody. But even neutered cats are not spared territorial disputes. Cats can also get into a fight with neighbourhood dogs or other wild animals, such as martens or foxes.

Cats love to roam Spending time outdoors promotes social contact with other cats in the neighbourhood.
Other disadvantages of leaving your cat free to roam include the ingestion of parasites such as ticks, fleas or worms, or contact with pathogens that can be transmitted between animals of the same species, and which can trigger certain diseases (such as cat flu). Poisonous plants or other toxins can also be consumed accidentally. If you allow your cat to roam free, you must also expect them to follow their hunting instinct and occasionally catch and eat songbirds, mice or small insects. In addition, cats can become accidentally locked in other people's cellars, sheds or garages. It also becomes problematic if your cat prefers your neighbours and looks for a new home there, or runs away due to inexperience and can no longer find their way back.

The legal situation

Free-roaming cats know no property boundaries. When a cat leaves the house, they won't remain on their owner's property but will climb over fences and walls and through hedges - and may like ot visit your neighbour. Unfortunately, this can often lead to disputes between neighbours.  The legal situation in Germany is somewhat vague on this. If a conflict arises, the case will be interpreted individually. However, according to the German Animal Welfare Association, a property owner must tolerate a cat crossing his or her property. The latter refers to the so-called neighbourly community relationship - a regulation that obliges neighbours to be tolerant and considerate of each other.
But if the cat digs up a flower bed or marks a terrace, the property owner must no longer tolerate it. In this case, the neighbour may shoo the cat away and even use means of defence (such as acoustic repellent devices or cat protection belts). It should go without saying that the defence measures must not cause any harm to the animal's health, otherwise the issue quickly becomes a case of animal welfare. As a cat owner, you are liable if, for example, your cat catches a goldfish from a neighbour's garden pond or scratches someone else's car.
Unfortunately, the free roaming sometimes leads to disputes in the neighbourhood. Free-roaming cats don't know any property boundaries.
So if you have an outdoor cat, keep an eye on it (as best you can). For example, if you see your cat going to the toilet in a neighbour's sandpit, you should retrieve your cat. A cat fence can also ensure that your cat stays on your own property.

Checklist before allowing your cat outdoors

If you have decided to let your cat go outdoors, there are a few things you should keep in mind to limit the risks for your cat as much as possible.

  • Has the cat been sufficiently vaccinated? (Cat plague, cat flu, rabies, ...)
  • Is the cat neutered? This doesn't just avoid unwanted offspring - it also avoids turf wars and ensures your cat doesn't run off too far.
  • Is your pet marked with a chip and registered?
  • How safe is your residential location? Is there a busy road nearby?
  • Has your cat got used to your home? You should give your cat at least 4 to 6 weeks to settle in your home.
  • Have you installed a cat flap? During the winter and in bad weather, a cat should have the possibility to quickly return home at any time.

How can you get a cat used to being outdoors?

The best option is to install a cat flap before the first trip outdoors. Otherwise, the cat will regularly demand to have the door opened by you in order to get either outside or inside. By installing a cat flap, you can allow your cat to enter and leave the home whenever it wants. Before your cat goes outdoors for the first time, you should train it to go through the flap. 

On the first day out, you can also take a few measures to ensure that your pet's first outing goes as smoothly as possible. Fill your cat's bowl with a little less food than usual on this day, and go outside together for the very first time. Go slowly and see how far your cat is willing to go. Don't shy away from slightly rainy weather either. This will also ensure that your cat will want to return home quickly.

Let your cat explore its environment at its leisure and do not constantly call its name or otherwise try to distract it. Allow your cat enough time to explore everything. Soon, they will feel the need to go outdoors alone again. After the first trip outdoors, reward your cat with its favourite food or toy so that it realises that it is always worth coming home. In the first few days, you can accompany your cat when it goes outdoors, so that you can also intervene in case of any problems.

How can you keep outdoor cats healthy?

To ensure that your active roommate stays healthy and you don't have to worry, you should also take certain measures between your cat's outings. Check your cat regularly for ticks and other parasites. Also, schedule regular check-ups with the vet. In consultation with the veterinarian, an occasional worming treatment may also be advisable.
Outdoor cats in particular can get small scratches during their forays. Our SkinCare can help, and it's also good for dry and stressed skin. To get your cat through the cold season, you can use SkinCare on its paws to ensure that they do not become chapped.

SkinCare

Healing balm

SkinCare Healing balm for dogs and cats

17,98 €
incl. VAT, plus shipping costs
Base price: 449,50 €/l

The right food for outdoor cats

Outdoor cats are much more active than indoor cats. They consume and require more energy. As they roam around the neighbourhood, they consume far more calories. In addition, an outdoor cat is exposed to more pathogens than an indoor cat. Cats may also be outdoors in cold and wet weather, so they will need good defences and a strong immune system. When feeding outdoor cats, it is therefore particularly important to pay attention to high-quality protein-rich cat food with a high meat content and many healthy nutrients.

For outdoor cats, it is particularly advisable to introduce fixed feeding times. Your cat will adjust to the fixed times and then come home to eat by itself. This can help to discourage your cat from visiting neighbours to eat. In addition, it is a good idea to switch between our MeatCrisp Adult and MeatCrisp Sterilised - depending on the season. If your cat spends more time indoors during the cold winter months, and doesn't move around as much, they will consume less energy: in this case, you can choose the "Sterilised" variety to prevent your cat from becoming overweight.

Exercise flat cats

If cats can also pursue their social behaviour, their curiosity and their hunting and territorial behaviour within their four walls, then they will be just as happy indoors as outdoors. Of course, regular play with your cat (especially hunting games) as well as furnishings such as scratching posts, elevated places, and climbing walls also help. Sufficient litter trays, a clean feeding area and (preferably) several water points are also necessary. In addition, you should consider integrating a fellow cat into the family. This way, you can enable your pet to have social interactions such as playing, grooming, or cuddling together. Intelligence toys and food games, such as an activity board, will also stimulate an indoor cat.
Cats can also pursue their social behaviour, curiosity and hunting behaviour indoors. Intelligence toys and food games wear to keep indoor cats busy.

Secured outdoor access

A compromise between the security of a house cat and the freedom of a roamer is offered by "secured access". This means securing and enclosing your garden or balcony. Then, your cat can let off steam to its heart's content, explore nature, or simply enjoy the sun - without leaving your property. You can find more information on this topic in our guide "Secured outdoor access".

Questions and answers on the subject of outdoor access

Which cat flap is the right one for my cat?

When buying a cat flap, you should make sure that it is the right size. Of course, your cat should pass through as comfortably as possible and not get stuck. In addition, there are flaps through which only your own cat has access to the house by means of a chip.

How can I protect my cat from busy roads?

Unfortunately, you can't. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as one hundred percent protection from busy roads. You can fence in your garden and thus offer your cat a secure outdoor space.  But this is relatively complex and cost-intensive. You can find more information about this in our guide "Secured access for cats".

When can I let my kitten outside for the first time?

You should wait several weeks before allowing a young cat to enjoy outdoor access for the first time. It is important that you slowly get your kitten used to being outside.

When can I let my cat outdoors (again) after a move?

Again, not too early. After a move, your cat must first get used to the new indoor environment before it is allowed outdoors. This can take several weeks. Even if your cat has lived in a flat before and suddenly has a house with a garden at its disposal, introduce it to the outdoors slowly. It is advisable to start with a short period of free access under human supervision, and then gradually increase the amount of time.

What vaccinations does my cat need to go outdoors?

In addition to the usual vaccinations (cat plague, cat flu), which are also given to indoor cats, outdoor cats also need protection against rabies.

What is the best way to protect my outdoor cat from parasites?

The keyword is prophylaxis. Whether you use a spray or a spot-on preparation - your vet can best advise you and explain how to use them. Very important: do not use dog products on cats, as this can be life-threatening.

Do I have to chip my cat?

Every outdoor cat should be chipped. A microchip is placed under the skin. A number is stored there, which is individual and unique for each cat, via which the cat can be assigned to its owner again. With a special device, this number can be read by veterinarians or animal shelters. In addition, the animal should be registered, as otherwise it is not possible to return lost and found animals.

Can a cat get too cold outside?

Outdoor cats get used to the increasingly cooler temperatures in autumn and winter and develop a thicker coat. As long as a cat is dry, it usually doesn't mind the cold. However, if a cat stays outside for a longer period of time, you should either provide a warm and dry area for them, or install a cat flap to ensure that they can return home when they want to. However, it becomes dangerous for a cat when it gets wet outside in the cooler months, because damp fur makes a cat cool down faster.