Q. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how cats shouldn’t live outside because they kill too many birds and other small animals. And I’m always being told by my friends that my cats should live inside for their own health and safety. Unfortunately, my cats live outside. Apart from bringing them indoors, what can I do to make their lives safer?
Why stop there? You should also ask what you should do to keep the animals that live around them safer from their predatory ways.
Here’s a brief list of to-dos for all those who keep cats out of doors.
1. Spay and neuter It goes without saying, right?
2. Vaccinate, please! You can’t control cars, dogs or the weather, but you can vaccinate your cats against communicable diseases like rabies, feline leukemia (FeLV), panleukopenia (feline distemper), rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus.
At a bare minimum, outdoor cats should receive a series of vaccines when they’re kittens, another dose at a year, then another every three years (except for FeLV, which is an annual vaccine in most cases).
3. Treat and prevent worms Wormy parasites like roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms can infest cats and sometimes –– though uncommonly –– even lead to their demise.
Outdoor cats living in South Florida should have an annual worm check and receive monthly preventatives for these parasites.
4. Control the creepy-crawlies External parasites like fleas, ticks, and mange aren’t merely annoying; they can also kill. Which is why all outdoor cat keepers in South Florida should routinely use preventatives for these that last a month or more.
5. ID, always! If you feed him and he’s not part of a managed colony of feral cats, he’s yours and should be identified as such. Which means you should put a tag on him and/or have a vet install a microchip.
6, Safety collars Want to do all you can to keep your outdoor cat from killing wildlife? Put a bell on her. Some cats can still sneak up on birds with it on, but it does help. Further, make sure that you only buy “breakaway” type collars and that they’ve got reflective material for nighttime safety.
But the best method? Build an enclosed “catio” for your outdoor kitties. If you own your own home, you should know that these are a relatively inexpensive and secure solution to the problem of outdoor living. Go ahead, Google it!
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.