Outdoors, but not wandering

by JENNAH ROSE
10th June 2024

WITH MANNINGHAM Council’s 24-hour Cat Confinement Order now in place, Cat Considerations offers a monthly column on cost-effective ways to keep your cats healthy and happy while living indoors or confined to limited space.
By way of introduction, this month answers a much-asked question, “How can my cat have outdoor time and not go wandering?”
While allowing your cat to roam wide may seem more sympathetic to its natural behaviour, several key factors make it more beneficial to encourage your cat to adjust to a more contained lifestyle.
Throughout spring and summer, unwanted kittens appear in their hordes in pounds and animal shelters.
There is not room for them all, and ultimately, deciding what to do is extremely difficult.
The rest is for your imagination, so nothing more to be said, apart from please, please, desex your cats.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus — transmitted through biting, which 15 per cent of all outdoor cats carry — as well as roundworm, tapeworm, lungworm, heartworm, ringworm, fleas and ticks, and bacterial infections, can all be prevented by limiting your cat’s contact with other infected animals.
Cats with paler noses and ears are also susceptible to skin cancer.
Roaming cats are also at risk of injury from humans, dogs, and other wild animals, as well as death and injury on the road.
Even powerful owls will hunt and catch an unsuspecting cat. But cats are also a danger to wildlife — research shows they have directly contributed to the extinction of more than 20 Australian native mammals and are implicated in a further eight.
Lastly, some more food for thought regarding those who care for cats suffering from the above-listed problems.
Victorian vets have the highest rate of suicide in the health professions.
Their valuable work includes attempting to mend the results of roaming cats again, and again, and again, a tragedy they know is preventable.
So, what can be done to give your cat some enriching outdoor time?
Much of this depends on your garden size and the type of fencing you may or may not have.
A garden with solid fencing or fencing a cat cannot get through can be set up as an outdoor space.
There is a roller-type product on the market that is attached along the top of a fence line to prevent cats from getting out or in.
Simply put, a cat cannot grasp the top of the fence if it wants to launch itself over.
Google Oscillot or Rapid Mesh Cat Roller to find it.
The following options are ideal if you have a larger, unfenced garden, a veranda, or a small, enclosed yard.
Catios are quite the thing and can be purchased in various sizes, custom built or self-made.
A catio needs shelving, protection, and space for your cat’s scratching post, toilet, and feeding and resting areas — designing one for your feline can be a delightful, creative project.
They can be constructed separately from the house, but supervision is needed, i.e. not leaving a cat in it all day with no one home.
A cat door leading out to your catio is more suitable, as your cat can come and go as it pleases.
A catio must include space for stretching, walking, climbing, and resting.
Research online will provide many ideas for catio design and construction and a surprising number of cat door options.
While most catios are made using wire mesh, a netting mesh can be a suitable option to enclose a veranda or a small yard space whereby the netting can stretch from the fence to the roof.
Lastly, the idea of walking a cat sounds odd but is indeed possible.
However, it does depend on the cat’s personality, as no cat can be led anywhere like a dog.
Walking a cat is a slow process and requires patience and observation to get it happening.
You will need a harness of appropriate size and comfort.
Try the harness indoors first, then attach the lead to it.
Then, open the door and let your cat explore.
What happens from there depends very much on the cat’s personality.
If your cat is already an indoor cat, exploring outdoors will be a new experience for them, so simply follow your cat around with the lead.
It is not likely cats new to this experience will charge off confidently into the wilderness.
If they want to disappear into tiny spaces you cannot get into, deter them by picking them up and placing them somewhere else.
Cats like to establish an area to check out and leave claim to, and such a path becomes the traversed route, so walking can eventually become an off-the-lead time when you just follow your cat on its route around your property.
Having said this, however, keep watch.
If the kitty gets a twinkle in their eye planning an escape, pick her up and bring her indoors again.
If they are used to being outdoors, they will likely immediately head off along their familiar territory-checking routes.
In this case, they will suddenly experience restraint and struggle to be released, so take them indoors and try again later.
As said, walking takes time and patience.
Much better is to build the aforementioned catio or confined garden space.
Whatever you do, do not take your cat away from your home to a park or unfamiliar area where the very high possibility of it completely freaking out will occur.
To help your cat adjust to contained living requires some forethought and planning.
The best aspect is hanging out with your cat and knowing them better.
They’re quite quirky creatures, and if you work towards confining your feline to your property, you will benefit not only them but also many others in the community.

Jennah has gained her knowledge as a volunteer at Animal Aid Coldstream and gives Happy Healthy Cat talks through Friends of Manningham Dogs and Cat.