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Keeping the cat free: advantages and disadvantages


If you keep your cat as a walker, there are some advantages - but also a few disadvantages. Weigh the benefits and risks of freewheeling for your cat. The following tips will help you decide. Image: Shutterstock / Ozerov Alexander

Image: Shutterstock / Ozerov Alexander Fortunately, you can prevent some dangers for free-range cats - Shutterstock / Olga Visav Sometimes the apartment is better for cats than free access - Shutterstock / Anna Hoychuk

Allow the cat free or not? It is not an easy decision. Because it is wonderful for the animals if they can freely explore their surroundings as they please, chase mice and experience other adventures. But there are also some dangers lurking against which you would be protected in the apartment.

Advantages for free-range cats: utilization and sharpened senses

The biggest advantage for cats that are allowed to go outside is that this makes it easier for them to follow their instinctive behavior. Cats are usually better occupied when they are outdoors than in the apartment. And they can sharpen their senses even better when they are on their own outside.

In detail, free-range cats enjoy the following advantages:

• less boredom
• Hunting instinct and territory behavior can be lived freely
• Natural social behavior can be promoted in contact with neighboring cats
• Cats can pursue their natural curiosity
• Cats sharpen their senses by living out natural instincts
• Less work for the keeper, as free-range cats take care of themselves during their excursions and sometimes do their business outside.
• Some cats are less likely to scratch furniture, wallpaper, door frames and carpets when they are allowed outside
• Obesity is easier to avoid because cats can move around more outdoors than indoors

In short, it is easier to keep cats in a species-appropriate manner with free access. But unsecured access can also be dangerous for the animals. Why? You will find out in the next section.

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Disadvantages for free cats: accidents, fights and illnesses

Accidents are the greatest danger to cats who are kept outdoors. Car accidents in particular occur again and again. You don't have to live on a busy street - cats can accidentally walk in front of a car, even in quieter areas.

Accidents can also happen when cats encounter railroad tracks on their forays. If her cat is wearing a collar, she can also get caught, seriously injured or, in the worst case, accidentally strangle.

In addition, especially neutered male cats often get into bloody territorial battles outdoors. However, neutered cats are also not entirely immune to territorial disputes. Cats can also get into dangerous fights with neighboring dogs that have a strong hunting instinct, or with wild animals such as foxes or martens.

Other disadvantages of unsecured clearance for cats are:

• Parasites such as ticks, fleas and worms are lurking for suitable hosts
• Diseases such as FIP, FIV, cat cold, skin fungus, feline leukosis (FeLV) can be transmitted from one species to another
• Poisonous plants or other toxins can be inadvertently consumed
• Cat haters can harm animals
• Cat is accidentally locked in the basement, gazebo or garage and can no longer free itself
• The cat likes it better with the neighbors and is looking for a new home
• Cat runs too far away from fright or inexperience and cannot find its way back
• Theft of cats is rare, but cannot be ruled out

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How old do cats get on average as free-litter?

Due to the numerous dangers that cats are exposed to when they are not secured, their life expectancy is lower than that of purely domestic cats. The latter can average 14 to 15 years, in some cases even 20 years and older.

The average age of cats that are kept as free dogs is around 3 to 5 years below, i.e. 9 to 12 years.

Checklist before going out for cats

Have you decided to go outdoors? Then there are a few things you should consider to limit the disadvantages for your cat as much as possible:

• Has the cat been adequately vaccinated (for example against cat cold, cat disease, leukosis or rabies)?
• Has your animal been neutered? This way you avoid unwanted offspring, reduce territorial fights and your cat doesn't run that far
• Have you marked your pet (preferably with a chip) and registered it?
• Is the location safe? If there is an expressway nearby, there are dangers lurking here.
• Has the velvet paw got used to your house? In general, she should settle in at home for at least 4 to 6 weeks before she can go outside.
• Can a cat flap be installed? Especially in winter, you should be able to get back to warm quickly at any time.

You should also check your cat for ticks and other parasites after their outings and visit the vet regularly for a check-up. An occasional worming treatment can also be useful in consultation with the veterinarian.

When is it advisable to avoid cats?

For some velvet paws, housekeeping is generally more advisable than free access. Fur noses with chronic diseases or allergies, for example, are easier to take care of indoors.

It is easier to implement a special diet or regular medication in the apartment. Even cats with a handicap who have had a leg amputated or are blind can be looked after better at home.

In the case of acute complaints, at least temporary house arrest may be advisable. For the duration of the treatment, your cat should stay in your own four walls or at least close to it.

No access in dangerous environments?

Some residential areas pose such a great danger to cats when they go outside that it is advisable to keep them in an apartment. This includes, for example, busy roads or even motorways in the immediate vicinity, as well as unprotected level crossings.

Also, make sure that your neighbors have nothing against cats that roam free in their gardens. If you have the impression that one or the other neighbor is very angry when you mention your cat, you should also consider housing.

Compromise: secure access

So that your kitty can enjoy fresh air and sunshine outside despite illness, a handicap or a dangerous residential area, secure access is a good compromise. For this, the garden must be fenced out so that it cannot escape.

A beautiful outdoor enclosure with scratching post, climbing and playing facilities is a great change for housetiger. Some velvet paws can also get used to cat harnesses and walks on a leash.

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Do cats even need clearance to be happy?

Many cat owners who let their cats roam freely outside argue that this is the only way to ensure that they are kept appropriately. Cats would need unsecured clearance to be happy. However, this is not correct.

If cats can also pursue their social behavior, territory behavior, hunting instinct and curiosity inside the apartment, they are just as happy there as with unsecured access. The following furnishings and measures help:

• Regular play with humans, especially hunting games
• Intelligence games and food games, for example with the fiddling board
• Variety in games and toys
• Scratching posts and climbing walls
• Increased seats
• Window seats as a lookout
• Cat-friendly plants, such as cat grass or catnip
• A companion for playing, cleaning, cuddling and other social interactions
• If possible: secure the balcony with a cat net and set it up appropriately for the cat

If you devote time, attention and love to your kitty, it doesn't matter whether you say yes or no to the topic of free time. You have already ensured a happy cat life.

You might also be interested in these topics related to keeping cats:

Free cats and neighborhood law: what is allowed?

Freelancer: How long do cats stay away?

Castration requirement for free-range cats: What does the law say?

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