Summertime in the great outdoors can be so environmentally stimulating for cats.There are so many birds, squirrels, lizards and other critters to watch or catch. So many bugs to choose from; moths and lightning bugs are a couple of my cats’ favorites.With so many things to check out, cats could spend hours out there–quite possibly finding trouble along the way.

My indoor-exclusive cats seemed to be extra curious about the deck this spring. We spend a lot of time out there with our new dog, Kendall. Both cats, Leo and Kato would get in the window, and meow like crazy, almost howling to get our attention.They were always waiting by the door as soon as we opened it. I wanted them to be able to enjoy the deck and yard safely. Our oldest cat, Holly, has no desire to go outside with us or her brothers. Wonder how the boys would take to a harness?

In my line of work, I see the bad things that can happen to cats who go outdoors. We take care of cats hit by cars, attacked by dogs, and bitten by snakes. We see terrible cat fight wounds, constantly hoping these patients didn’t contract horrible diseases like FIV(feline aids) during these fights. While fleas can be a nuisance and spread disease for cats and owners, ticks can share a deadly infection in our area, and outdoor exposure increases risk of picking up these parasites. When we moved here from Alaska, we brought our 2 cats. They were used to going outside, and one was even leash-trained. Within 3 months my siamese was infested with fleas, bitten by a snake, and hit by a car. What good timing to start working at the Animal Care Clinic with Dr. Parnell! My cat survived the treatments and I learned my lesson–our cats are staying inside.

I decided a few months ago to try harnesses. I chose thicker padded versions-2 different styles. As long as I had treats, Leo was willing to find them in and around the harness. He wore it like shell for a bit. Once the harness was actually on, it became freeze and flop over time, but soon he followed me around the kitchen for treats while wearing the harness. Kato doesn’t care about treats, so he checked the harness out and my son had him in it before he knew it. Of course he did the freeze and flop over move at first, too.

When we first started taking them out on the deck, we either held them or sat in the chair with them while they looked around and took it all in. The leashes connected to the harnesses were the weirdest part for the cats. Eventually they explored the deck, followed by the sidewalk. Sometimes they lead the way, other times they are independant cats with good breaks! They love to stop and sample the variety of greens along the sidewalk. Kato will try to jump off the our low deck for those same greens if not watched closely. Leo on the other hand will lounge for hours in a chair watching the world go by.

Since our cats enjoy their time out so much, my husband decided to build an enclosed observation area for them. He had built one in the past for our other cats. The enclosure is above ground, connected to the deck.The area below is busy with birds, lizards, squirrels, and even chipmunks.The enclosure is almost complete. The cats are days away from enjoying their new area–harness free!

I really enjoy extra time spent with my pets/family relaxing together on the deck. I can tell they enjoy it also. If you have the time, treats(calorie free love will do) and some extra patience, you could introduce your cat to a whole new world-SAFELY! Of course I do recommend and use a monthly flea/tick/heartworm/intestinal worm preventative on my cats. Even if they didn’t touch the ground, they can’t escape those heartworm transmitting pesky mosquitos.

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