All cats that go outside should have some form of identification. Breakaway collars with ID tags are helpful, but as these collars perform their breakaway function remarkably well, they can easily come off. We recommend backing up your collar and ID tag with a microchip. Microchips are tiny and are easily placed under the skin with a needle. Most cats will tolerate this very well and it can be done as part of a routine exam. The chips are read using handheld scanners and are linked to a database that contains your contact information so that your pet can quickly be returned to you. If your pets are already microchipped, make sure your address and telephone numbers are current. If you move or get a new phone number, these can easily be updated.
Outdoor cats should be kept current on all vaccinations, including rabies, feline distemper/respiratory viruses, and feline leukemia. If you cat has not been tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, this should be done prior to starting the feline leukemia vaccine. If the test is negative, the vaccine is given as a series of two injections, three to four weeks apart, and once a year thereafter. Rabies vaccines are good for one year the first time they are given, and for 3 years thereafter. Kittens usually receive a series of 3 distemper/respiratory vaccines beginning at 8 weeks of age. This is boostered at 1 year of age, then every 3 years thereafter.
Outdoor cats should also receive parasite preventive. Revolution and Frontline are applied monthly to the skin at the base of a cat’s neck. Frontline will kill fleas and ticks. If you have a cat that hunts, Revolution is a better choice as it will also protect against intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms, as well as heartworm disease. Remember that rabbits and squirrels carry fleas, so even if your cat just likes to lounge in the yard, he or she can bring them home.
We also recommend an annual fecal exam for outdoor cats to screen for intestinal worms. Cats that hunt are especially at risk for these, but some tapeworms can be transmitted to cats through fleas also. Intestinal parasites can also occasionally be transmitted to humans. Children and those with compromised immune systems are at highest risk of this.
If your cat is not already spayed or neutered, you will definitely want to have this done as soon as possible if he or she goes outside. Female cats easily become pregnant in the spring, summer and early fall and can have multiple litters of kittens each year. Unneutered males are more prone to roaming and fighting with other cats and often develop abscesses secondary to bite wounds. Males and females are both more likely to urine mark if they are not neutered or spayed, especially if other cats are around.
If your cat is interested in the outdoors but you have not yet let him or her outside, consider trying a harness and leash. Many cats will accept leash training and this allows them to enjoy some outside time without the risks associated with roaming free. Pet strollers or outdoor pet enclosures also can be used. Many cities, including St. Louis Park, have ordinances against free-roaming pets, including cats. These alternatives are safer for your cat and will insure that your cat will not be impounded by Animal Control.
If you have any questions about caring for your indoor or outdoor cat, please feel free to call us any time!