Worried about your outdoor cat this season? While cats are known for their independence, changes in the weather and other outdoor risks bring a unique set of challenges.

This guide will provide you with essential tips on keeping your cat safe from common outdoor hazards.

Key Takeaways:

  • While cats enjoy exploration and fresh air outdoors, it shortens their lifespan due to dangers like traffic, fights, predators, exposure to toxins, and the risk of getting lost or stolen.

  • Catios, microchipping, regular vet checkups, and ensuring access to food and water can keep your cat safe.

  • Teach your cat to come when called, and consult your vet for personalized safety tips to keep your feline friend happy and healthy.

Risks of Outdoor Living for Cats

The lifespan of an outdoor cat may be significantly shorter than an indoor cat, averaging just 2 to 5 years, compared to indoor cats who can live up to 17 years or more.

From injuries to harsh weather conditions, outdoor environments pose numerous challenges for our feline companions.

The thrill of the outdoors comes with hidden dangers for cats, such as: 

  • Getting hit by vehicles

  • Fighting with other cats or animals – lacerations, bite wounds, abscesses

  • Predation from wildlife

  • A higher risk of getting lost or missing

  • Exposure to toxins (pesticides or poisonous plants)

  • Contracting diseases (FIV, FeLV, Rabies)

  • Likelihood of accidents or injuries such as falls

  • Becoming trapped in hazardous areas

  • Increased chances of getting stolen, taken in by a different home or picked up by animal control

  • Risks to birds and other animals because of hunting behavior

Are You a Pet Safety Expert?

Are You a Pet Safety Expert?
1. Which one of the plants below is toxic to cats if ingested?
2. Which of the foods below is generally considered safe for your dog to eat?
3. Above what temperature is too hot to leave a pet in your car?
4. Which kind of leash is the safest to walk your dog?
5. True or False: If a medication is safe for humans, it is probably safe for pets.
6. What should you do if you think your pet ate something toxic?

Are You a Pet Safety Expert?

1. Which one of the plants below is toxic to cats if ingested?
Easter lilies are extremely poisonous to cats. Ingesting even a tiny amount can cause severe kidney failure.
2. Which of the foods below is generally considered safe for your dog to eat?
All of the above foods are unsafe for dogs except for carrots, which make a healthy, crunchy treat!
3. Above what temperature is too hot to leave a pet in your car?
If the temperature outside is above 70°F, then it is too hot to leave your pet inside a car.
4. Which kind of leash is the safest to walk your dog?
A retractable leash, long lead, or no leash will not keep your pet close enough to ensure their safety when walking on a road with traffic or other hazards. A short leash is always the best option.
5. True or False: If a medication is safe for humans, it is probably safe for pets.
While some human medications are safe for pets if used correctly, they should only be administered under the care of a veterinarian.
6. What should you do if you think your pet ate something toxic?
If you suspect your pet ingested something harmful, consult your veterinarian or go to the nearest emergency clinic right away.

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6 Outdoor Cat Safety Tips

While there are risks associated with living outdoors, there are steps you can take to safeguard your outdoor cat:

1. Schedule Regular Veterinary Care

Keeping your outdoor cat healthy begins with veterinary visits and consultations.

  • Regular checkups: Schedule regular veterinary checkups to monitor your cat's health and detect any signs of illness or injury early on for prompt treatment 

  • Vaccinations: Outdoor cats are at a higher risk of exposure to infectious diseases than indoor cats. Be sure they are fully vaccinated to prevent common diseases and health problems such as: FVRCP, FeLV, FIV, and Rabies.

  • Spaying or Neutering: These are especially important for outdoor cats as it helps with population control, reduces strain on animal shelters, reduces aggression, and marking behaviors.

  • Parasite control: Outdoor cats are more susceptible to fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites (worms). These parasites pose health risks to your cat and can endanger humans in the household.

2. Choose Two Forms of Cat Identification

Let's explore the different identification options that are available.

  • Microchip: A permanent form of identification that can reunite lost cats with their owners. Veterinarians, animal control, rescue organizations, and some police departments have the ability to scan lost cats and return them home. Ensure that the information linked to the microchip is correct and up to date.
  • ID Collar: Collars with tags are another form of identification that can reunite a lost cat, but unfortunately, many cats can easily remove collars.
  • Trackers: Small devices that can be attached to a collar or harness. They can monitor location and movement, allowing owners to keep track of their cats' whereabouts. Keep in mind cats need to stay within the range of the tracking device, and they can remove collars or harnesses with the tracker attached.

3. Provide Plenty of Food and Water

Ensuring your outdoor cat has access to food and water is vital to keeping them in top shape. Leave plenty of food and water out for your cat, making sure to replenish them regularly.

📒 Note: Outdoor food will attract other cats and wildlife, creating more risks.

Keep water in the shade in the summer to maintain freshness and prevent quick evaporation.

Remember to replace frozen water in winter and check water frequently when the temperature drops below freezing to prevent dehydration

4. Keep Them Warm During Winter

Caring for your outdoor cat in the winter months requires special attention to their comfort and safety.

Here are some ways to keep them safe and warm during colder months:

  • Build a Catio/Shelter: Cat houses and shelters can protect against extreme temperatures and other hazards like wildlife.

  • Offer a spot in the garage: A small space in the garage with a bed, food and water, and a litter box is a great way for a cat to get comfortable on cold winter days.

  • Keep inside when very cold: Bring in when temperatures fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the risk of hypothermia.

  • Install a cat door: cat doors allow cats to come and go as they please and get warm when needed. Many cat doors can be programmed to activate with a microchip or collar, ensuring that only your cat can access the door and keep unwanted animals out.

5. Keep Them Cool During Summer

Keeping your outdoor cat cool and hydrated is crucial during scorching summer days!

  • Provide shaded areas such as a catio or shelter, ensuring they have plenty of shade

  • Keep fresh water readily available, as it can evaporate quickly on hot days. Remember to check it regularly 

  • Beware of toxic plants like lilies, rhododendrons, and other poisonous plants, as they pose a risk to outdoor cats, especially when not monitored

  • Use monthly flea and tick preventatives to protect your cat and household from parasites

6. Train Your Cat to Come Home

Another crucial element to keeping your outdoor cat safe is teaching them to come when called.

Here's how to create a strong foundation for their safe return:

  • Reward your cat when they come when they are called: Treats or meal times are a great way to get your cat to return home before nightfall or after their allotted time outside.

  • Practice calling and rewarding your cat: Shaking a treat bag or using a special cat-calling voice is a great way to train your cat to come home when needed.

  • Consider cat clicker training: Some cats respond to clicker training, especially if paired with a high-value treat.


For many cats, the outdoors offers an irresistible world. Exploration unlocks a wealth of new sights, sounds, and smells. The outdoors offers a chance to chase instincts and can even be an escape from indoor stressors. 

But, freedom comes with risks that can shorten their lifespan. Catios, microchips, trackers, positive reinforcement, & supervised outdoor time are a few ways to reduce the risks. Consult with a veterinarian for more personalized safety tips.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it ok to keep my cat outside all the time?

Cats need a place to protect themselves against risks such as extreme temperatures and predators.  Providing a shelter, catio, or space inside reduces some risks.

Is it ok to have an outdoor cat?

This is a decision that only you can make, but understand that cats that live outdoors or have access to the outdoors will be exposed to substantial risks, many of which are life-threatening. 

How do I keep my outdoor cat safe at night?

Provide a shelter, catio, designated space in the garage, or access to inside the home.  Train your cat to come home at night using treats, mealtimes, or clickers.

How to keep an outdoor cat close to home?

Provide adequate shelter that protects against extreme temperatures & predators, spaying or neutering, regular feeding schedule, positive reinforcement, and/or supervised outdoor time.

How do cats stay warm in the winter outside?

It is crucial for cats to have a shelter for protection against the elements. Insulating fur and increasing calorie intake are other ways cats stay warm outside.   

Can house cats survive outside in the winter?

Cats have natural adaptations that can allow them to tolerate colder temperatures to some extent, but survival outside in the winter depends on many factors, such as access to shelter, health and age, and access to food and water.


  1. Clancy, E. A., Moore, A. S., & Bertone, E. R. (2003). Evaluation of cat and owner characteristics and their relationships to outdoor access of owned cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 222(11), 1541–1545. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.2003.222.1541

  2. Tan, S. M., Stellato, A. C., & Niel, L. (2020). Uncontrolled Outdoor Access for Cats: An Assessment of Risks and Benefits. Animals, 10(2), 258. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020258