Cats Need Claws

Scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for cats, keeping nails and paws healthy while also stretching the body and working off excess energy. Additionally, when cats scratch an object, scent glands on the paws help establish a presence in the home, improving confidence and enhancing the feeling of comfort in the physical surroundings.

However, as much as this behavior may be necessary for a cat’s health and wellbeing, no one can deny that scratching can be destructive to the home. Scratching is one of the most common complaints from cat owners, and the first step in dealing with the unwanted behavior is understanding that scratching is a necessary piece of a cat’s wellbeing. Instead of discouraging the behavior altogether, the healthy alternative is to drive the scratching towards an option that won’t destroy the home.

Scratching Posts
The best option is to use scratching tools. Place scratching posts or scratching boards in areas where you spend a lot of time. This way, your cat can create a presence in the home and positively share your favorite spaces with you. If you notice your cat continues to scratch in an unwanted area, work with that knowledge and offer a positive scratching option next to or near the established scratching spot.

Types of Scratchers
It’s important to have both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces. Scratchers should be tall and long so your cat can stretch all the way out before pulling down/back on the surface. As for what type of cat scratcher material to use, it’s can be helpful to choose a material that is different from other items in your home. For example, if you don’t want your cat to scratch on the carpet, then don’t get scratchers covered in carpeting. This will help to reduce scratching on unwanted surfaces in the future.

You can also try the “No-Yes” method, which reinforces where the scratching is unwanted while providing a positive replacement location. For example, double-sided tape has an unwanted texture that causes an adverse reaction when your cat tries to scratch it. If you place the tape on the unwanted scratching spot and put a scratcher right next to it, this reinforces the “no” while redirecting the scratching to an accepted space, the “yes.” There are other textures and methods to reinforce the “no,” but double-sided tape is easy to find, inexpensive, and some brands are designed specifically to prevent scratching and safe on fabric. You can even add extra enticement by sprinkling or spraying catnip on the scratcher.

In addition to scratching options, having a “cat-only” zone can help, too, as it offers your cat the option of a private space to retreat to when feeling moody, instead of resorting to defensive scratching. Also make sure you regularly trim your cat’s nails. This will prevent accidental scratches and snags which can trigger further scratching. Another option to consider is the use of nail coverings, which are available at most pet retail locations. You can apply nail caps to your cat’s nails yourself and they last around 4 to 6 weeks. As you can see, there are a variety of options that can help remedy unwanted cat scratching, but whatever you choose to do, DO NOT declaw your cat.

Dr. Ann Marie Woyma, Virginia Beach SPCA’s Medical Director, explains that in order to actually prevent the nail from growing back, which is the purpose of the declawing procedure, you must remove at least half of the joint. This means declawing is bone surgery, not a nail trim. This procedure is similar to amputating every fingertip on a human hand. As the body heals, the scar tissue that forms can cause arthritis in a cat’s joints while also negatively impacting the scent glands in the paws. Since the scent glands can no longer be used appropriately, a declawed cat cannot establish a presence in the home which can lead to mental and emotional issues.

Paw sensitivity is another concern, and kitty litter may begin to irritate a cat’s paws. This irritation can lead to a negative association with using the litter box. Additionally, declawing a cat can impact a cat’s ability to positively interact with other animals and people. Declawed cats have lost a natural form of communication, so they are less likely to get along with other pets. They feel more vulnerable, so they are more likely to use biting a defense since they can no longer use a warning swat. Bottom line: the surgery puts an animal through unnecessary pain and trauma, while also resulting in mental, emotional, and behavioral issues.

Declawing has become such an ethical issue that many countries that have already banned declawing procedures. The surgery is against the law in the United Kingdom, much of the European Union, Australia, and at least ten other countries around the world. While declawing is not yet banned in all of the United States, at least 5 states currently have or are in the process of creating anti-declaw legislation.

The Virginia Beach SPCA does not condone declawing. All feline adopters sign a written statement agreeing that they will not declaw any cat adopted from our shelter. 

How to Make your New Cat Comfortable at Home

It is common for adopters to move a little too quickly when introducing a new cat to a new home. However, it is important to keep in mind that a change in environment, even a positive one, can be overwhelming and stressful to a cat. Remember that all the new sights, smells, noises, and encounters are exaggerated by a cat’s heightened senses. Make sure to take things slow so that a positive change doesn’t become a negative experience. A gentle introduction will allow your new cat to establish a place in your home without being overwhelmed.

As soon as you bring your new cat home, set up a small space in a quiet area, like a bathroom or closet. This space will house your cat’s food, water, bed, and litter box while your cat is adjusting to the new environment. When cats rub their cheek on or knead and scratch an object, scent glands on the cheeks and paws help establish their presence. This builds up confidence in owning the space, so having a blanket, bed, and/or scratcher will help your new cat mingle their scent with yours, ultimately feeling more comfortable in the new home. Cats feel more secure around their own scent, so don’t be alarmed if you see your cat sitting or sleeping in the litter box instead of on a bed or blanket. With time, your cat will become more comfortable and confident and should no longer feel the need to hang out in the litter box. Please visit this space regularly while allowing your cat to have down time in-between. All cats can adjust differently, so respect however long it may take for your new cat to adjust and feel at home.

As your new family member relaxes, slowly give your cat more room to explore. If you don’t have any other animals, you can start by leaving the door open and moving your cat’s food bowl outside of the doorway. Making sure the food bowl is still within sight of the safe space, but a bit beyond the established comfort zone. Food gives cats a positive reward for stepping out of their safe space and allows them to explore on their own terms. Gradually bring out the other items as you did the food dish. Don’t be tempted to expand too quickly or force a faster adjustment by eliminating your cat’s comfort zone altogether. This will cause undue stress which could create negative associations with certain areas or inhabitants of the home.

If you have other animals in the home, DO NOT bring other pets into your new cat’s safe space. Your new cat needs to feel confident and secure before other animals invade the space your new cat is trying to establish. Scent swapping and positive associations with food are recommended techniques and should be done before any face-to-face introductions.

Puttin’ for Paws

Grab your friends and hit the links at Greenbrier Country Club on August 17th for a day of fun at our annual golf tournament, Puttin’ for Paws. This tournament features great raffles, hole-in-one prizes, a delicious dinner, and awards for our top players.

And, of course some meet and greet time with adoptable animals!

11:00 AM – Registration & Range Open
12:00 PM – Shotgun Start

$500 Foursome | $150 Individual Player

All Registrations Include:
Cart Rental and Range Balls
Lunch & Unlimited Beverages
Ditty Bags
Awards Dinner

If you would like to become a sponsor or register a team, contact April Le or Emily Peck at events@vbspca.com or call 757-427-0070 ext. 145. You may also register online at www.vbspca.com/golf.

Sponsorship Deadline – July 27th | Registration Deadline – August 3rd

Questions? Contact us at events@vbspca.com

What is Catnip and Why do Cats Love it?

June 15th is World Catnip Awareness Day! If you would like to donate catnip or catnip products to our shelter cats, please drop off any donations to our main shelter on Holland Road. Your donation will offer added enrichment to the lives of shelter cats who are patiently waiting for their forever homes. June is also Adopt-A-Shelter Cat Month, so stop by our cattery while you’re here and visit with some of our furry friends.

In the meantime, we thought we would celebrate World Catnip Awareness Day by sharing some fun facts about this feline treat:

  1. Catnip is a plant that’s part of the mint family. This perennial herb is easy to grow and can grow up to 3 feet high.
  2. Cats are attracted to nepetalactone, a compound found in the leaves and stems of the plant. “The most active ingredient in this compound is nepetalic acid,” explains Dr. Ann Marie Woyma, Medical Director at the Virginia Beach SPCA. Nepetalactone is an essential oil believed to mimic feline pheromones and trigger pheromone receptors in cats.
  3. Catnip sensitivity is something your house tiger might have in common with the big cats. Lions, tigers, panthers, and other big cats react to catnip as well.
  4. Only 50% to 75% of cats are sensitive to the herb, so don’t be alarmed if your cat doesn’t respond to catnip. “Whether or not a cat responds to catnip is actually inherited as an autosomal dominant trait, so it only requires one gene to create a response to it, kind of like brown hair in people” Dr. Woyma explains. Young kittens aren’t affected by catnip either. Cats with a sensitivity do not react to catnip until they’re at least 8 weeks of age to a year old.
  5. We don’t know exactly why cats have different reactions to catnip, but that could be a genetic issue also. Out of Dr. Woyma’s three cats, “One becomes completely mellow, another has no reaction, and the third rockets around the house like a kid on sugar.” While individual cat reactions may vary, catnip generally acts in one of two ways. According to the Humane Society of the United States, if catnip is eaten, it acts like a sedative. It it is inhaled, it acts like a stimulant. The effects last approximately 5-10 minutes before wearing off.
  6. Cats with a sensitivity will no longer respond to catnip if exposed too frequently. When cats no longer seem interested in their new toy, remove the toy/catnip for at least two hours so their senses can reset. Our Cattery Coordinator, Evan Walker, tries to swap toys out every few days. “New toys combined with new smells are wonderful enrichment tools.”
  7. Catnip is safe for cats, but be mindful of how your cat reacts in case exposure causes unwanted behavior. Dr. Woyma explains, “There have been studies done where cats are exposed to an extremely large amount of catnip with no lasting effects, so you generally don’t need to worry about an overdose.” However, she does not recommend using catnip around pregnant cats because it can potentially induce labor.
  8. Catnip is safe for humans and has been used in teas similar to chamomile. Catnip has also been a popular home remedy from treating headaches to insomnia. The Humane Society of the United States even reports concentrated nepetalactone can be a potent but temporary mosquito repellent.
  9. Catnip can be used as a training tool. Walker recommends sprinkling or spraying catnip on a scratching post to promote positive scratching habits, just remember to refresh every few days. Catnip can also be used as a positive reward while brushing or to encourage play.
  10. Catnip can be purchased in stores, grown indoors, dried (most common), or found as a spray. It’s recommended to store catnip and/or catnip toys in an airtight container in a cat-proof area. With a limited supply of catnip, our Cattery staff marinates cat toys with catnip in a ziplock bag to absorb the smell. Dried catnip can also be stored in your freezer to help maintain freshness.

The Virginia SPCA carries a variety of catnip toys for your feline friends at home!  Below are some of our staff favorites.

VBSPCA Recommended Catnip Products:
Kong Naturals Catnip Spray
Fat Cat Boogie Mat
Yeowww! Organic Catnip (Loose catnip)
PetStages Easy Life Scratch, Snuggle & Rest
Yeowww! Catnip Toys: Apple, Banana, Pollock Fish & Rainbow

You can directly help homeless animals in our community by purchasing your catnip items and other pet products at one of our VBSPCA locations: our main shelter at 3040 Holland Road and our Pet Supplies and Adoption Center at 983 Providence Square Shopping Center (the corner of Providence Road and Kempsville Road). You also help further the VBSPCA mission of compassion by increasing the demand for humane pet products in Hampton Roads. Thank you for your support.

Get Ready for the Dog Days of Summer

As dog friendly activities are continuing to grow in popularity across the U.S., the same trend can be seen right here  in Hampton Roads. Over the past five years, the city of Norfolk has been ranked one of the top five cities in the nation for dog parks per capita. And, as of just recently, , the Norfolk city ordinance officially allows our four-legged friends to join us on restaurant patios. And, starting July 1st, the Virginia General Assembly proposed another new law allowing dogs in the tasting rooms of breweries, wineries, and distilleries.

Having the required proof of current rabies vaccination could help you avoid possible inconveniences, and it is important to note that city health codes can deviate between state and federal regulations. Business owners may also have varying guidelines, so make sure to double check and be respectful of individual policies.

Keeping that in mind, here are some dog-friendly places in the 757 where you and your pet can enjoy the summer together.

State Parks
Dogs are welcome in all Virginia State Parks as long as the dogs are supervised and on a leash no longer than 6 feet. This excludes public facilities and other possible areas where dogs are not allowed.

First Landing State Park – Beach is dog friendly year round for dogs on-leash.
False Cape State Park – Dogs are not permitted access through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Virginia Beach Public Beaches
Dogs are allowed on public beaches and the boardwalk area anytime before Memorial Day and after Labor Day weekend. Dogs can only be off-leash on the sand and only if they can be recalled reliably & quickly even with distractions.

Summer Season:
Boardwalk – Dogs are allowed only from 6am to 10am.
Beaches – Dogs are allowed before 10am and after 6pm north of 42nd Street or south of Rudee Inlet and in Sandbridge.

Ocean View Beach, Norfolk
Dogs are welcome on-leash during off-season months. No dogs or domestic animals are allowed on beaches from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. beginning the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day.

More Dog-Friendly Areas:
City View Park, Virginia Beach
Stumpy Lake Natural Area, Virginia Beach – Dogs are welcome and must be leashed at all times
Elizabeth River Trail (Atlantic City Spur), Norfolk
Chesapeake Arboretum, Chesapeake
Grandview Nature Preserve, Hampton – Dogs permitted on-leash during the off-season but not permitted from May 15 to September 15.
Sandy Bottom Nature Park, Hampton – Leashed pets welcome at this nature park, which also includes an enclosed off-leash area. Registration required for use of off-leash space.
Newport News Park, Newport News – Dogs are welcome on leash
King-Lincoln Park, Newport News
Endview Plantation, Newport News – Pets are welcome to explore everywhere outside on-leash, but are not allowed inside.
Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg – Leashed dogs are permitted throughout Colonial Williamsburg, with the exception of the buildings. Dogs are even permitted on the shuttle from the Visitor Center.
Historic Jamestowne, Williamsburg – Leashed dogs are welcome at the Historic Site and Island Loop Drive but not allowed in the Visitor Center/museums.
Colonial Ghosts Tour, Williamsburg – Leashed, friendly, quiet, and well-behaved pets are welcome.

Dog Parks
Dog parks are fenced-in areas where your dog can be off-leash and socialize with other dogs- and you can socialize with other dog-people! Some cities require registration, membership, or passes to access dog parks, so please be cognizant of each individual park’s rules and regulations.

Bayville Farms Park, Virginia Beach
Woodstock Community Dog Park, Virginia Beach
Red Wing Metro Dog Park, Virginia Beach
Bea Arthur Dog Park, Norfolk
Downtown Dog Park, Norfolk
Colonial Greenway Dog Park, Norfolk
Ballentine Bark Park, Norfolk
Maple Avenue Dog Park, Norfolk
Lafayette Dog Park, Norfolk
Ghent Dog Park, Norfolk
Gleneagles Dog Park, Norfolk
Hague Dog Park, Norfolk
Winona Dog Park, Norfolk
Cambridge Crescent Dog Park, Norfolk
Berkley Dog Park, Norfolk
Meadowbrook Dog Park, Norfolk
Chesapeake City Dog Park, Chesapeake
Western Branch Dog Park, Chesapeake
Lake Meade Dog Park, Suffolk
Ridgeway Bark Park, Hampton
Sandy Bottom Bark Park, Hampton
Fido Field Dog Park, Newport News
Waller Mill Dog Park, Williamsburg

Local shops
If you need to escape the heat, some local shops welcome dogs to browse with you. While not a complete list for the area, here are a few local stores that are dog friendly.

Jerry’s Artarama, Virginia Beach
Pups n Stuff, Virginia Beach
Mrs. Bones, Virginia Beach
Doggstuff, Virginia Beach
Muddy Paws Downtown, Norfolk
Life is Good* – 5102 Main Street Suite A, Williamsburg
Stick Stone & Bone, Williamsburg
Barnes & Noble* – 5101 Main Street, Williamsburg – Leashed dogs are welcome except in the cafe.
Marshalls* / TJ Maxx* / Ross* / Home Goods*
Lowes*/Home Depot*
Bass Pro Shops*
Bed, Bath & Beyond*
Petco/Petsmart (Obviously)

*Different store locations may have separate policies regarding dogs.

Upcoming Dog-Friendly Events
Save the date for these local events for you and your dog.

Hermitage Gardens Sunset on the River: The Hermitage is your spot for local music, food, and art this summer! Enjoy the outdoor concert series every other Thursday, May 10 through August 16. Relax on the shoreline and hear live music from several of the region’s most talented bands. Enjoy drinks from our bar featuring craft beer and wine and grab dinner from a variety of food vendors including our premier food truck, Bro’s Fish Tacos. Our summer exhibit, PROOF, will be on view during the concerts through July 22. Well behaved dogs are permitted on leashes.

Norfolk SPCA Pints for Pups | June 16th: Celebrate your love of beer and animals with the Norfolk SPCA! There will be a mini dog show where you and your pups can dress up and strut your stuff! For a donation of $5, you and your dog can be entered in any, or all, of the following categories: Owner and pet look-a-like; Most Fashionable Pup; and Celebrity look-a-like.

Yappy Hour at Blue Pete’s Restaurant in Virginia Beach | June 24th: Lookin’ for a place to bring your four-legged bestie? $5 Puppy Friendly Meals, Free Dog Treats for your fur-baby, Drink Specials  and $5 Finger Foods!

Virginia Beach SPCA Mutt Masquerade 5K & 1-Mile Walk | October 28th: Grab your leash and hit the beach for the Virginia Beach SPCA’s annual Mutt Masquerade.

Bark in the Park | October 21st: This dog friendly event will be held from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on October 21, 2018 at Chesapeake City Park in Chesapeake, VA, US. Admission is TBD.

If you want to enjoy some of these activities but feel your dog’s behavior could improve with a little more training, Happy Paws Humane Pet Training has classes that can help!  Try the Total Recall or Adventure Walk classes designed to get your pet prepared to be out in the community Please visit http://happypawstraining.org for more information.

Traveling with your Four-Legged Friend

June through August is peak travel season, and while you’re brimming with excitement over your summer vacation, your pet might not be as thrilled. The good news is that more and more Americans are traveling with pets, so if leaving your pet behind causes anxiety for you or your furry friend, traveling together is an option. Keep the following tips in mind if you plan to bring your pet along on your next adventure:

  • First and foremost, if your pet has never been in the car for more than 30 minutes, you don’t want to jump right into a 12 hour drive. Start by taking some time to help your pet acclimate to the car experience by going on some shorter, practice rides. You could even try a few short sessions of sitting in the car without ever leaving the driveway, rewarding calm behavior with treats and encouragement. Practice and preparation will make road trips a better experience for you and your pet.
  • Keep your pet in a seatbelt secured carrier or kennel where there is enough space to sit, stand, and turn around. If you choose to forgo the kennel, use a harness and secure it to a seatbelt. Your dog jumping into the front seat and onto your lap puts you at an increased risk of an accident. We like the Guardian Gear front-seat Vehicle Barrier for keeping dogs in the backseat, and you can find them at all VBSPCA locations
  • Pack a pet travel kit with food, a travel bowl, harness, waste bags, grooming supplies, medication, first-aid, and any travel documents. You might also want to have your favorite mellow music playlist ready to go, which can help calm your pet’s nerves. You’ll want to avoid feeding your pet within three hours of departing to reduce the risk of car sickness. If you know you’re pet has a tendency of becoming car sick, your vet may be able to prescribe anti-nausea medicine or sedatives. When planning your route, schedule time to stop for bathroom breaks every two to three hours. And of course, never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle.
  • If you are taking to the friendly skies, most airlines will allow smaller pets to travel in-cabin, under the seat in front of you, in a USDA-approved pet carrier. Airlines charge $125 on average for pet travel, and your pet will count as your carry-on item. Some airlines will still permit larger dogs to travel in a kennel in the cargo hold, but this is becoming significantly less common, and is not something that we would recommend. Additionally, health certification and vaccinations records need to be dated within ten days of your departure. If you are headed overseas, review the policies of the country you are visiting well ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss anything. Not all airlines permit pets on international flights and pet requirements differ from country to country. Finally, make sure you have an up to date photo of your pet in the event of any baggage mishaps.

Bon Voyage and best wishes for happy trails!

Bay Beach and the VBSPCA partner to help local wildlife

The Virginia Beach SPCA is the only animal shelter in the state of Virginia licensed to rehabilitate wildlife. Our Wildlife Program is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to providing experienced care to orphaned and injured wildlife throughout Hampton Roads, which includes our Wildlife Referral Line. The VBSPCA Wildlife Referral Line is manned exclusively by volunteers 24 hours a day. Our knowledgeable volunteers assist callers by assessing their given wildlife situation, providing advice, and/or directing callers to the nearest location that’s available to receive wildlife.

While our Wildlife Referral Line is 24/7, the Virginia Beach SPCA shelter and clinic are not able to provide emergency care 24 hours a day. Spring is a busy time of year for our wildlife department. Dr. Woyma, Veterinary Medical Director of the VBSPCA’s Medical Clinic, and Barbara Gibson, VBSPCA’s Animal Welfare Director, are especially grateful for the after hours assistance that has been provided by the doctors and staff of Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital.  Since February 2018, doctors and staff at Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital have donated their time and resources to assist in the care and emergency treatment of local wildlife outside of the Virginia Beach SPCA’s normal operating hours.

So what should you do If you happen to come across wildlife that appears to need assistance? First and foremost, call the Virginia Beach SPCA’s Wildlife Referral Line (757-263-4762). This is an important step that must be done prior to taking the animal to the hospital to determine the best course of action.

The doctors and staff at Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital have gone above and beyond to care for local wildlife of all shapes and sizes. Working together has been wonderful, and we can’t thank them enough!

Special note: As a precaution, raccoons who have already opened their eyes cannot be treated at Bay Beach Veterinary Emergency Hospital or the Virginia Beach SPCA. For cases where a raccoon is injured or distressed, please contact your local animal control for assistance.  

Tips from our Trainer: Master the Dog Walk

A tired dog is a well-behaved dog, but physical activity alone isn’t enough to stave off the side effects of dog boredom. Your dog needs consistent mental activity to remain engaged, and a daily walk is the perfect opportunity to provide your pet with a mental reboot. Add these easy tips to your daily routine for high quality walks your dog will love:

Reduce leash pulling by letting your dog exert some physical energy before the walk. 15 minutes of playing fetch or tug can remove pent up excitement. If your dog still pulls once you start the walk, don’t pull or yank back. This just gives your pet more incentive to pull. We recommend keeping high value treats in your pocket to help lure your dog’s attention back to you. Once your dog has returned to your side, reward him.

Practice makes perfect. Practice walking your dog in the house, backyard, front yard, or other areas that have fewer distractions. You want your dog to get in the habit of walking by your side and not running off after every sound, sight, or smell. Use high value treats as a reward for walking by your side, and use verbal praise and a training clicker to validate good leash behavior.

Your dog was born with a powerful sense of smell for a reason, and this means you need to provide your pet with opportunities to sniff and explore. However, letting your dog’s nose lead the way for the entire walk could negate any previous leash training. Offer intermittent sniff and bathroom breaks, and make sure to reward your dog for staying focused on you.

Before heading out, check to be sure your dog’s identification tags are secure and remember to always bring water, treats, and waste bags on your dog walk. For additional training fun and a full schedule of training classes and programs, visit the Happy Paws website at happypawstraining.org.

Endangered Species Day: May 19th

May 19th is Endangered Species Day, and what better way to celebrate than by helping endangered wildlife in our area. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there are five different species of sea turtles that are either endangered or threatened in Virginia: Loggerhead sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, and the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, which is the most endangered and rarely seen.

One of the major threats to sea turtles is marine pollution and debris, especially plastics. Sea Turtle Conservancy estimates that over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean, and more than 80% of this plastic comes from land. Polluted waterways kill off a sea turtle’s natural food source and plastic debris is commonly mistaken for food. This is a problem you can help solve.

How you can help:

  • Reduce your use of plastic in addition to reusing and recycling. A great way to start is to avoid using plastic straws and politely request no straw with your drink order.
  • Properly dispose of trash and make sure it is secure to prevent fly-away plastic debris
  • Host or participate in a beach clean-up event
  • Do not leave behind any fishing gear, line, or netting. If you bring it in, take it out.
  • Reduce marine pollution by using less chemical fertilizers
  • Avoid releasing balloons into the air
  • Be aware when out on the water, especially in a boat. Sea turtles are hard to spot and can be critically injured by boat propellers.
  • When in nature, don’t leave any items behind, and leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.

The Great Indoors

Cats are natural hunters. They’ve evolved from helping control pests on ships and farms to slowly becoming domesticated companions in our homes. Domesticated cats exercise their hunting instincts through play, finding food in the bowls we fill for them, chasing red lasers, or sneaking up on your ankles from across the room. However, as much as they pounce and play, cats also embody a sense of independence that is quite the opposite of their canine counterparts. But this air of independence can be misleading, because domesticated cats rely on us for their safety and wellbeing, despite their self-sufficient stereotype.

Help practice responsible pet ownership by keeping your cat indoors and not allowing your cat to roam outside. You may feel that a life inside is too restrictive for your little hunter, but indoor cats can live up to 6 times longer than outdoor cats, which makes keeping your cat indoors the best choice if you want to share a long life with your feline friend.

Not convinced? Here are a few more reasons why living indoors is a a safer and healthier option for your cat.

Sickness and disease.
Indoor cats are not exposed to parasites and other communicable diseases to which outdoor cats are susceptible. Ticks, fleas, intestinal parasites, ringworm, and ear mites are just a few of the dangers that can threaten your cat’s health and wellbeing. However, these dangers don’t just threaten your cat, your cat’s exposure to them can threaten other animals in your home, including you. If you live in an area with other outdoor cats, your cat can be exposed to the many contagious diseases among felines, such as feline leukemia (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline interstitial peritonitis (FIP), all of which can be fatal.  Unvaccinated outdoor cats also run the risk of contracting and spreading feline viral rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus), calicivirus, panleukopenia, or feline distemper. And that’s just between cats. Other animals outdoor cats will come across exposes them to many more diseases and deadly viruses, like rabies.

Wildlife and Predators.
A cat’s hunting instinct can threaten the lives of wildlife, such as songbirds, baby bunnies, and other small creatures.  As proud as your cat may be to have captured her prey, you may not be as thrilled to receive these special “gifts.” Furthermore, interactions with local wildlife can also risk injury and infection, which may not be easy to spot right away. Plus, your cat is not the only predator out there and can quickly become prey to coyotes, foxes, or birds of prey, all of which have been seen in Hampton Roads.

Accident or Injury.
Animal traps and poisons are often used to target pests, but outdoor cats are susceptible to these threats as well. Curiosity can bring cat close to one of these threats, and we all know the saying about curiosity and cats. There is also the risk of getting hit by a car, which can happen in both urban areas and on country roads. A free roaming cat can also get caught in dangerous weather conditions or become injured and physically unable to make it back home.

Lost or Stolen.
No matter how “street-smart” your cat may be, there is always a possibility of your cat wandering too far from home, getting picked up by animal control in another area, or coming across a stranger with unkind intentions. Approximately 2 million pets are stolen every year, and sadly not every person is a cat person.

Solution: Bring the outside in
Cats are still social creatures and need appropriate enrichment to live a happy and healthy life. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your cat is getting the enrichment needed to be safe and happy.

  • Put a cat tree by a window so they can view the great outdoors while remaining safely inside.
  • Create multiple levels of perches for jumping and exercising inside.
  • Set up a spot with cat grass and other treats, as well as different textures for your cat to enjoy.
  • Use both horizontal and vertical cat scratchers.
  • Engage in interactive play using wands and laser toys as a wonderful way to provide the mental and physical exercise your cat needs. Interactive play is also a great method for redirection if your cat seems too focused on going outside.
  • Use puzzle toys, so your cat can treasure hunt for treats.

If your cat absolutely needs time outside, consider a “catio” or secure outdoor enclosure. If you don’t have the time or space for a catio, you can take steps to get your cat used to a harness and take your cat on a walk!