As much as they may love to snuggle under the covers and watch the world go by from inside your home, most cats and dogs enjoy outside time just as much as humans do. Whether you’ve got a 10-pound lap dog or a great dane as big as you are, there are a few key things every dog owner should know before taking their pet out into the world, whether that’s the backyard or your local trail. For cats, many owners will choose to keep their pet exclusively indoors, but for those who want to offer their feline a little outdoor time on occasion, there are a few things you can do to keep your little friend safe out there. Here are the most important things to know.
Use an LED Collar
Dogs and humans alike can be hard to spot along the side of the road, especially at night and in wet weather. Just as you might put wear-reflective clothing when running outdoors, consider a reflective or LED collar for your pup to make sure they’re safe and visible.
Wear a coat and boots
If your dog has short fur or you live in a particularly cold climate (or both), a coat or sweater is a must for chilly days. Likewise, if your neighbourhood uses salt on its roads and sidewalks in winter, a pair of boots will keep your pup’s paws from getting cut or irritated by salt crystals.
Use a bird alert collar
This isn’t as much about keeping your cat safe as it is a way to protect the millions of songbirds that domestic cats kill each year in North America. Unlike the traditional bell collar, which doesn’t always work, modern bird collars come in bright colours making them (and your stealthy kitty) easily visible to birds’ eyes.
Try a harness
If you want to give your cat a taste of the outdoors with minimal risk, the best option is a harness. Not all cats will take to being “walked” on a leash, but for those that do tolerate it, it can allow your cat to experience all of the many sights and smells of the world while staying safe from traffic and other animals.
Cats & dogs
Keep an eye out for other animals
Even in urban areas, there are a surprising number of wild animals that can pose hazards to an outdoor pet. Coyotes can be a threat to cats and small dogs, so avoid letting your pet roam off-leash if there are any in your area. Similarly, skunks and porcupines, pose a danger to any dog who makes the mistake of getting too close. Walking your dog (or cat) on a leash is the best way to avoid these encounters.
Avoid dangerous plants
Dogs and cats both love to preside over their backyard kingdoms, but not everything growing in your garden is safe for them. Rhubarb leaves, azaleas, tulips and lilies are just a few of the common backyard plants that could be harmful to your pet’s health if touched or ingested, so be extra cautious when adding these to your flower beds.
Use microchips and GPS collars
Microchipping has become a standard practice for pets in recent years and for good reason. If your pet is ever picked up by a concerned citizen or animal control, any vet can find your information with a quick scan and alert you. Unlike a GPS tracker, however, a microchip only works if someone picks up your pet and brings it to a vet’s office. Alternatively, just as you’d use it to find your misplaced mobile phone, GPS is a game-changer for tracking down a lost pet. Simply attach the tag to your pet’s collar and – in the unfortunate case that they go missing – pinpoint its location on your computer or smartphone. While most GPS tags are relatively inexpensive up-front, there is usually an annual subscription cost for monitoring as well.
Keep up with vaccinations
Just like humans, pets need vaccinations to live long, healthy, happy lives. With the exception of indoor cats in single-pet homes, every dog and cat should be vaccinated against communicable diseases like rabies, distemper and parvovirus, with boosters as recommended by your vet.
The world is full of critters of all shapes and sizes, and some of them – particularly parasites like fleas and ticks – can make your pet’s life (and your own) uncomfortable. For that reason make sure to treat your dog or cat with one of the many available flea prevention medicines each year. For dog owners who live in high-tick areas, consider vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease as well.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.
Jeremy Freed is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.