Many pets love being outdoors. The idea of venturing out is exciting and for many pets, exploring is part of their nature. The great outdoors is of course where we all originally lived – however now, with our adaptations and nurturing, what should we be aware of when our pets are out and about?
We should always know the length of time our pets have been outdoors. Pets normally return home after a specific amount of time, this period can be regulated by the time pattern between meals, as most pets will return home for feeding.
In order to be responsible owners, we need to be aware of our pets’ surroundings and understand how we can increase the safety for our pets whilst they are outdoors. Supervising your pet whilst they are outdoors is the best option. This prevents them from moving too far and means you can quickly intervene should disaster strike! We should explore, and be knowledgeable of, the area our pets will be roaming. Below are some things to watch out for…
Safety hazards – There are many safety hazards outdoors.
Traffic is a huge hazard to our pets. You should avoid letting your pet outdoors in busy areas.
We should move any wires or make sure they are covered up to prevent them from being a trip or strangle hazard. If chewed, electrical wires can be very dangerous too. Ensure there are no fires nearby that may intrigue your pet leading to burns and scars.
Fences, barbed wire or any hard, sharp object with exposed edges could cause serious injury.
Water can be an issue. While many pets can swim, not all have the ability, or the strength. Even good swimmers can come to grief in fast-flowing waters, water containing toxic plants (e.g. blue green algae in still water), or poisoned animals. These can be fatal and so watercourses should always be analysed prior to allowing your pet near.
Toxins – Toxins are everywhere. Fortunately, deliberate poisoning is rare – although it does happen sometimes – but accidental or careless poisoning is very common.
You can never be sure what actually lies on the ground your pet runs on, whether that be rat poison, herbicides, or human food. Many cats scavenge from bins or from litter on the floor, especially in built up areas, meaning we do not know what they have ingested.
Other animals- Other animals can be very dangerous. Large animals (e.g. horses) and farm animals (e.g. cattle and even sheep) can easily injure cats and dogs entering their paddocks. One kick from a horse could be fatal, while cattle will sometimes trample and toss animals that stray into their fields. Older ewes with lambs, and rams at any time of year, will sometimes headbutt and can kill even a big dog.
Stray animals who your pet may interact with may carry different diseases and cause infection to your pet. If you are worried about interactions with other animals or humans, you should ensure the area is secure prior to letting your pet free.
Events – You should be aware of any events held in the local area. If fireworks are being released or you know loud noises will be occurring throughout the night due to a national celebration, we’d recommend you keep your pet indoors as these additional stimuli may cause extra stress, altering your pet’s behaviour and preventing them from coming home as normal.
Over-exercising your pet – Some pets will run and run until they are exhausted due to the excitement of being outdoors. You need to be aware of this, as over-exercising can cause multiple health issues and injuries. Over-exercising in hot and humid weather is linked to overheating which can be fatal. Ensure your pet is doing roughly the same amount of exercise daily and is not exercising when the weather is above around 18 degrees Celsius.
Neutering – We recommend that you get your pet neutered if you plan to let them outdoors on their own/off their lead. Some pets will go out and look for a breeding partner (or be found by someone else’s animal looking for one!) and others will be much more aggressive – both of these problems are minimised by neutering.
Picking up faeces – if you let your dog outdoors in public areas, be sure to pick up any faeces. Dog faeces can be extremely dangerous and may carry parasites that can be dangerous to the health of humans coming into contact with them, especially children.
Keep your pets indoors at night – Keeping your pets indoors at night reduces the chance of your pet being hit by a car. It may give you peace of mind knowing where your pet is when you go to sleep. Ensuring your pet is indoors or in their bed/kennel/crate/cage every evening will help your pet to understand their routine, making it easier to maintain.
Ensure your pet is microchipped and wears a collar – Microchipping is now a legal requirement for dogs. It is, of course, very valuable in the event that a pet of any species does go missing, and we do recommend it for cats and rabbits too. Microchips can be scanned at any vet practice or dog wardens/rescue centres in the UK. Collars and microchips need to be up to date. Microchipping your pet helps identify stolen pets – another benefit to having it done!
Ensure they have the option to return home – Make sure you have a cat flap fitted, so that when your pet returns home, they can get indoors. This maximises the chance of them being safe and adds security that they always have a place to come for shelter, food and drink.
There are lots of things to consider to keep your four-legged friend safe outdoors. But with some forethought, we can ensure our pet’s local territory is as safe as possible for them to explore.