This time of year, everyone can benefit from some extra fresh air. This includes pets that don’t normally spend much time outdoors, such as indoor cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, and more. But before taking your furry friend outside to catch some rays, it’s important to be aware of the risks.
Eliminate Escape Routes
The most glaring risk is escape. Pets lacking outdoor savvy can get easily startled, and may bolt in any direction; towards roads, bodies of water, and other unsafe areas. It can also be very difficult, if not impossible, to catch a fleeing animal – they can be super-fast when they want to be.
For many small pets, going outside can be overwhelming at first. Animals may behave unpredictably in these situations, so the best approach to acclimating your little pal to the outdoors is to do it slowly. Start with short outdoor sessions and gradually increase over time. To lower stress levels, provide some fun toys or treats, such as a hay ball or fresh veggies.
Outdoor time should always be under proper supervision; never leave your small pet outside unsupervised!
Try a Harness and Leash for Small Pets
The easiest, safest, and least expensive way to take your pet outside is with a properly fitted harness and leash. There are plenty of leash and harness options for small animals, including ferrets, bunnies, guinea pigs, and even reptiles!
When choosing a harness, proper fit is paramount. Good quality harnesses are designed to comfortably adjust to your pet’s body for a perfect fit. There are many different styles on the market to fit your pet’s unique needs. Consider a breathable and flexible material, such as nylon mesh, as other materials can be too hot or restrictive. You can connect the harness to a leash to hold in your hand, or use a long line tethered to something safe, such as a porch post.
It is best to stay in a controlled, familiar space such as your back yard. Public places can be very stressful for indoor pets due to unfamiliar noises, people, and other animals. People, especially children, will often want to touch or play with your pet, and that can be very scary for them.
Consider a Playpen for Small Pets
Another option for safe outdoor fun is an outdoor playpen. While not effective without a roof for cats, they’re a great containment option for small pets such as reptiles, guinea pigs, ferrets, and bunnies. Many playpens can be arranged in different shapes, and most are expandable. This gives you the option to provide an enclosure that best suits your pet’s needs. Prevue Hendryx makes a great playpen for small animals, and is even safe for bunnies, ferrets, and other large pocket pets.
Assess the Environment
Another risk to consider this time of year is the heat. Playing in the sun is fun, but there should always be access to a cool, shady area. Do not take your pet outside on extremely hot or humid days. Extra caution must be given to guinea pigs as they are highly susceptible to overheating. Always make sure your pet has access to cold, fresh water during (and after) outdoor time.
Some pets may enjoy nibbling on grass; free feeding of fresh, live grass can be a fun, healthy snack. However, if your lawn has been sprayed with any sort of pesticide, fertilizer, or other lawn enhancer, place a mat or blanket for your pet to play on. Prolonged exposure to, and consuming chemically treated grass can be fatal for small pets.
Predators are a big concern when taking small pets outdoors. Keep a cover on their playpen, as larger birds will most definitely see them as prey. Raccoons, feral cats, off-leash dogs, and opossums all pose a predatory risk to small pets, so make sure they are closely supervised.
Smaller, “pocket pets” such as hamsters, and gerbils, can simply have their cage brought outdoors. Many pet owners use easily portable travel carriers. This way your tiny pet can enjoy the outdoors in a safe, controlled environment. Give them some fresh carrots or apple slices to nibble on while they enjoy their new view.
Taking your indoor pet outside for warm rays and fresh air can be a fun and rewarding activity for the whole family, as long as you do it safely.