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House Cats: How To Let Them Outside Safely

By Edited Jul 7, 2014 1 3

There are so many reasons cats naturally belong outside.

Outdoor cats
I know that might be a sore spot for some people.  Many people believe cats belong inside because they live longer. But cats who are allowed outdoors benefit greatly from increased excercise and stimulation.  Yowling and aggression can be symptoms that your indoor kitty needs much more stimulation--and an outdoor life helps to provide that.  All cats are different, and for those who don't do well outdoors, and are particularly skittish, using a leash may be the best option.

Here are some tips to ensure your cat can go outside safely.

1. Allow Plenty of Time Before Allowing Kitty Outside

Allow your  kitty to acclimate to the new-to-him indoor space, as well as a regular regimen of eating, sleeping, play, and litter box use.  It took our orange tabby a year to feel comfortable in his surroundings. The amount of time it took was surprising to me, but it was clear that consistency and time were crucial to laying a foundation for letting him outside safely.  Your kitty might seem desperate to go out, but allow a lot of time, anyway. During this period, your primary goal is to allow him the time to get used to his surroundings.

2. Think Like Your Cat!

I realize that "thinking like your cat" might sound silly. At first, it did to me, too. But I found this tool to be very effective in deciding how, when, and where my cat could go outside safely.  As both natural predators and prey, cats are sensitive to everything happening in their surroundings.  Any new piece of information may be cause for fight or flight--just like us--except that this instinctual process is, from my experience, amplified in your feline friend. Traffic, other animals and weather are all important factors to consider in allowing kitty outdoors. 

 3. Consider Traffic In Your Area

Traffic And Your Cat's Safety

Assess the amount of traffic in your area. Noises that we are use to, such as a truck's brakes, or a honking horn, can be extremely threatening to your kitty. Are there certain times of day in your area where traffic is light, or when it is too heavy for you to let him out? If the area is too busy, it is probably best to keep your cat indoors.  Though I do advocate for cats to be outside, high traffic is simply too risky. However, if there are certain times where traffic is light, leash walking, if your cat is amenable to it, is the best solution. 

4. Consider Other Ourdoor Animals 

Avoiding Neighborhood Cats

Again, as much as I believe in letting our cat outside, I also use common sense. From time to time, we visit our relatives, who live where bobcats or other wildlife are prevalent. Our cat does not go out alone, or go out at night. He is only allowed out in our company and in the fenced in yard.

Also, although cats are territorial, they can work out their territories when a new feline is introduced to the area. This introduction can take time, and it's our job to become familiar with other cats in the neighborhood, and have a general sense of where we usually see these cats and at what time. I'd suggest talking to neighbors, everyone likes a calm neighborhood and working together ensures that this is possible. We offered to keep our cat in at certain times, so that our neighbor's cat could go out without conflict, until they got used to each other's scent. I know that many cats will demand to go out at certain times, and I know how challenging this can be. I have found that indoor play and stimulation are the best solutions for chronic demands to go outside at these times.

Avoid Your Cats Demands To Go Outside
Many might argue that indoor stimulation and play is all that's needed, and wonder why one should bother allowing her cat outside at all, if this works.  My feelings on this are understandably controversial. But I consider all animals as equal to us. I feel while my cat relies on me to take care of him, the best care I can give is to allow him the same freedom of movement, within the parameters I outline here, that I also experience. I believe quality of life should include an outdoor experience.

5. Consider The Weather

Weather and Your Cat

Weather conditions and temperature are so important to consider. Your little guy doesn't like wet paws in the rain, or extremely hot or cold weather- and it's not good for them, either. Your cat can overheat if the temperature is above 95 degrees, and it is never okay for him to be outside in temperatures of 32 degree or below. If you live in climates with these temperatues, your cat either needs to stay inside, or only go out when the weather is not so extreme.

6. Make Sure Shots Are Current

Ensure Your Cat Is Vaccinated

If you want your little guy to be outdoors safely, you need to make sure his shots are current. Your furry friend should be current with the following shots: 

-FVRCP-This vaccination guards against viruses, including upper respiratory viruses (*indoor cats are also susceptible to these viruses, and can contract these, too).

-Rabies-This virus is largely contracted from outdoor wildlife and fatal.

-FIV-This virus destroys a cat's immune system, but is less fatal in cats than the human counterpart, HIV.

7. Bond With Your Kitty
Bonding With Your Cat Is Crucial To Training Success

Bonding is by far the most important way to ensure your cat can go outside safely. In my experience,  the more bonded your cat becomes to you, the more likely he is to relate to you as the "pack" leader and more likely he is to follow your lead when outside.

Bonding takes time and commitment.  I worked consistently with our independent, orange tabby for years. I attuned to the way he likes to play and the particular way he responds to stimuli.  I became familiar with what engages him and what distracts him.  My cat trusts me. When I first took him outside, I was able to let him explore in a grassy area by our space. We did this in short spurts, for a few weeks, and it was a big commitment. Our little guy became familiar with the sights, sounds and scents in the area, as well as other neighbor cats and dogs.  Nowadays, he can come when I call him, and will stay close to me outside, while going on walks on trails near our house. Our cat walks off-leash, though walking on leash can be just as beneficial.

Most of the time, I accompany my cat outdoors.  I am there to help protect him from any dangers, such as another animal, or any toxins.

Finally, it's crucial that all kitties have a tag, a collar with an outdoor night reflector, and have a microchip.

Good luck in deciding what the best solution is for you, in allowing your cat outside.

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Sep 11, 2013 5:37am
A thorough article on allowing you cat to go outside. good ideas that many people would not always think of. I also like the idea of using an outside run that your cat can move indoors or outside safely without any danger to themselves or birds in the wild. thumbs up
Sep 11, 2013 5:37am
A thorough article on allowing you cat to go outside. good ideas that many people would not always think of. I also like the idea of using an outside run that your cat can move indoors or outside safely without any danger to themselves or birds in the wild. thumbs up
Sep 27, 2013 11:28pm
I have a small herd of cats and they are allowed to go in or out as they please during the day, but I make sure everyone's in at night. The article covers everything pretty thoroughly and has lots of good ideas! Thank you for the article.
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