How to get cats used to the great outdoors

Outdoor cats are generally considered more balanced and robust than their indoor counterparts. Being outside come naturally to many cats, but some felines can be uncomfortable with stepping out into the open. So before you let your pet wander out, are a few things you need to consider.

Getting cats used to the outside world

Most cats like being outside.
Most cats like being outside.  © Unsplash/Sangia

The great outdoors is a completely different world than the one at home. A cat that is allowed to go outside gets the opportunity to be in its natural element and follow its own instincts.

Being out in the open is full of adventures. Cats can lurk, stalk, hunt, run and play to their hearts' content. And outside the house they might even create a whole social network of other cats.

Nevertheless, the first steps to freedom are not always easy for the house cat or the cat's owner. The cat has to be brave enough to deal with the unfamiliar and the owner has to be ready to let the cat go.

In fact, when you are introducing your cat to the outside world, it's very important that you are calm and collected. You need to be able to accept that you will no longer control all your cat's activities. And you need to trust your cat to care of itself.

Aside from dealing with your own emotions, there are a few other things you need to do before releasing your cat into the open.

Preparing your cat for outdoors

Regular vaccinations are really important for outdoor cats.
Regular vaccinations are really important for outdoor cats.  © 123RF/Amikishiyev

Here are a few things to look out for before your cat goes outside.

1. Make sure your cat has had its shots

It is important to make sure your cat is healthy and ready for the outside world. That includes ensuring that the cat's vaccinations are up to date. Shots for diseases like rabies, feline plague, feline rhinitis, leucosis, and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) are very important. Regular worming and preventive treatment against fleas and ticks are also a must for outdoor cats.

2. Get the cat a collar or get it chipped

Make sure that your cat is tattooed, chipped, or collared. If your cat can be identified, it is more likely to make its way back to you if it gets lost or injured.

3. Have the cat neutered

Before you let your cat outside, you should have your cat neutered or spayed. This will prevent your cat from producing unwanted offspring and from straying too far from home.

The enviroment counts

Sometimes cats need to be given incentives to come back home.
Sometimes cats need to be given incentives to come back home.  © Unsplash/Timothy Meinberg

If you want to get an indoor cat used to the outside, the first thing you should do is take a good look out the front door.

Is the environment suitable for cats?

If your home is in a quiet area with little traffic, you have optimal conditions for an outdoor cat. If there are busy roads or an intersection in the immediate vicinity, this isn't ideal for an outdoor cat.

Offer outdoor retreats

To lure the cat back to your property, you should make sure that it has a comfortable spot outside the house.

Big bushes, shrubs, and trees are inviting to a cat because they offer it a place to hide.

If you don't have a garden, you can get special outdoor scratching posts or even a cat cabin instead. A sheltered area is important for the feline, especially in wintertime or when it rains. It offers the cat a place to dry off and warm up in peace.

Set feeding times and larger portions

If you establish set feeding times, there is a good chance that your cat will be back on the mat in time for dinner and not stray too far away.

Outdoor cats usually move more than their indoor friends, so they need more calories. To keep your cat healthy, feed it food that is high in calories and is rich in meat. If you feed it quality meals, the feline is less likely to start scrounging around the neighborhood for something to eat.

Letting your cat out into the world

Cats like hiding in bushes and shrubs.
Cats like hiding in bushes and shrubs.  © Unsplash/Eduard Delputte

When you decide the time is right to let your cat out into the world, there is one thing you need to keep in mind: stay calm.

If you have a good relationship and trust your cat, as well as follow the tips below, and the first stroll will be a success.

1. At least one day before your cat's first planned outdoor adventure, you should feed it less than usual. This increases the chance that hunger will bring the curious cat home after its romp around the block.

2. Open the door and step outside with your cat. Show it the yard and the garden. Keep things relaxed but try to show the cat places it can retreat.

3. Now let your cat explore its surroundings on its own. Don't call it, but stay outside with it. If the cat ventures too far, you can try to lure it back with treats.

4. Ideally, the cat will come back home on its own. If it doesn't, try calling it after an hour or two. Make sure you have fresh water and food waiting for the cat at home. This will remind your pet that home is always where the heart is.

5. Try offering your cat some company outside by walking and exploring with it. Increase the area you cover each day. Let your cat decide when it's time to head home.

It's also a good idea to make sure that your cat can always get back inside through a door or a widow after it ventures out into the open.

Choosing the right time

The ideal time to get cats used to the outdoors is in the early evening, before feeding time.
The ideal time to get cats used to the outdoors is in the early evening, before feeding time.  © Unsplash/Marko Blažević

Many owners wonder what is the best time to let the cat out into the world.

Ideally, your cat should be hungry and there should be a few hours of daylight left, so you can better keep an eye on your feline friend.

Right before feeding time is the right time for a cat's first outdoor wander.

It can also be a good idea to wait for good weather. If it's a bit chilly or drizzling, chances are that the cat will much prefer stay warm and dry indoors.

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How early can kittens be allowed outside?

Don't introduce kittens to the outside world until they are at least four months old.
Don't introduce kittens to the outside world until they are at least four months old.  © Unsplash/Dimitri Houtteman

Young kitties can also crave a bit of nature.

But generally, kittens shouldn't be allowed outside until they are at least four months old.

And it's also best to wait until the kitten is neutered before letting it out. Depending on the vet and the technique used, this can sometimes take up to 6 months.

If you have a new cat and want to introduce it to the outdoors, you should give it at least four weeks in its new home first

The cat needs some time to get used to its new surroundings. After the cat has really made itself at home, it can be introduced to the outdoor life for the first time.

Turning your pet into an outdoor cat requires time, patience, and a trusting relationship. Once this is all in place, there's nothing to stand in the way of the cat's adventure.

Cover photo: Unsplash/Sangia

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