For us, indoor cat owners there often comes a time when we have to decide if we allow our cats to have outdoor access and how much. Once you decide that your cat should go outside, whether that be in an enclosed yard or as a completely free cat, there are some things you can do to make this transition easier and safer for your cat.
When you have decided to make your cat an outdoor cat there are a few things that you need to do before you let them out for the first time. Then it’s a good idea to transition your cat to the outdoors very gradually in a step-by-step process. This may vary depending on your own personal circumstances and your cat. However, there are some things that you can do that will help make this process easy for your cat this article covers that.
When you are making your indoor cat an outdoor cat there are several steps that you can follow. You may decide that you want to make sure that you have some control over your indoor cat when it’s first outside. If this is the case then some form of containment or harness might be a good idea. Each step should progress gently to the next step. This may take a long time or maybe a very short time. Your cat will decide. Start with baby steps to introduce your cat to the outside and gradually progress until they feel comfortable being out on their own. I have also included 2 examples from my own family’s cats.
The Transition to Making an Indoor Cat an Outdoor Cat
Now that you’ve decided that you are going to transition your cat from being an indoor cat to being an outdoor cat it’s time to take the First Steps.
There are a few different ways of doing this.
Some people say they just put them out shut the door and leave them to it while others prefer to guide their cat through the processes kindly and as safely as possible.
What you need to do is to see if your cat even wants to go outside and then get your cat used to actually going outside and feeling safe and understanding its environment.
How you go about transitioning your indoor cat to being an outdoor one will also depend on where you live and what outside space you have.
If you have a secure space or garden it will be much easier. Although most cats can jump quite high, to make the area secure will mean making your area cat exit proof.
If you away from the garden you need a safe secure place for your cat to go. No dogs, ideally no other cats, no cars, no people etc.
Use a Harness & Leash for Added Security
For added security for you and your cat, you might want to see if you can teach it to use a cat harness & leash before you take it outside. Not all cats will take to a cat harness and this can be quite a lengthy process and itself. The length of time will depend on the cat. Some cats will never get used to a harness.
Using a harness will help you to keep better control of the situation when your cat goes outside if it’s suddenly panics and bolts, for example, you will be less likely to lose your cat. Also, you’ll have better control over it if you encounter any other cats. Also if your cat is used to harness it might feel more secure.
Step – 0 OK this Might Be Overkill But
I almost forgot to put this step in, and maybe it is a bit of overkill but we do tend to pamper our cats a bit. When I think back to when I was little and the cats came as kittens they got butter their paws and off they went lol, things are different now – a lot different. Or maybe it’s just that Boo is different than my previous cats.
I confess my first step was to actually lift my cat up to let my cat see through the window what the outside area looked like a few times before he went out. I know a bit sad.
Step 1 – Your Cat’s First Outdoor Adventure
If your cat’s been an indoor cat for a number of years it can be quite daunting for it to go outside. While cats are very versatile and will adapt it’s much kinder to allow your cat to decide whether it’s going to go out and how far. It is best to keep the outing as much all the cat’s terms as possible. If it looks distressed and wants to come back in let it.
Your cats first outing may be nothing more than them sitting outside on the porch looking out.
Step 2 – Make it a Gradual Process
Getting your cat to go outside should be a gradual process period each time giving it more and more freedom and more time outside. You might find that your cat adapts quickly in which case that process could be a matter of days or even hours. Or it might take longer for your cat to adjust. This, of course, depends on your own cat, it’s temperament and personality.
You can let it wonder in the garden or you can keep it on the harness if you are using that. Let it decide how far it wants to go.
What Not To Do
Do not force your cat to do something that does not want to do. Do not put it in a situation where it’s scared. For example, do not pick it up and place it in the centre of the garden and just leave it there.
If you think about it it’s been indoors for its entire life in the small box it would be like if we were in a tiny house and then dumped in the middle of the Sahara Desert it must be absolutely terrifying for the cat. You know if this is the case because it will crouch down and freeze. Or it could just run away. Start gentle and work up and work with your cat. It will get there and it’s own time.
If your cat does not want to do it just don’t let it make it do it. This does not mean it won’t ever want to do it it just means it’s not comfortable at the moment. There may be dangers that you can’t see.
If you do this in small bursts it will soon adapt and be happy outside. This may take only a couple of sessions or weeks depending on your cat.
Step 3 – How Far Out is Out?
If your cat is going to be an indoor cat with some outdoor access then this is all you need. The more serious dangers come if your cat is going all the way outside as no matter how old it is it is only a kitten when it comes to knowing the outdoor dangers like cars.
I have seen how Boo reacts to cars and there is no way I would ever let him out on his own. He is better now as he is getting used to seeing them go past slowly but he would just walk in front of one that was going 40 miles an hour.
I did suggest to mum that she teach Willow about cars to stop her from panicking. But most cats when they go from being indoor kittens to outdoor cats simply have to learn which is one reason why there are so many tragic accidents.
Below I have included a couple of examples of out cars first outings and how it went.
Two Examples Of Our Cats Venturing Outside
Example 1 – Willow’s Story From Indoor Cat to Outdoor Cat
This is Willow. She was an indoor cat for 9 years. 8 in an institution where she had a job of testing cat food. And one year with my mum. This year Willows become an outdoor cat. She has total freedom to go where she wants.
This was not intentional. Initially, she was supposed to be just going out on a lead and harness. The idea was that we were transitional so that she could go outside to enjoy the garden with mum keeping a close eye on her. Because the traffic is intermittent but quite fast around when mum lives.
Willow, however, had other ideas. This is her story and how we got her to go out.
Mum was going to keep willow in, but then she saw that Boo was out enjoying life and she wanted to do the same. Unfortunately for, mum her garden has a low fence that isn’t really practical to enclose. So she decided that she would take Willow out on a lead. She went through the transition phases until Willow was happy outside. This took a while Willow wasn’t sure for ages. But mum wanted Willow to be outside while she was gardening.
Willow wanted to go out more than mum was able to take her. So one day she just went out.
We were all very worried about Willow as she had no outside experience but thankfully after the initial adventuring, out she decided to stay in the garden area.
Willow now loves the outside and asks to go out all the time. She loves to play and catches insects and sunbathes. She always pops back into the house to check on mum though which is adorable.
Example 2 – Boo’s First Outing
Boo has been an indoor only cat all his life with no outdoor access. When I got him it was on the condition that he stayed an indoor cat, the charity was happy with safe outside access. I was also very happy about this. I have a very small enclosed backyard.
Transitioning Boo to the outside was easy. As it was completely enclosed and safe all I had to do was introduce him to outside.
Once he had been with me for a while I waited until it was a nice day and I opened the back door for him to see what he would make of outside. He could decide for himself what he wanted to do.
He looked tentatively outside, then stepped out into the great unknown onto the step. He sat down. Looked around closed his eyes and raised his head to the warm sunny sky and sniffed the air. I would swear to this day that he was smiling.
That was it, Boo outside. There was no going back. He loved his new found freedom. For ages, he would not go out without me there next to him encouraging him though. Only a few paces then half the yard then the whole yard. To begin with, I had to sit outside having a cup of tea while he explored.
Now he enjoys sitting under a plant watching the world go by. He loves lying on my lounger. Or in the mornings and evenings, he likes to sit high up (about 5 feet) and look out over the fence at the neighbours.
In addition, I taught him to use a lead and I take him for walks around the local area. It’s a bit boring for him really as it’s mostly tarmac. But he often asks to go out that way.