One of the most common questions cat parents have is whether cats should be kept indoors or allowed to roam freely outdoors. Many veterinarians and organizations are in agreement that cats should not be allowed to roam freely due to the increased risk of danger to their health and well-being.
Outdoor cats are at much higher risk of catching infections, being involved in accidents, and eating or drinking something toxic like antifreeze or insecticides. An alternative to free roaming is to create a secure outdoor environment for your cats. If this isn’t possible, there are certain precautions you can take to decrease your cat’s chance of getting into danger outdoors.
In this post, we’ll share some tips on introducing your indoor cat to the outside world and making sure they stay safe outdoors.
The 10 Tips To Make an Indoor Cat an Outdoor Cat
1. Get Your Cat Used to Indoor Life First
If you’ve recently brought home a kitten or adopted an adult cat, your home should always be their “base”. Avoid allowing them outside straight away and instead, give them time to get used to the inside of your home. A happy indoor life means your cat is more likely to want to come home and lets them feel that they always have somewhere safe to go if they’ve had enough of the outdoors.
2. Go Slowly
For a cat that is used to spending all their time indoors, the experience of being outside can be overwhelming at first. Start by allowing your cat outdoors (supervised) for short periods of up to 10 minutes at a time and then gradually increase the amount of time they spend outside over the next days and weeks. If you’re nervous about letting your cat outside for the first time, try using a harness and leash.
It’s best to time the moments you let your cat out to coincide with their feeding schedule. When it’s time to come back inside, call your cat’s name and give a verbal cue like “dinner!”, then feed them. This will encourage them to come back when called later on.
3. Have a Routine
It’s a great idea to get your cat into an indoor-outdoor routine. Let them out and call them back at the same time every day. Cats are creatures of habit and appreciate this kind of consistency. If you’re planning to let your cat roam freely, it’s best to not let them stay outdoors at night because cats are more likely to run into danger after dark.
4. Avoid Letting Your Cat Out at Certain Times
It’s best to avoid letting your cat out when they may get frightened, like when fireworks or going off or there’s a thunderstorm. Keep an eye on weather conditions, too—if it’s too hot, cold, or rainy, keep your cat indoors.
5. Consider Securing Your Yard
If possible, you might want to consider creating an outdoor enclosure or simply securing your yard to make sure your cat only spends their outdoor time there. If you’re the crafty type, you can find some great ideas for DIY outdoor cat enclosures and houses online.
Another idea is to cat-proof your yard with fencing. For example, we came across slanted net barriers that are attached to the main fence to prevent cats from climbing over them. Securing your yard offers you peace of mind that your cat won’t wander off and risk getting hurt.
6. Microchip Your Cat
Microchipping is important for all cats, but especially for cats that are going to roam freely outdoors. A microchip increases the chances of your cat being returned to you if they get lost. You can also put a collar and ID tag on your cat, but make sure the collar has a safety release clasp in case they get stuck on something. These kinds of collars are also known as “breakaway” collars.
7. Buy a Pet Tracker
Pet trackers are devices that you attach to your pet’s collar and that let you see where your pet is in real time using GPS technology. These can help increase your chances of locating your cat if they don’t come home on time or get into trouble.
8. Make Sure Your Cat Is Vaccinated
Since outdoor cats are more at risk of catching infections, it’s crucial to make sure their vaccinations are up to date before you let them out. If you’re not sure if your cat is due a booster shot, contact your vet.
9. Apply Flea Preventatives
Fleas are another very real possibility if your cat spends time outdoors. In addition to causing your cat discomfort and putting them at risk of other parasites like tapeworms, fleas can end up infesting your home, so flea preventatives are of paramount importance. Topical flea preventatives are typically applied once per month.
10. Spay/Neuter Your Cat
To prevent unwanted pregnancies, make sure your cat is spayed (females) or neutered (males) if you’re thinking about letting them spend time outdoors.
Outdoor Cats: Life Expectancy
Life expectancy is something all cat parents with outdoor felines worry about. Research has found that an outdoor cat’s life expectancy is a mere 2–5 years, whereas indoor cats have an expected lifespan of around 15–17 years. This contrast is pretty staggering and proves that the risks for free-roaming cats are much greater.
That said, indoor cats are also at risk of health conditions like obesity and, consequentially, diabetes. For this reason, it’s important to make sure your indoor cat gets enough exercise every day and eats a balanced, high-quality diet.
Indoor versus outdoor can be a pretty difficult decision for cat parents. There are so many things to weigh up—your cat’s safety and quality of life being the main considerations. If possible, it’s always best to offer your cat a secure outdoor space. If you decide to let them roam freely, take precautions to increase your cat’s chances of staying safe.
If you’re introducing your indoor cat to the outside world for the first time, remember to go slowly and at their pace. Be patient—it may take weeks or even months for your cat to feel fully comfortable spending time outdoors.
Featured Image Credit: Elisa Putti, Shutterstock
- The 10 Tips To Make an Indoor Cat an Outdoor Cat
- Outdoor Cats: Life Expectancy