Have you been thinking about finding a way for your indoor kitty to experience the great outdoors? Maybe you have seen the videos of adventure cats that have become more prevalent, or you’ve seen a neighbor taking their feline family member for a walk. Or maybe you’re thinking more along the lines of a catio. Whatever your thoughts, there are some things that you should consider before taking fluffy outside for the first time!
Make sure to think about the personality of your cat before you make the decision to start bringing them outside. Not every cat should be an outdoor cat. Many kitties are too frightened to enjoy the new experience. And while some may come to love it in time, it is important not to force the experience or cause them undo stress.
Plan to either have them on a leash or in a confined place that will do double duty, keeping them from wandering while also keeping predators away. Never leave them unattended! If a predator or other cat comes into the space the possibility of injury or death is high if you are not there to intervene.
If you plan to leash train them, start inside with just the harness. Leave it on for short periods and allow them to get used to the extra weight. Most cats do not like harnesses, so expect some flopping. Once they are used to the harness you can plan your first excursion!
Plan on starting with trips that are less than 5 minutes. And prepare yourself for them asking to go back inside almost immediately. Try to avoid busy streets as the car noise will frighten them. A comfort item might also help ease the transition.
My cat, Lyric, absolutely adores baskets. When I first started bringing him outside on a leash, he always asked to go back inside immediately. I listened to his needs and did not force it. Then, one day he was sleeping in his favorite basket and I decided to carry him outside in that. I set him on my lap and he sat purring for several minutes before he started to show any agitation. When he showed me he was ready to go back in, I always listened to him right away. Now he asks to go outside regularly during the summer. Remember, the goal of outside time is for your kitty to enjoy it! Not for you to make them into the adventure kitty you saw in that cool TikTok. If they are showing agitation, let them go back to a safe place.
My other cat, Ari, took to leash time immediately and will spend significantly more time outside then Lyric before he asks to come back in. On the hot days of summer I have to end his adventures before he likes to keep him from overheating.
I bring my cats outside with me when I am gardening or visiting with friends. I do not take them for walks. I also only let them out in my backyard because the front of my house faces a busy street.
General Safety Considerations:
When you first make the decision to take your indoor cat outside, make sure to make a veterinary appointment. They can get you proper medicine to protect against fleas, mites, and ticks that may find their way onto your cat over the course of their adventures. They can also let you know if your area has any other parasites or diseases that may impact your cat.
Before going outside the first time, take some time to look at the plants around your space. Try and identify what they are so you can determine if they are poisonous plants. Lilies are especially deadly to cats. Do not let them hang out near these plants as a few mouthfuls can be deadly. Chemicals can also be dangerous for your cat. Make sure that the space that you are using has not been treated with gardening or lawn chemicals.
Many of the general considerations listed above are applicable to taking your cat out on a leash or using a catio. If you are thinking about creating a catio space check out our blog on the subject here.
Written by: Heather Mains
Animal Care Foundation
Providing elderly and disabled community members access to veterinary care for their beloved pet.