Indoor vs outdoor? Nothing gets cat parents’ claws out like this age-old debate, which has some owners insisting that keeping their cats indoors is a much safer option. Of course, there is some merit in this thinking, but at the end of the day what you decide to do will depend very much on your personal choice, where you live, and your cat’s personality.
You see, just like people, cats have very different personalities, and while some moggies are quite happy curled up on the couch, others need to be outside, enjoying the great outdoors.
Before you (and your cat) decide which option is best, there are a few things you need to consider. For example;
- how safe is it for your kitty to go outside on its own?
- What are the risks?
- What are the pros and cons of letting it outside?
- How young is too young for a kitten to be allowed out?
- And last, but by no means least, what are the benefits (if any) of not allowing your beloved pet outside?
All these questions can leave you feeling as stressed as a cat on a hot tin roof, but have no fear! Carry on reading to find out everything you need to know about letting your cat out so that you can make an informed decision that suits you and your feline friend.
The Benefits of Letting Cats Outside
Because cats, by their very nature, are outdoor creatures, there are loads of benefits to letting your cat go outside. Let’s take a look at the most important reasons.
1. Hones its natural instincts
Climbing and scratching trees, patrolling its territory and hunting are all part of a cat’s natural behaviour. Letting your cat outside allows it to hone its natural instincts, and it helps keep the rodent population under control.
2. Keeps the weight off
3. Good for mental health
Being outside is good for your cat’s mental health because of all the sounds, sights and smells. These all help stimulate its senses and is a great stress-reliever. Indoor cats can become bored and frustrated over time, leading to all kinds of behavioural problems such as scratching your furniture, not using the litter box and pouncing on unsuspecting family members.
The Risks of Letting Cats Outside
Depending on where you live, and your surroundings, there are several risks associated with letting your cat go outside. These include:
1. Getting lost or hurt
2. Flea infestations and disease
Something else outdoor cats are susceptible to is flea infestations, which is a nightmare for you and your kitty. And then there is the risk of cats being exposed to diseases such as cat flu, feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukaemia virus.
Even the most streetwise of cats can get stressed when outside. This is especially the case if there are fireworks, storms or other loud noises. Depending on your cat’s personality, it might prefer being inside.
7 Ways to Minimise the Risks for Outdoor Cats
There is no getting around the fact that the potential risks for outdoor cats are enormous. But there are ways you can minimise these, and make it safer for your cat to roam free outdoors.
1. Make sure your cat can be identified
If your cat’s going outside, make sure it can be identified with a collar or microchip in case it gets lost or injured. Collars are perfect for this; however, it’s essential to use one with a quick-release safety catch to stop your cat getting caught on a fence or in a tree. Another option which we strongly recommend is microchipping your cat. Because the chip can’t be removed, a lost or hurt cat can always be identified with a simple scan at a vet or rescue centre.
2. Give your cat a curfew
It’s a good idea to let your cat outside during the day, but keep it inside when it gets dark. At night, depending on where you live, wild animals like foxes are a real threat to outdoor cats. And there is also a chance of your cat accidentally being run over due to poor visibility. With some time and patience, you can train your cat to come to when it is called as soon as it starts getting dark.
3. Keep your cat away from traffic
Cats love routine, which can be used to keep yours safe if you live on a busy stretch of road. To reduce the risk of your cat getting hit by a car, set up feeding times when traffic is at its busiest in the mornings and afternoons.
4. Make sure your cat is vaccinated
Before allowing your cat to explore the outdoors, it’s crucial that it has had all its vaccinations and that they are up-to-date. Kittens should only be allowed outside, supervised, at around three months old after they have had their second round of vaccinations. Ensure your cat is protected against infectious diseases with booster vaccinations once a year.
5. Spay or neuter your cat
An unneutered male cat will travel miles to find an unspayed female, increasing the risks of it getting lost or hit by a car. Pets that have been ‘fixed’ are less likely to wander off, get into fights and not be a neighbourhood pest. Spaying your female cat will prevent unwanted litters and protect it against some cancers, including ovarian cancer.
6.Get a cat flap
If you’re not at home during the day to let your cat in and out, you might want to install a cat flap. If you want to stop uninvited guests popping in, there are microchip models available.
7. Protect your cat from poisoning
Cats that spend time outdoors are at risk of being poisoned. And we’re not just talking about toxic products like antifreeze. There are also various plants and flowers in and outside your home that can prove fatal to your cat (and other animals) when ingested.
Quick Checklist Before Letting Your Cat Outside for the First Time
Okay, so you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and are happy to let your cat outdoors, However, if it’s the first time your cuddle buddy is venturing out, it’s worth assessing the environment beforehand.
Here is a quick checklist of what you need to be aware of:
- Are there any busy roads nearby?
- Are there other cats or dogs in the area?
- Are there any poisonous plants in your, or your neighbours’ gardens?
- Does your cat have access to an outdoor shelter in case it starts raining?
- Does your cat have some form of identification?
- Has your cat had all its vaccinations?
- Is your cat neutered or spayed?
Letting Kittens Outside
As tempting as it might be to take your kitten out of the house for the first time, you must be prepared. This means dotting your i’s and crossing the t’s to make sure your furball will be safe. Here’s what you need to know.
Is your kitten ready?
Before your kitten embarks on its big outdoor adventure, you need to make sure it has been neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. We’ve included the minimum ages that your kitty should be allowed outdoor access, but it’s entirely up to you if you want to wait a little longer.
- Microchipped – Kittens can be microchipped from approximately five weeks old. We recommend having this done before you let your kitten out for the first time.
- Vaccinations – For your kitten’s safety, and your peace of mind, the minimum age your kitten should be allowed supervised access outside is at 13 weeks, once its vaccinations are done.
- Neutered – Although kittens can be neutered as young as eight weeks old, this simple procedure is usually done when they are around four months old. Unsupervised access should only be allowed once your kitten is neutered or spayed.
6 Top Tips for Letting Your Kitten Outside for the First Time
Letting your kitten outside for the first time can be daunting, but our handy tips should make it a whole lot less stressful.
Take a look at our top 6 tips on how best to introduce your kitten to the big, wide world.
1. Train your kitten
Before your kitten gets ready to explore the outdoors, it’s a good idea to teach it to respond to your calls. You can do this using a treat or a favourite toy, as well as loads of encouragement and praise.
2. Make sure your garden is kitten-proof
Kittens are notoriously curious and could get up to a lot of mischief outdoors. Before you let yours out, ensure your garden is as safe as possible. This means covering water features or ponds, removing any potentially dangerous substances like weed killer and antifreeze and shutting shed or garage doors.
3. Wait for the right time
It’s best to let your kitten out when it’s not too busy. Traffic, loud noises, screeching children and yapping dogs can spook your kitten. Also, don’t feed your kitten before you take it outside. Instead, let it explore the great outdoors on an empty tummy and use food as a way to get it back inside when playtime’s over.
4. Allow for easy access
Always make sure your kitten can get back into the house quickly and easily. We suggest installing a cat flap or leaving the door open.
5. Don’t rush the process
As exciting as it might be for you, you mustn’t rush the process. Give your kitten time to make its own way outside. Depending on its personality, it might bounce out the front door in search of an adventure, or hang back a little more cautious.
6. Ensure outdoor trips are supervised
When your kitten is ready to venture outside for the first time, make sure it is always supervised. Never leave a kitten on its own.
Whether it’s a kitten or an older cat, letting your cat outside for the first time can be a frightening experience for both of you. Things might not always go according to plan, but as long as you are prepared, it doesn’t have to be stressful.