How to Safely Transition your Indoor Cat to an Outdoor Cat

Let’s face it, some cats just want to be outdoors. They scratch at the front door, try to slither, sneak and hustle with one objective – get outside the house for a while.

I have one of these cats; Harley, a 4 year old tortoise-shell domestic shorthair.

Recently I had moved to a new house and have been reluctant to let Harley out for fear she will wander a little bit too far and not find her way back home.

But she’s one of those cats.

Here are some key tips every cat owner should know if they (are about to) have an occasional-outdoor kitty.

1. Spay or neuter your cat.

I feel like Bob Barker saying this, but it’s true – be a responsible pet owner and have him/her spayed/neutered. Animal shelters are overwhelmed as it is – we don’t need to add to the problem.

2. If your cat is declawed, do not let her out under unsupervised conditions.

For obvious reasons, cats that have been declawed cannot effectively defend themselves. They cannot climb trees or fences either, which can be dangerous if they are fleeing a predator.

If you want to let your declawed cat outdoors, do it only under your good judgement. Consider getting a kitty harness and tie-out so she can prance around the backyard while you have a bbq.

If you want to let your declawed cat outdoors, do it only under your good judgement.

3. Take it slow.

I learned that it was best to let Harley get exposure to the outdoors in small intervals. Make sure you make your cat familiar with the house from all angles. Let her listen to the sounds of the neighbourhood, let her roll around on the grass on the front lawn, sniff the flowers in the garden, and then bring her back inside with praise.

While she is outside, it’s best to be talking to her and petting her frequently. Cats will create distance between you if they feel you only want to touch them so you can bring them back inside the house.

4. Know thy name

Make sure your cat recognizes her name. When calling out (recalling) your cat from a distance, remember your voice will sound different compared to in-house levels, so when outside, familiarize your cat with your outdoor voice.

5. Create incentive

When your cat returns to the house, reward her with praise, or a treat, or her favourite toy, or all of the above. Make your cat want to come home after an exciting afternoon romping around the neighbourhood.

6. Wear protection

While outdoors, your cat is at greater risk to disease, parasites, injuries, etc. Make sure you consult with your Veterinarian to ensure she is up to date on her vaccinations.

There are many natural remedies to treat fleas, ticks, and heartworm, so you don’t necessarily have to rely on traditional pharmaceuticals if you want keep her protected.

7. ID please

Your cat should have a well-fitting quick-release collar with an ID tag. This is one of the most important points to remember. The majority of animals who get lost do so in their own neighbourhood.

Consider getting your cat micro chipped. Microchips normally cost about $80, but check with the Humane Society for their next microchip clinic, where you can have it done for much less. Microchips allow animal shelters to read your kitty’s contact information with a simple chip reader. The procedure takes mere seconds and causes little discomfort for your cat.

Well there you have it! Keep in mind that all cats are different, and even though these tips are effective, they are only intended as an aid to help pet owners make informed and responsible decisions.

And just as I’m about to write my conclusion, I can hear Harley at the front door.

Can’t keep her waiting…

8 Responses to How to Safely Transition your Indoor Cat to an Outdoor Cat
  1. Danny Brown
    Twitter: DannyBrown
    August 20, 2010 | 6:40 pm

    Great pointers, Brandon.

    We have three cats, all indoor, though one of the buggers keeps wanting to make a run for it when we take the dogs out ;)

    Here’s a question about declawing – we were considering it when we got our first cat, purely due to my wife’s allergies and concerns about scratching.

    But we were told that it’d be the equivalent of removing the fingernails from a human.

    So, would you always advise against declawing, or does it have any value at all?

    Danny Brown recently posted..Social Media Roadmaps

  2. Brandon
    August 21, 2010 | 9:32 am

    Hey Danny,

    I do not endorse declawing cats. It would be the equivalent of having the tips of your fingers removed, including the first knuckle.

    As long as you keep your cat’s nails trimmed once a month, rarely should you have an issue with scratching furniture. One or two scratch posts in the house will make a huge difference as well.

    From speaking to many customers over the years, I find that most cats only become a problem (scratching furniture)if their nails are not maintained properly.

    While I understand the reasons behind cat owners declawing cats, I feel that many have this procedure done on the mere assumption their cat will ruin their property.

    Thanks for the comment! :)

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  4. Sheena Reinwald
    June 26, 2014 | 12:21 pm

    Hey Brandon,
    thanks for the great pointers. We have a four and a half year old cat that has always fought us to get outside. He has recently started having bursts of aggressive behavior which ened with our four year old son being attacked. We have decided to try Bean outside to see if it makes a difference in his behavior.

    • Gilly
      July 12, 2014 | 6:38 pm

      Hi, we have an indoor cat, he’s been indoors for three years but we are having problems with redirected aggression so although I’m anxious about the lane and cars my husband is getting tired of him and his aggression, how did you get on?

    • Brandon
      July 24, 2014 | 8:58 am

      Hi Sheena, thanks for your comments. Good luck!! :)

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