How to Let Your Indoor Cat Have Some Outdoor Time
When to let your fur baby out the door and then get her safely back in.
As a proud Momma to my fur babies, I know the desire that a couple of them have to get outside and roam. Our little feline friends may not look much like their large African cat counterparts, but the same desire to explore and hunt in still inside of their little psyche.
When the weather is warm out, and you are wanting to take your cup of joe outside and enjoy the weather, your furry little companion is wanting to do the same (without the coffee, of course).
Most indoor house cats are bored. As much as we can attempt to stimulate them with toys, climbing trees, perches, and other “activities”, they still have the innate desire to be stimulated by hunting bugs, climbing, and jumping around outside. The simple act of giving your cat outdoor time can let them exhibit some of these natural behaviors that they have. It can also help control their weight if you are noticing that someone is getting a little rounder than normal.
But as much as you may just want to keep it simple, install a “kitty” door and call it a day, don’t.
Letting Mr. or Ms. Kitty out of doors (especially if they have always been indoors or if you live in a high traffic area) need to be done with precautions to keep him or her safe.
Leash Training Your Kitty
Leash training is an option, but be warned- some cats really despise the harness that a cat leash requires. A prime example of the difference in how is a trip to the veterinarian in my household. Tigger has never taken to the leash, and as soon as you strap him into it, he will fall over onto the floor like you have hog-tied him. He won’t walk, won’t move, and gives me a horrible look until I free him from the awful contraption.
Norman, on the other hand, is completely happy to be strapped into the leash. He maybe even gets a little excited because he has learned that once he has it on he gets to go OUTSIDE!! So with one cat on a leash and the other in the carrier, we load into the car and head to the vet. I encounter some strange looks from dog owners when I walk in with Norman on that leash, but it makes him happy.
The key to leash training is patience.
Cats CAN be trained, but unlike dogs, they can be quite more stubborn and way more independent. They are just not as content to let you be in control.. as any cat parent knows. Patiently let them learn about the harness and leash. Set it out where they can investigate; use it as a toy; and even get some of their scent on it so that they feel more comfortable with it. Once Kitty has had some time with it, put the harness on her for short times indoors (off the leash) in the house to let her get used to the feeling. When she seems comfortable, attach the lead and use it indoors to lead her from room to room.
Once you think she’s acclimated to the feeling of this “crazy contraption”, take a short walk into the yard. Be mindful of the exposures outside that Kitty may not be used to. Don’t let her out after your lawn has been chemically treated. Make sure she has access to large amounts of shade while you have outdoor time, as well as water. And if your fur baby is light colored, be wary of too much direct sunlight as she may get a sunburn on her nose or ears with too much sun.
Coming Back Inside
While your fur baby may relish the time in the great wild open, once she returns to her comfortable home, she may very well bring visitors with her. Fleas and ticks are plentiful outside, especially if your yard has more weeds, flowers, a garden or other “wildness” to it.
My yard is bordered by 4 neighbors with dogs, one of which fails to mow her grass on a regular basis. The ticks and fleas in this overgrown yard are, at times, so thick that they have been carried in on City Spouse! So when Kitty comes home, try to start the inspection immediately.
Comb through her fur and eyeball both her belly and tail for any unwelcome invaders. If you do start to notice that every time you go out, something else comes home with you, try applying a food-grade diatomaceous earth, sold in health food stores or on Amazon here, to your furry friend. You can apply along her back, I recommend having it in a salt shaker, and rub it into her fur. Make sure that you do not get it into her eyes! The powder is harmless to your fur baby but is toxic to parasites.
Want to do something about your yard but not place even more potentially harmful chemicals in Kitty’s space? Try spraying cedar or peppermint oil onto your grass to repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitos.
Cat On the Run
No matter what you do, if you have a Kitty always on the ready for a jailbreak, then eventually an escape is inevitable. I only have one of these, who as soon as he hears a car pull into the driveway is at the ready at the front door to see if this will be the day that you don’t see him in time to stop the mad dash to freedom. The absconder has only managed one really long stint away from home, but I was worried sick as it was in the winter. I knew that because he had been indoors so long he was ill-equipped to take care of himself well.
He finally came home 6-weeks later, looking very thin, tired, and scared. There is still an attempted escape from time to time, but since this experience, he only goes out to eat grass and lets us reign him in pretty quickly.
Cats can fend for themselves decently in fair weather. They instinctively have the knowledge on how to catch their own food and survive. They are still hunters, no matter how long they have been indoors if the weather is supportive of the activity.
Calling Kitty Home
Please don’t be that annoying neighbor who stands outside calling for your cat endlessly. Only about 10% of cats will respond to their name. I can’t get anyone’s attention most of the time unless I shake the treat jar, and even then I have to be standing in the kitchen. They are conditioned to know human habits. I doubt we “teach” them but rather they know that once we repeat a behavior, we tend to repeat it and they just follow suit.
Make sure that your cats at least have a collar with their home address or phone number somewhere on it. I would recommend microchipping them if they have a habit of running away or if you are afraid for their safety in any way if they would escape.
And like most animals, humans included, they know where home is. Chances are they once they get bored of being a fugitive, they will come home and be ready to let you fawn all over their return.