Introducing Your Cat To The Outdoors

March 25, 2014

Spring has been wonderful so far since I moved out of my former dark hovel into a shiny new apartment with a huge sliding glass door opening onto a balcony. Not only were my boyfriend and I excited to finally have a place with natural light and a nice view, but even before we moved in we knew that our cat would love the place. She didn’t quite fit in the window sills at our old place though she longed to peek through the blinds into the parking lot. I think it says a lot about us that we were more excited about seeing her reaction to the new view than we were for our own benefit!

Dax, my cat, in her harness on the balcony.

She actually snuck out onto the balcony once when we thought the door wasn’t cracked open enough for her to get out! That’s when I knew I needed to let her try it out safely.

Dax has always been curious about the outdoors and, like all house cats, she loves watching the world out the window. However, she’s easily startled by loud noises or excessive stimuli and, being the super-protective cat caretaker that I am, the thought of her outdoors gives me visions of accidents, parasites, pests, and of my shy little kitty being lost in the great unknown. I don’t think that house cats should be outdoor or even indoor/outdoor pets due to health and safety concerns, but I think supervised outdoor time is a great idea for a curious cat. I wanted to give her the opportunity to explore a bit in a safe way that would make us both happy, so I did some research and came up with the best tips on introducing your cat to the outdoors. Check them out below and maybe you’ll find yourself with an intrepid little adventurer on your hands!

1. Make sure your kitty is current on vaccinations and gets monthly heartworm and flea medications.

In Texas, at least, cats can get heartworm just like dogs can. One of the most common ways for a cat to contract heartworm is through mosquito bites, so just going outdoors at all can be a big risk! Make sure to give your feline friend monthly heartworm and flea medication like Revolution to prevent this. Furthermore, make sure she’s up to date on all her vaccinations as going outdoors will open a whole new world for her–complete with other, unvaccinated stray cats or pests that can expose her to diseases.

Civil disobedience cat

Tip: If your cat won’t move, just be patient. Don’t try to pull them around!

2. Get a kitty harness so she can’t run off into danger or get lost.

Some cats are more receptive to a harness than others. Perhaps your cat won’t even let you approach her holding it, in which case, maybe this won’t really work for you! However, if you’re gentle and encouraging, many cats will at least allow you to put the harness on them even if they obviously don’t seem to like it. Make sure to get a properly sized and adjustable one so that it’s comfortable but also so they can’t just slink out of it. Come With Me Kitty is a popular option that comes in many colors. It will take time for your cat to get used to it and she may exercise some civil disobedience at first by lying on the floor and refusing to move after you’ve put it on her. Just be patient. You can even try prompting her with treats. In the long run she probably won’t act like a dog on the harness, but she’ll be comfortable and confident enough to walk around.

Dax, my cat, wearing a harness.

Let her roll around on the floor or do whatever she needs to do to get comfortable. See how she’s eyeing that open door, though?

3. Take it slow.

Especially if you have a shy or timid kitty, the great outdoors is a place full of sensory stimuli that could potentially frighten her. Let her go out at her own pace and don’t keep her outside if she doesn’t like it. Start in an isolated area away from traffic, people, and other animals. I actually took Dax out on our balcony and she slowly but surely creeped out and then sniffed around like crazy. She was able to hear and see everything but had a critical advantage over potential threats because she was up high and felt safe.

4. Once they’re accustomed, continue to supervise them.

Most house cats don’t know how to survive outside and can get frightened easily. Being outdoors unsupervised could potentially allow them to get hurt, sick, or lost. For cats who are just learning about the outdoors, don’t leave them outside unsupervised!

Also by Sam: 3 Delicious Spring Cocktails 

In pets: 6 Ways to Cope with the Loss of a Pet

Soothing DIY Pet Wipes

 

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Photo: Samantha Lester; cheezburger.com

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Samantha is a vegan professional in the tech industry living in Austin, Texas with her boyfriend. Her background is in library & information science and classical studies. She loves cooking, biking, movies, reading, the science fiction & horror genres, crafting, thrifting, and the occasional video game. Check her out on Pinterest and Google+. You can also reach her at lestersn [at] gmail [dot] com.

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