Introducing your cat to the outside
Your cat will want to go out and explore the garden and beyond. Follow these tips to help ensure your cat can explore – and come home safely.
How long before letting your cat outside
Adult cats - How long you leave it before letting your cat outside depends on the cat's personality but generally it's best to allow two to six weeks after you first take them home.
Kittens - The timescale is different for kittens. To prevent your kitten getting frightened, losing their way home or picking up an infection, keep them indoors until they are at least six months old and have had all their vaccinations.
Preparing for the outside
Before your cat sets out to explore, make sure they have been microchipped and fit them with an identification disc carrying your contact details. Even if your cat has been microchipped, this disc makes it even easier to identify and return them if they go missing. Also remember to keep your cat's microchip details fully up to date.
A safety collar is also a good idea in case your cat gets into a difficult situation. Luminous or reflective collars make it easy for your cat to be spotted by car drivers.
The first visit outside
- Never force your cat outside, they must make the transition at their own pace.
- Your cat will be nervous, so make sure you supervise their first encounters with the great outdoors. Let them out for a short period, then encourage them back in.
- The first visit outside should take place ten minutes before feeding time. Gradually increase the time to twenty minutes before the meal on the next visit and so on.
- Teach your cat to recognise a sound or signal that tells them that dinner is ready. Rattle the food box, tap the side of the can with a fork or call the cat's name every time you feed them.
- As the initial encounters with the outside world have to be supervised, make sure that your back door is shut and that windows aren't left open in the summer. If your resident cat has a cat flap, ensure your new cat can't follow them out.
- If you have a dog, keep him inside when you first let your cat out. He may be tempted to chase when he sees them in an outside space.
Encouraging your cat to use a cat flap
For cats, the cat flap is the equivalent of having their own key to the door. If you are at work all day a cat flap gives your cat access to your house and the outside world. Although it gives them the freedom to come and go as they please, they might need some encouragement to actually use it.
These tips will help your cat get started:
- Choose your cat flap carefully. Some cats don't like the solid type as they can't see through it and get anxious about what might be on the other side. A see-through Perspex cat flap lets your cat see what's in store – both good and bad!
- Tape open the cat flap and use a tasty treat to coax your cat through it. They will soon get the idea that they can go through it, so you can gradually leave the flap down and encourage the cat to push on it.
- If your cat develops behavioural problems after the flap is fitted, it's usually because another cat is using it to get in to your house, or your cat is being bullied outside by another cat.
- There are lots of different types of cat flap including those with scanners which identify your cat's microchip, or electric cat flaps which involve fitting a device to your cat's collar. These innovations ensure you don't play host to some uninvited guests. Other cats coming into your home will stress your cat and lead to fights and messing in the house.