Letting your kitten outside for the first time can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience for you both. It’s a whole new world out there that your kitten has never seen with lots of new things to explore. Some kittens will enjoy being outside right away, but others may take a little longer to adjust. Help make that adjustment period easier and the outside world safer by taking these precautions.
Benefits of letting your cat go outside
- Your cat can express its natural instincts such as hunting and exploring
- They can exercise freely and use some of their energy
- The outdoors can give them a different source of mental stimulation and entertainment
- They can use the outdoors as their litter box
- It may help reduce their stress levels, helping them be more relaxed inside too.
When can kittens go outside?
Your kitten should be four months old or older before they head outside. By this time, they will be fully vaccinated, may have been neutered or spayed, have a microchip and be settled inside their home. All of which will help for a less worrying first experience outside.
What sort of preparations do you need to make before letting your kitten outside?
As a pet owner, it’s natural that you might feel anxious about this new step in your kitten’s life. There are some preparations that you can take to help alleviate these nerves and make it a happy, safe experience for everyone.
Prepare your garden
Making sure that your outside space or garden is safe and cat-friendly is a vital step to take before letting your kitten outside.
- Make sure that your plants are cat-friendly and non-toxic to your feline friend
- Cover ponds to minimise the risk of your cat falling in
- Safety-proof any pipes, holes in fences, or gaps between buildings to minimise the risk of harm to your cat
- Cat-proof any outbuildings, such as sheds or garages, by locking away any garden chemicals and making sure there’s nothing dangerous on the ground
- Think about how they will get into the garden and consider installing a cat flap for them to use
- Consider your surroundings while prepping your outdoor area, do you live somewhere quite rural or more residential with busy roads? This will help you decide how often you allow your cat outside and at what points during the day.
Microchip your kitten
For cats that have access to the outside, it’s vital they are microchipped. Having a microchip inserted is a quick procedure that will help a vet identify that the kitten is yours should they find themselves a bit too far from home.
Complete the primary vaccination course
Your kitten’s vaccination course will be complete from 12 weeks old, depending on when your vet can give them. Your kitten must have these vaccines before heading outside. You may also need to wait a short while until their immune system fully processes the vaccines.
Your vet will be able to advise on the vaccinations your kitten needs and how long it should take for them to be protected.
Have your kitten neutered
Our vets strongly advise that you consider getting your kitten neutered or spayed before they’re allowed outside without your supervision.
Female kittens can get pregnant at around 4 months old and male kittens will quickly develop a desire to wander to female cats. This adds a risk of them wandering too far from home, into busy roads, and also encountering infected cats.
A chat with your vet will help you to decide when the best time is to neuter or spay your kitten.
Tips for the first time you let your kitten outside
Now that your preparations are complete, your kitten is ready to head outside. Try using these top tips to make it a positive experience.
- Pick a quiet day when it is less likely that there will be loud, irregular noises
- Go outside with them and leave the door to the house open, letting them know that they can go back inside if they want to
- Take a tasty treat or their favourite toy with you to lure them back with a reward if needed and to keep the association with outside a positive one
- Let them explore at their own pace and try to stay calm
- Try a shorter period to begin with and slowly extend over time so they can get used to this new world you have introduced them to.
You can begin to let your cat come and go as they please once they are at ease outside and they consistently come back to you when you call.
I’ve adopted an older cat, when can they go outside?
If you’ve adopted an older cat, it’s likely that they are already well acquainted with being outside and exploring. How long you wait before allowing your new cat outside depends on the cat themselves and whether they are settled with their new owners.
As with a kitten, it is advised that you check your cats’ vaccinations, whether they are microchipped, and consider getting them neutered or spayed.
A good tip is to wait at least a couple of weeks after first bringing them home, giving them time to bond with you and settle inside first.
How to train your cat to use a cat flap
When your cat is a confident explorer, a cat flap is a good access point to allow your cat to come in and out of your home as they please.
For some cats, simply securing the cat flap open and letting them hop in and out will encourage them to use it. For others, it can be a bit more of a struggle, so try these ideas to build their confidence:
- Sit by the cat flap and hold it open whilst encouraging your cat in or out
- Use rewards, such as a treat or a toy to lure them through the cat flap and giving them a reward
- Build up a positive association with lots of praise.
Covering your cat
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