Letting your cat outside for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. But it’s a step that most cat-owners will have to take at some point. So will he come back?
Can Cats Find Their Way Home?
In most cases your cat will return from his first adventure safe and sound.
To get around, cats use a combination of sight, smell, sound and touch, relying on these highly-developed senses to explore and patrol their territory.
They can also use smell markers to find their way home.
Although some questions remain about specific elements of felines’ ‘homing instincts’, there’s no doubt that cats, by hook or by crook, usually find their way back to base.
Nevertheless, we’ve put together this guide to help ensure that this formative rite of passage is smooth for both you and your beloved!
Why Let Your Cat Go Outside?
Domesticated cats often spend a lot of time indoors.
Their home provides a safe and secure habitat that can protect them from rival felines, dogs and other animals that might pose a threat.
They love to explore and are stimulated by the smells, sights and sounds of the great outdoors. What’s more, as natural hunters, they thrive from hunting and stalking prey.
Outdoor cats are typically healthier too because they get more exercise and fresh air than their indoor counterparts. So letting your cat go outside allows it to get the best of both worlds.
Is It Cruel to Keep My Cat Indoors All the Time?
Should you keep your cat indoors or outdoors? Well, this question generates plenty of debate in the cat owner community. And it’s true that there are some benefits to keeping a cat inside permanently.
For one thing, you’ll have more control over his health and well-being. There’s obviously less chance of him being struck by a car or getting into a fight with another cat.
The indoor option is also going to be more suitable for cats with a medical problem or disability.
However, keeping a cat indoors all the time denies it the opportunity to exercise, explore and hunt prey – things that are instinctive for most cats.
A lot of home-bound felines become stressed and can put on weight if confined.
This problem may be exacerbated if your new cat has already experienced outdoor life.
Should you opt to keep your cat indoors, try to make the decision as early as possible, preferably when it’s still a kitten. Here are additional steps you should take, as per the UK’s RSPCA website:
- Place Litter Tray in a Quiet Place
- Ensure Your Cat Has Sufficient Space
- Provide Them with Two Types of Resting Place
- Provide Multiple Scratching Posts
- Keep Them Active
- Interact with Them Regularly
- Don’t Leave Them Alone too Often
At What Age Can Cats Go Outside?
In general, cats should not go outside unsupervised if they’re less than 12 weeks old.
By this time, their physical and social skills will have developed to a stage that allows them to handle some of the challenges of being outdoors.
Provided they’ve had their vaccinations and a microchip, you could accompany them outside if you feel confident that they wouldn’t escape.
However, introducing kittens to the outdoors isn’t usually recommened before six months. If you’ve acquired an adult cat, a settling-in period of 4 – 6 weeks is recommended.
This will allow him to become more comfortable with his new home.
How Far Do Cats Roam?
It is thought that domestic cats can travel up to a quarter a mile a day according to some studies. Generally-speaking though, most domestic urban cats roam up to 200 meters from their home.
Because they’re territorial, their outdoor activities tend to revolve around patrolling their patch, exploring and hunting.
Unsterilized cats can also spend a lot of time searching for a mate which means plenty of outdoors time.
How to Train Cats to Come Home
Allowing your cat to explore the great blue yonder can be stressful. Happily, there are plenty of methods you can use to ensure at least some peace of mind.
Create a Positive Environment
To begin with, you should make sure that your cat is comfortable and happy in your home environment.
This means making your abode secure and stress-free. Your cat needs a safe space where it can eat, rest and relieve itself.
Show Love and Be Attentive
Although independent and sometimes aloof, cats need love and attention just like their canine counterparts.
Being around people can be reassuring and improve their social skills. Showing love and being attentive is therefore crucial, especially if your kitten or newly-introduced cat is getting used to its new environment.
Sterilisation is an important decision for any owner. But keep in mind that many spayed and neutered cats won’t be as keen to go outside and will stay closer to home.
Male cats in particular tend to avoid confrontations with other toms as well.
Train Your Cat to Return When Called
Cats are very independent creatures and they often have a mind of their own. So it’s not always easy to train them to come when you want them to.
A popular approach is to reward the cat with treats when he does something right such as coming when called.
This helps him to associate that behavior with getting a treat. Once you have established this association, it’ll be easier for your cat to follow your commands.
Also get into the habit of calling for your cat when indoors, such as at meal times.
Purchase a Cat Flap
Cat flaps are pretty much an essential purchase. As well as letting your pet come and go, they’re a great way to keep him safe and secure.
The best cat flaps are two-way allowing you to lock it from the inside and outside.
In addition to preventing other neighbourhood cats from entering your home, you can keep your cat indoors as and when you please.
Keep Tabs on Tabby with GPS Tracking
A cat GPS tracker is a device that can be attached to a cat’s collar. These use GPS technology to track and monitor the location of your pet.
When activated, it sends you updates on its location to an app on your smartphone or computer.
Some also send text updates, while other higher spec versions come equipped with built-in SIM cards.
These models allow you to view maps and receive alerts when your cat gets too far away from home.
Some of the most pet tracking trusted brands include PetFon, Cube and Tractive – all offer innovative solutions for keeping track of your cat.
Whichever one you choose, you’ll know exactly where your cat is at all times – useful if you’re letting your cat out the first couple of times or if it’s gone missing.
It’s important to get your cat micro-chipped so that he can be easily identified. Cat microchips are inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades via a painless injection.
The chip contains a unique number and barcode that gets recorded on a national database along with your address.
Should your cat go missing and get taken to a vet or cat shelter, they’ll be able to scan the barcode to retrieve your details.
Letting your cat out for the first time is a big step for you and your pet. While we certainly advocate allowing cats access to the outdoors, there are going to be some instances where this isn’t advisable.
For those of you that do allow your feline outside, be assured that most cats have pretty good homing instincts.
And as this article discusses, there are plenty of measures you can take to ensure that he returns as expected. So try not to fret about this important stage.