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Should you let your cat outside?

When is it okay for cats to first go outside? Should they even go out at all? It can be daunting letting them out of your sight at first, so if you’re wondering if and when to start letting your cat roam outdoors, here’s what to know.

When is it okay for cats to first go outside? Should they even go out at all? It can be daunting letting them out of your sight at first, so if you’re wondering if and when to start letting your cat roam outdoors, here’s what to know.

Written by
Tom Harrison
Insurance expert
12 JANUARY 2022
5 min read
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Can I let my cat out straight away?

Welcoming a new cat into your home is an exciting event but also a nerve-racking one as it’s a big responsibility. You might be tempted to let them out straight away, especially if they’re a little bundle of energy and eagerly eyeing up the back garden. But it’s best to make sure your new arrival is settled indoors and comfortable around you and your family before gently introducing them to the wonders of the great outdoors.

Getting used to new surroundings can be daunting for a cat, however old they are, so don’t try to do too much too soon. By taking it slow, your pet will be able to enjoy a happy and healthy outdoors life at their own pace.

When can I let my cat outside?

It’s advisable to wait until your kitten is about five-months-old before letting it out on its own. And you shouldn’t let your kitten outside at all until at least a week after they’ve had their first vaccinations and been neutered.

It’s also a good idea to have your cat microchipped and to make sure it’s wearing a collar with an ID tag.

For older cats, keep them inside for two to three weeks (sometimes even longer) after you first take them home, depending on your cat’s personality. This will give your new pet time to adjust to its surroundings.

Benefits of letting cats outside

Cats love to climb trees and explore their local area, so it seems natural that you’d let them go outside. While there are sound reasons for keeping your pet cat safe indoors, there are even stronger arguments for letting them go outside:

  • Many cats find being indoors boring. Going outside provides them with a more varied and interesting environment.
  • There’s more opportunity to exercise and bask in the sunshine. Cats kept indoors are at risk of stress and obesity.
  • You won’t have to spend all your time cleaning out the litter tray as cats can do their business in the garden.
  • All cats need to scratch and spray. If you let them outside, they can do this on a tree and not on your furniture.

Risks of letting cats outside

While there are many advantages to letting your cat roam free outdoors, there are also some drawbacks:

  • Cats are at risk of injury from cars, particularly kittens that aren’t yet used to the dangers of the road.
  • Your cat may become trapped in someone’s garage or shed without access to food or water.
  • It’s common for cats to get into fights with other felines if they’re encroaching on their territory, causing injury, abscesses or infectious diseases.
  • Outdoor cats are more exposed to toxic substances like slug pellets, anti-freeze or rat poison.

Will my cat come back if I let it out? 

For first-time cat owners there’s always the worry that if you let your cat out, they’ll never come back. And, even with supervision, a cat that wants to escape will do so.

But cats enjoy their home comforts, and there are ways to encourage them to come back if they do wander off:

  • Let your cat out just before feeding time. That way, they’ll have an incentive to return promptly.
  • Call their name as you tap the food tin or shake their cat treats.
  • Be patient. Cats might not come when you want them to but, generally, they’ll return when they’re ready.
  • If you’re really worried, you can get a GPS tracking collar that lets you know where to find your pet.

How to prepare your cat for going outside

If you’re nervous about allowing your cat out for the first time, here are some pointers:

  • Don’t force your cat – let them venture out in their own time.
  • Make sure your outdoor space or garden is safe and inviting for your cat. That way, they won’t want to venture too far.
  • Sprinkle some soiled litter around the edges of your garden. This will help to establish your cat’s territory.
  • Be on hand to supervise once your cat starts exploring outdoors, but avoid picking them up as this can frighten them.
  • Get a magnetic cat flap. These allow your cat to come and go as they please – without bringing their friends with them.
Top tip – if you install a cat flap, help your pet get used to the sound it makes so they’re not freaked out by it. Give them a treat every time the flap closes and makes a noise so they associate it with something good.

Should I keep my cat indoors?

Some felines are house cats and stay indoors all the time. It might seem cruel, but there are a few reasons for this:

  • Breeders of certain pedigrees, such as Ragdolls, might recommend it.
  • Indoor cats are safe from dangers, like busy roads and foxes.
  • Some cats have medical problems or disabilities that mean they’re better off inside.
  • Expensive pedigree cats are at risk of being stolen.

Cats can thrive whether they live indoors or outdoors as long as you meet both their physical and emotional needs.

How can I keep my cat happy if it can’t go outside?

If you live in an upstairs flat or you have to keep your cat indoors, there are a few things you can do to make its life a happier one:

  • Give them stimulating toys to play with. Cat gyms, ping-pong balls, mouse toys, squeaky toys – give your cat plenty of options. It needn’t be expensive: string, tape measures and plastic bottles work just as well.
  • Make sure your cat has a scratching post. It also needs high shelves, boxes and cupboards it can jump up on.
  • Don’t let your cat onto a balcony or ledge if it’s not safe. You can give your cat fresh air by fixing mesh over the windows and opening them.

Where can I find cat insurance? 

Whether your cat is free to roam the great outdoors or a happily pampered house cat, the right pet insurance can give you peace of mind if they become ill or injured.

Start a quote today

Frequently asked questions

Should I bring my cat in at night?

It can be better to keep your cat indoors at night as there’s a greater risk of being hit by a car or encountering an aggressive fox. You can give your cat freedom with a cat flap, but you shouldn’t leave it locked out all night.

How do you call a cat back home?

If you’re worried about your cat being outside for too long, you can try to teach them to come to you when called. Call their name and reward them with a treat and a head rub when they come to you. Start by doing this in different locations around your home before trying it outside. Being cats, they may well ignore you, but the promise of treats might just encourage them.

Are vaccinations covered by my pet insurance?

Vaccinations, microchipping and vet fees for routine check-ups aren’t usually covered by pet insurance. It’s designed to help you if your cat suffers an injury or illness that needs treatment rather than covering standard appointments.

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