When can kittens and cats go outside?

How old do kittens have to be before they can go outside? And can they go outside immediately after their vaccinations? If you’re wondering when to start letting your cat out, here’s all the information you need.

How old do kittens have to be before they can go outside? And can they go outside immediately after their vaccinations? If you’re wondering when to start letting your cat out, here’s all the information you need.

Mubina Pirmohamed
Insurance expert
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Posted 13 SEPTEMBER 2021

When should I let my kitten outside?

It’s not safe for a kitten to venture outside until at least a week after their initial vaccinations. That’s when they’re around 13-14 weeks old.

It’s unlikely you’ll take ownership of your cat much before then anyway, since a kitten should be with its mother until it’s at least eight weeks old – ideally 12-13 weeks.

What age can kittens go outside?

Letting your cat outside for the first time can be worrying. Kittens are tiny and vulnerable, and there are plenty of hazards to be cautious of – from roads to foxes to disease.

For that reason, it’s best not to let your kitten out on its own until it’s around five months old. A cat that’s older can (and should) go out into the garden before then, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on them.

Letting your kitten out for the first time

There are a few things to bear in mind before your cat’s ready to explore the world outside your home on its own. It’s sensible to choose a dry day when it’s quiet – so no kids playing football in a neighbour’s garden, for example. It can be a good idea to let your cat out just before a mealtime, so they’re more likely to be tempted back indoors by food if necessary - but get the food ready first, so you don’t have to leave your cat unsupervised while you prepare their food.

Start by keeping outdoor sessions brief. It’s also wise to begin training your cat to come to your call before you let them out.

  • Your kitten needs supervision: Kittens are curious and can squeeze into tight spaces. Let them discover their new outside space at their own pace and stay with them until they’re used to your garden, and understand how to get in and out of the house.
  • Socialise your cat: It’s really important to socialise your kitten as early as possible. This will help them get used to people and other cats – and enjoy being petted.
  • Have your cat microchipped: If your pet’s microchipped, a vet can identify them and give you a call if they get lost.
  • Have your cat neutered: Don’t forget to have your cat neutered before you let it out on its own. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a whole brood of kittens to take care of! It’s recommended that you have your kitten neutered at four months. Many owners do it too late, which, sadly, means there are a lot of unwanted cats in shelters around the UK.
  • Use a quick-release collar: Quick-release collars snap open automatically if they get caught on something. This makes them the safest option for inquisitive cats, who can get stuck on tree branches or poles.
  • Watch out for dangerous plants: Some plants are poisonous to cats, so you might want to remove them from your garden. Cats will generally avoid eating them, but young kittens may be inquisitive so it’s best to be safe. Plants harmful to cats include:  Ivy, Chrysanthemums, Lilies, Tulip, daffodil and narcissus bulbs, Poppies, Peony, Marigold, Cornflower. If you think your cat has eaten a poisonous plant, contact your vet as soon as possible for advice. If you wait to see if they develop symptoms, it may already be too late to save them.
  • Make sure your garden is cat-friendly: Check your garden is fully enclosed and your kitten can’t escape – especially if you’re close to a busy road. Make sure you haven’t recently put down slug pellets or rat poison that your kitten might be tempted to eat. If you have a pond or a pool, are there any dangers for your kitten?
  • Get a cat flap: This will give your kitten the freedom to come and go as it pleases. You can train your kitten to use the cat flap by propping it open to start with and encouraging your kitten through with food treats. They’ll eventually become confident enough to go through the cat flap on their own.

I’ve adopted an older cat. How soon can they go outside?

If you’ve adopted an older cat, you’re generally advised to keep them in for two or three weeks (maybe even a little longer) to give them a chance to settle in. Some cats will take happily to this enforced period of being indoors, while others will be frustrated by not going out. Make sure your cat feels properly at home before you let it outside.

As with a kitten, accompany your cat outside for the first time and have some food ready to tempt them back inside, if necessary.

I’ve moved house. When can I let my cat go outside?

It’s important that your cat stays indoors for the first two weeks, at least, after you move. Cats need time to get used to new surroundings and feel at home again. If you let them out too soon, they could try to return to their previous home and put themselves in danger.

Some experts recommend that a few days before you let your cat out for the first time, you sprinkle used cat litter around the outside edge of the garden. This means your pet will sense familiar smells when they go outside, and it also acts as a warning to other cats in the area that there’s a new cat around.

When you let your cat out for the first time, follow the suggestions recommended for kittens to help your cat feel and be safe.

Do I need to insure my kitten?

It’s highly recommended, yes. If your kitten gets into an accident, almost all pet insurance policies will cover that, subject to an excess that you’ll need to pay. Vet bills are expensive - without insurance, they can be a significant cost for you to cover.

And insuring your kitten doesn’t need to be expensive. 

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