Advice on letting your cat/ kitten out for the first time
Indoors or outdoors?
Many people are somewhat risk averse when it comes to letting their kitten outside into the big wide world. Keeping a cat indoors will ultimately be safer. However, like their wild counterparts, cats love freedom and outdoor activity, behaviours which are important for their well-being. In many ways, the practicalities of keeping them inside forever are often prohibitive. Some people manage to alter their gardens so that the cat has no opportunity to escape but can still enjoy outside life in some sort of a cage or pen. However for most owners in the UK, letting our cats roam free is the norm and most feline professionals agree that being “free range” and able to exhibit all their natural instincts is best for their mental welfare.
For most new kitten owners, having to let them outside for the first time is a pretty scary experience. Here are a few tips which will hopefully make you a bit less anxious!
Before letting your new kitten outside:
- IMPORTANT. Ensure she/he is micro-chipped. This has to be done at the vets and means a little device the size of a grain of rice is implanted under the skin on the back of the neck. This permanently identifies the cat and can be read by a scanner at any vets or rescue centre (should your cat get lost). Your details (Name and address etc.) will be on a database enabling you to be traced quickly.
- If you want, your kitten can also wear a collar with your details on a tag. The advantage of this is that the kitten looks owned, and therefore less likely to be treated as a stray if he does go walkabouts. Please make sure, if your kitten does wear a collar, that it is a safety release collar to ensure they do not get trapped or stuck.
- Prior to any trips outside it is worth considering how you are going to give them access to the outdoors long term. If you are at home for long periods, then letting your kitten/ cat in and out through a door or window on demand is fine. However, for most people out at work, it is more convenient to install a cat flap. By fitting this straight away, you can teach your kitten from the word go how to use it. Magnetic and microchip flaps can only be accessed by your individual cat, making it impossible for intruding cats to access your house and food!
The outside world is full of hazards for cats, so get the following sorted before they venture outside
- Vaccinations: Because of potential infections, your kitten should not be allowed outside until a week after its last injection – usually around 12-13 weeks of age. For further information on vaccinations >
- Fleas and other parasites: Other cats in the neighbourhood can give your kitten fleas if they come close so make sure your kitten is protected with appropriate preventative treatment. Ask about this at your vaccination appointment. For further advice on fleas and worms >
- Neutering: It is a good idea to have your kitten neutered before they are given complete freedom outside. This can be done around 4 months of age or when they weigh 2kg. They will be less prone to wandering a long way from home in their bid to find a mate! For further information on the benefits of neutering >
On the big day
- Choose a dry day if possible.
- Do not feed your kitten before letting it out. (It is used to being fed indoors so will be more likely to return when hunger strikes!)
- Excitements, such as other cats, dogs, and children etc., should be excluded if possible, so that your kitten isn’t spooked by them and just concentrates on you.
- Allow your kitten to look out through the door and make its own way outside. Or, open the cat flap for it to look. Depending on the boldness of your kitten, it may hang back or dash out!
- Accompany your kitten. It is likely to be timid and unlikely to bolt off. If he gets frightened make sure he can always see his way back to the door/inside and safety.
- Gradually escort your kitten further from the door/ house. His confidence will grow and he will soon be into everything!
- If he climbs a tree and appears to be stuck, don’t call the fire brigade… just wait patiently. They (nearly) always come down of their own accord!
- It is a good idea to finish the outside practice session by calling your kitten in and feeding him. Cats can be easily trained to come to the ringing of a bell. It saves having to shout across the neighbourhood and the sound carries much further making it a much more efficient tool. Always remember to feed them when they come!