10 tips for getting your cat outside safely for the first time

Cats are naturally curious creatures that love to go outside for adventures. When you have a kitten, have just moved or when your cat is not used to going outside, this can be quite an exciting step for both the animal and the owner. In this blog, we give you 10 tips on how to best prepare your cat so he can go outside safely and then come back home.

At what age may a cat go outside?

In principle, it is not age-specific when it is best for a cat to go outside for the first time. However, for kittens it is advised to let them go outside only from six months of age. This is because a kitten can become in heat and thus pregnant as early as four months. Most people are not waiting for an unplanned litter and certainly not when the cat is still so young. It is therefore important that you wait until your cat is old enough to have him or her spayed/neutered. Also, a six-month-old kitten has had vaccinations. Of course, this doesn't just apply to kittens: it's also best to have older cats neutered and vaccinated before they explore outside.

Practice indoors first
It is best to make sure a cat is comfortable indoors before you begin introducing it to the outdoors. Have you recently moved? If so, keep the cat inside for at least a month after moving so it can get used to its new surroundings and to prevent the cat from running back to its old home.

Inside the house, you can teach the cat to come to you when you call it or whistle, for example. Practice this regularly and at different times and, of course, reward him exuberantly with some treat or attention if he obeys.

How do you prepare a cat for the outdoors?
Prior to actually letting a cat outside, it is wise to take some precautions. We'll discuss the most important ones with you below:

Have the cat chipped
Although it is not mandatory in the Netherlands to chip a cat, it is recommended. You can have a cat chipped at the vet as early as 9 weeks of age. A chip contains a unique identification number so a cat can always be recognized. This number is linked to the data of the cat's owner (name, address and phone number). If the cat is lost and found by someone, a veterinarian can read the chip and thereby quickly contact the cat's owner.

Make sure the cat is vaccinated
We mentioned it briefly above, but make sure your cat is up-to-date on vaccinations when it goes outside. This way the cat is protected from nasty diseases, but you also protect cats of other cat owners from diseases.

Spay or neuter the cat
As a cat owner of a female cat, you are probably not waiting for unplanned litters. If you have a male cat, of course, you don't run this risk, but males are generally more likely to run away from home if they smell a cat in heat. Also, uncastrated males fight with each other more often. So in that sense, it doesn't matter whether you have a cat or a male cat: having the cat spayed/neutered before you let him or her out is definitely recommended.

Safety collar with tag
An additional way to make a cat recognizable is to put a collar with tag on it that has the cat's name and your phone number on it. If you want to put a collar on your cat, make sure it is a safety collar (with elastic or a special click-clasp, for example) in case the cat accidentally gets caught on, say, a branch. By putting a cat on a collar with a tag, the owner can be quickly located without having to read the chip.

Make the yard cat-friendly and inviting
Unfortunately, the outdoor environment cannot be controlled, but you can of course make sure your yard is safe for cats. Therefore, seal up all holes and other places where it would be attractive for a cat to crawl in and clean up toxic cleaning products, weed killers and garden tools. If you also provide your garden with fun and inviting places for your cat (for example, a scratching post, an object on which it can climb and have a good vantage point, a comfortable and sunny place where it can sleep, and some suitable and safe plants for cats in which it can sniff) this may even encourage the cat not to go far from home.

Cat goes outside for the first time

Yes, it is finally here! You have made good preparations so your cat can go outside. Here are the most important tips for when you let your cat out for the first time:

Tip 1: A cat harness
You may not want to let your cat run free, but you still want to take him outside. You may also find it exciting to let your cat out completely free the first time. A cat harness can then be an ideal solution, provided the cat is used to it. So it is important to first train indoors with putting on and walking with a harness. If you don't do this, a harness will be counterproductive and stressful.

Tip 2: Walk the cat outside with you
If you have an insecure cat, it may help to walk it outside with you the first few times. This way the cat has support from you and it gives him a little extra confidence. When you notice that the cat is relaxed and exploring, you can walk back inside.

Tip 3: Let the cat out only during the day.
Cats are twilight hunters. If your cat is not used to being outside in the dark, it is therefore more likely to get lost when exploring. Therefore, for the first period, leave the cat outside only during the day so that he has a chance to explore the daylight environment and learn the way back home.

Tip 4: Choose quiet moments
Do you live in a busy area? If so, don't let the cat out during peak hours. This is because at busy and stressful times, a cat may get spooked and flee or be afraid to go outside next time. Keep the cat inside even with rain, thunderstorms and fireworks and choose quieter times to let the cat out for the first time.

Tip 5: Let the cat out just before feeding time.
A cat that has not been outside before is used to being fed at home. Therefore, it will come back home when it is hungry. So when you first let the cat outside around feeding time, he is less likely to stay away for hours. Also, if the cat has caught prey outside, it is more likely to eat it at home.

Tip 6: Play with the cat before you let it outside
Do you have an enterprising or very playful cat? Then choose to play with your cat first before you let him out. This will ensure that the cat is already a little tired and not brimming with energy when you let him out, making it less likely that he will go on an adventure for hours.

Tip 7: Call the cat in between visits
Don't just call the cat inside when it's actually time to stay in, but do this a few times and then reward him and let him out again. This way you prevent the cat from associating coming home with staying inside and keep coming home fun for the cat.

Tip 8: Always leave a window, door or cat flap open
When a cat has to wait in front of a closed door, it doesn't exactly motivate him to come back home nicely. Therefore, always leave a window or door open or purchase a cat flap. In addition, it is important that the cat always has the opportunity to go inside if he wants to seek safety. If it cannot go inside at all times, it will seek another hiding place, which can make it difficult to find the cat again.

Tip 9: Stay calm if the cat doesn't come back right away
Does your cat not come back immediately when you call him? Then stay calm and don't yell or run after the cat to try to pick it up. Food with a strong scent can help lure the cat. Place the food outside by the door, hold the door open and wait quietly for the cat to return.

Tip 10: Slowly build up the time the cat is outside
Practice is the key to success. Let the cat out every day and build the training session a little longer each time. When your cat keeps coming back cleanly, you can let it out for a slightly longer time unsupervised with a sense of confidence.

With the above preparations and tips, your cat can safely go outside for an adventure!

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