Not many owners would prefer to have their cats lurking outdoors where felines are more likely to face dangers such as road accidents, predatory animals, poisoning, and diseases. If you visit forums discussing the topic, cat owners would vehemently insist that domestic cats are better off indoors, where they can live longer and peaceful lives.
But we also know that cats have varying personalities, interests, and temperaments. If your pet is showing strong inclinations to outdoor cat behavior, or if you just adopted a stray who’s more used to the life of an adventurer, the most important thing you can do is to make sure he’s trained for it.
An outdoor cat can benefit from exercise and increased social activity. There are no limits to the heights it can climb or the ground it can explore. The outdoors panders to its baser instinct to prey and hunt. Cats are also free to exhibit instinctive behavior that may not be that well-received indoors, such as scratching. As a responsible cat owner, you have to carefully assess if your surroundings are a safe enough place to minimize risk, and of course, it’s important you know how to take care of an outdoor cat.
Taking Care of an Outdoor Cat
1. Consider An Outdoor Enclosure.
You may be fearful about letting your cat go out on its own, and those fears wouldn’t entirely be unfounded. Indoor cats live far longer than outdoor cats after all. You can find some sort of middle ground by providing an enclosed outdoor space right where you can keep an eye out for your pet.
You can try building a DIY cat enclosure, or what is popularly known to cat lovers, these days as “catios.” It’s a safe way to keep your outdoor-loving cat happy, minus the risk. These cat enclosures can be built in the garden where the cat can enjoy the sunshine and other outdoor sights and sounds within a safe space. YouTube cat celebrities Cole and Marmalade shared this video where their owners introduced them to a new catio for the first time.
Now if you don’t exactly have a big yard or have yet to find the materials or the time to build a catio, the garage can be a good place for your outdoor cat. Find a box or any container that can serve as a shelter. Cut holes through them and put in some nice blankets to keep your cat comfortable. Keep the door to the garage open so your cat can return safely when it ventures out from time to time. Just make sure to pound on the hood of your car before you go out in case your cat decides to cozy up in the engine compartment.
2. Make Food And Water Available.
If you’re training an outdoor cat, it’s still essential that you ensure that its basic needs are provided for the times it returns home. Regularly replenish his food and water supply, which you can stock up in automatic feeders and water dishes.
3. Visit The Vet.
Outdoor cats have higher exposure to parasites, injuries, and other disease-causing bacteria. Regular visits to the vet to keep his vaccines up to date would go a long way to keeping your cat healthy.
You might also want to get your cat microchipped in one of those visits for identification purposes, in case your cat gets lost. Another important reminder: Never declaw an outdoor cat. Without claws, he won’t be able to defend himself outside and would find it difficult to climb walls or trees when he needs to escape or avoid danger.
4. Keep Spending Quality Time.
Outdoor cats may be more independent, but they would still appreciate the occasional quality time with you. Every time he comes back, spend time playing or just sitting down with your cat. Most owners of outdoor cats prefer to have their cats indoors by night time. Try luring him back inside with treats before it’s dark, for his own safety.
Training an Outdoor Cat
You might be interested in training a new kitten to be a “mouser,” meaning it can hunt rodents and other prey. If you think your cat has what it takes to become an effective mouser, follow these steps on how to make a kitten an outdoor cat:
1. Start With A Cage Or Crate Training.
Within the first week of introducing a kitten to your home, keep it inside a crate or a cage as it starts to familiarize itself with its surroundings. The enclosure must be spacious and comfortable enough. Feed him inside the crate and give him toys to play with.
2. Allow Limited Outdoor Time.
It would take at least a week for the kitten to be completely comfortable. When you feel that it’s ready, you can allow it to go out of its cage to explore. You might want to leash train your cat so you can take strolls together at first. Leash training would also effectively teach your cat the benefits of exploring outdoors and at the same time, train him to return home at the end of each day. PawMaw also offers some helpful tips on cat leash training.
3. Watch Your Cat Hunt.
If you have brought home a kitten that has the inclination to hunt, it will hunt on its own without any need for training. Don’t be surprised if a dead bird or rodent shows up on your doorstep on some days. To these hunting creatures, it’s a sort of “gift” to their human owners.
4. Get Your Cat Spayed or Neutered.
Cats that aren’t neutered, have greater chances of roaming away from home, according to Pennsylvania vet Ariel Mosenco, DVM. When your mouser is about five months old, this would be a good time to take it to the vet for the procedure.
Whether you want to train an outdoor cat to stay indoors or are interested in raising a hunter that would keep rodents and pets away, always put your cat’s health and safety first. If you and your family know how to take care of an outdoor cat, your cat will know well enough always to return home no matter how exciting and stimulating the outside world can be.