Turning your couch-loving feline into an adventurous outside cat is a slow and gradual process. Many before you have felt slightly anxious about kitty’s first steps into the big outside world. Luckily, there is a lot you can do to make the transition as safe and comfortable as possible, without having to worry about dangers lurking around every corner.
A slow start
As a worried cat mom, this is probably what you want to hear; allow your cat to explore your garden or immediate outside area, while being safely monitored by you. Ten minutes at a time is enough for her to smell the nature and get used to being outside - but still right at her home.
Call her back in by using treats - with time, you can simply stand in the door and call her name when it’s time to be inside, and you’ll see her leaping in within a couple of minutes.
This slow beginning comes with a handful of alternative methods; my mother-in-law swears to smear a bit of unsalted butter on their paws and leaving them alone for a good half hour in the garden to lick it all off. It shows them that this is where they’re going to be treated, she claims, and I’ve successfully applied butter on my own cat to humor her. He always came back home, so who knows - maybe it works?
Health and Safety
Being outside means getting used to an entirely different environment, with all its good and evil, which your cat has never been exposed to before. It’s important that all of her vaccinations are up to date, so schedule your regular trip to the veterinarian before you start the transition to becoming an outside cat.
They’ll be scavenging every bush they can find and attempt to conquer each tree in your garden, so remember to get treatment for flea and ticks for cats - particularly now that it’s summer. Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinations in case she gets into a fight with a neighbor cat, too, as well as spaying or neutering. It’s necessary in order to keep your male cat safe as he will be less likely to wander off far from home, as well as the safety of your neighbor cats since he’ll be less likely to pick a fight with them. We want calm and relaxed cats in the neighborhood - not ferocious felines, looking for trouble.
If your cat is declawed, you should think twice about letting her outside, though, as she won’t be able to match the claws of a potential attacker.
Food and Shelter
The younger your cat is, the easier it will be for her to get used to these changes. When everything else is taken care of, all you can do is make sure she has a safe place to hide if things go down with the gang of cats in your street, as well as access to food and water. Those electronic pet doors are brilliant, but if this isn’t where you are quite yet, you should provide a sheltered spot for her on your property with access to water that she can retreat to.
As a cat owner, it makes sense that you’re a bit worried in the beginning - it is, after all, like unleashing your hairy child into a dangerous and ruthless world. With a bit of time and these handy tips, your fur-friend will be as street smart as any old stray out there - and have a warm and comforting home to which she can return after a day of adventures.
"A cat improves the garden wall in sunshine, and the hearth in foul weather." - Judith Merkle Riley
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