An indoor cat to outdoor cat transition doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult, as I will explain in this article.
If you have an indoor cat, a kitten, or have adopted a cat that’s now ready to start going outside, there are a few things to consider and be aware of if you want the transaction to be smooth and successful.
The great outdoors presents a whole new environment to explore. On the plus side, their senses will be overloaded with curious smells, things to see, wildlife to chase, and playing to be done.
The drawbacks are that there are some serious risks and hazards out there, especially when going outdoors is new to cats.
You also need to be sure they’ll come back when you want, and be identified and returned should they get lost and found.
We all worry about our cats when they’re out. It’s perfecetly normal.
I’ve seen quite a few cats through this transaction over the years, and it’s always gone well.
So, I decided to detail how to transition an indoor cat to an outdoor cat to help you with this slightly nerve-racking experience.
I hope you find everything you need in this article. I welcome any feedback and additional tips, just drop me a note at the end of the article. Thanks.
Safety First – Things to Do Before Letting Your Cat Outside
I’ll start off by covering the safety basics before letting your cat outside. I know how unnerving it is the first time you let them out, and it’s always a bit of worry wondering what they are up to out there.
I strongly recommend you do the following before transitioning your cat into an outdoor cat:
Have them microchipped – Microchips are small electronic devices about the size of a grain of rice. They hold a unique number that enables vets to identify who the cat belongs to should they be found.
Your vet will, or should be able to fit one for you. It’s not very expensive, it’s painless for your cat, but it’s a must if you ask me, so I recommend getting one fitted.
Fit a safety collar – If you have an indoor cat you have the luxury of giving them a bling collar to show off, or no collar at all.
Outdoor cats should wear safety collars. Safety collars have a quick release mechanism, so if they should get their collar caught on a branch or something while climbing it’ll snap off before causing them any harm.
You also need a flea collar if they are going outside. The good news is, there is a way to protect against fleas and give them a high-quality safety collar.
I recommend considering a Seresto Flea and Tick Collar. It’s the one I use, most importantly it’s the most effective I’ve found for keeping my cats free of fleas, and it’s a decent all around safe collar.
Get Up-To-Date with Vaccinations – This is a question for your vet. But I have to mention it as I know it’s something a lot of cat owners don’t think about.
Depending on where you live, the age and breed of your cat, and some other factors unique to your cat, your vet will let you know which vaccinations they recommend to protect them.
Indoor Cat to Outdoor Cat Transition – 5 Steps to Follow
There are a few basic steps to follow when letting a cat outside for the first time. Here’s what I recommend:
Start with Your Enclosed Yard If Possible
Ideally, if you have a nice large yard you can let you cat out there for 30 minutes or so at a time to take in all the smells and sounds of the outdoors.
This will help them get used to being outside without getting out of your line of sight and disappearing.
Let Them out Before Meal Time
It won’t surprise you to know that cats are motivated by food. Sound familiar when you take a look over at your kitty?
Choose a Good Time to Let Them Out
By good time, I would suggest a nice quiet time with good weather. You can expect them to be a little jumpy when they are taking in the new sights and sounds, so pick the quietest possible time.
First impressions are very important. Any loud bangs or thing that cause them stress might force them to hide indoors for a while.
Call Them Back After 15 Minutes
As mentioned earlier, if your cat is due to eat they should come back when you make some noise they are familiar with and associate with feeding time.
Call them in and feed them after 15 minutes or so exploring outside. This will set the pattern for coming back, and it’s something that has worked with every cat I’ve ever let outside.
Gradually Increase Their Outdoors Time
From here on it’s just a process of gradually increasing how much time they spend outdoors each day.
For the first few weeks keep it to daytime only and pick those quiet times when they can freely explore as pointed out earlier.
You will get a feel as their owner how much they are enjoying their time outdoors and how long it takes to call them back in.
You will be able to judge how often and when to let them out. As well as seeing how much of an outdoors cat they become.
Some cats just don’t like going out often, so don’t be surprised or worried if they just turn round and go lay on the couch sometimes.
Bonus Tip – Consider Using a Cat Flap
While transitioning your cat from an indoor kitty to an outdoor one I recommend installing a cat flap if possible.
I say ‘if possible’ because we don’t always have doors that are ideal for cat flaps. There is usually a way, but if you have glass doors it can be a little more tricky.
Anyway, if you’re not sure of the pros and cons to fitting a cat flap, here are some reasons why I recommend it:
- It saves you opening and closing the door everytime your cat wants to come in/go out.
- You can fit a magnet to your cat’s collar so only they can use their cat flap.
- You can lock the cat flap at night if you want to keep them in.
- They encourage more independence and make exercise more accessible.
Giving cats access to the great outdoors is a wonderful and fun experience.
Cats love exploring and playing outdoors, and while they might bring back the occasional present or pick up a scratch or two – it’s more mentally stimulating for them than being indoors.
If you follow the steps and safety precautions I’ve outlined in this article I’m sure the indoor cat to outdoor cat transition will go smoothly, regardless of how long they’ve lived indoors.
PS – I wrote an article about keeping outdoors cats cool in the summer which is worth a read if it’s hot outside right now.
6 thoughts on “A Smooth Indoor Cat to Outdoor Cat Transition in 5 Steps + Tips”
Thanks for such a great source of useful information. Fleas and ticks are a common problem in our area, especially in summer and autumn. I use some natural means for my cats for flea prevention. Apple cider vinegar is really helpful for that purpose.
Hi Brian. Would you mind sharing how you use the apple cider vinegar? Do you apply it topically or give to them to drink?
I give my cats a bit of wet food every day and I always tap the can with a spoon for a bit.
When I want my cats to come home, I tap the can outside and they come running. Always remember to give them some or they’ll quit.
Thank you for your advise – I have 2 cats
One is quiet adventurous and isn’t motivated by food.
She also doesn’t come when her name is called.
The other a little more timid though is getting more curious. Yes is food orientated though both are very fussy and I have yet to find something they can’t get enough of.
Any advise is welcomed on bring them back into the house.
I have had my cat for 7 months, he is an indoor cat. I had a cat before my husband got me to send last one back because he was annoyed the neighbour was keeping him in. This cat is a beautiful ginger and white and everyone likes him. He does have a heart murmur and is having another scan end of June. He is not going out on a lead and wants only to be outside. I am worried the neighbour keeps him in. At the moment he has a beta blocker medication. He is meowing a lot to go outside. He has been outside today, he doesnt come back easily.
My two year old cat is small but adventurous. Yesterday she snuck past me and climbed roof-height in a tree before she came back down. I am worried to let her out without a harness now. But maybe I am over protective? I am just worried to let her have access to outside all day, and not sure she will come back. She does not respond to calling her name.
Also, I am thinking of when the weather turns wet and cold. She may not agree with not going outside then. Thoughts?