Letting your kitten or cat outside for the first time
This is an exciting moment in a cat’s life, but equally a worrying moment for any owner. There are various things to consider before letting your cat outdoors:
- Does it have appropriate identification? Either a microchip implant or a suitable collar with a tag
- Has it had its vaccinations? Cats should have their full course of immunisations before exploring the big outdoors. This will protect them against flu, enteritis and leukaemia virus.
- Is their parasite control up to date? Once outdoors, your cat will be exposed to fleas, ticks and worms: regular treatment of these will prevent them (and your house!) from becoming infested!
- Has your cat been neutered? Most cats can be neutered from 4-5 months old, stopping any unwanted or unplanned litters. Entire male cats roam a lot further from home and also fight with other cats a lot more. There is an increased chance of catching diseases or getting into tricky situations due to this.
- Are you going to install a cat flap or let them out ‘on demand’? You may be working most the day and unable to let your cat out when it wants, in which case a cat flap may be a suitable option. Many cat flaps now are activated by your cat’s microchip, avoiding unwanted visitors in your home! If you are at home you may be able to let them out as and when they please. The time of day and local environment may also dictate when may be best to let them out, for example keeping them indoors overnight when it gets cold outdoors, and there may be more fox activity, or perhaps avoid busy traffic hours.
- Is your garden safe? Ensure that it’s a safe environment for your kitten’s first few encounters with the great outdoors. Try and cover up any ponds, remove any hazardous materials or substances and close up any holes.
- You may also want to choose a time when it is quiet and dry outside. Heavy rain and loud noises (e.g. children playing or dogs barking) may put your kitten off. Ensure you accompany your kitten’s outdoor excursions until it is about 6 months old.
- If you have adopted a cat we advise letting them settle in for 2-4 weeks before allowing them out. This enables them to get comfortable with their new surroundings and help understand where home is. Similar to a kitten, you may want to accompany your cat outside for the first time and stay with it while it explores its new surroundings. It may just want to hide initially. Leave the door open so it can come back in when it wants. Timing can also help, so a quiet time of the day and also just before a routine meal, so you can call them back in for food. Associating meal times with coming back in can really help bond your cat to the home and coming back indoors.
- You may want to provide some hiding places or safe places in the garden. A box fairly high up that it can hide away in may create a safe space for your cat, and also keep it warm and dry if its raining.
Have fun with your new cat; hopefully these tips will help make those first few trips out into the big wide world safe and fun!