Deciding when your kitten should be allowed outside is a two-part questions.
First… is it your intention for your cat to have an outside life at all?
It’s a question that needs answering. Many apartments dwellers never take their cat outside… but likewise some house owners with a yard have 100% indoor cats. Why do this?
- An indoor cat is unlikely to ever be run over by a car.
- An indoor cat is less likely to be exposed to diseases and parasites.
- An indoor cat is less likely to get into fights with other cats.
- An indoor cat is less likely to decimate the local bird, lizard and other native wildlife populations.
Cats are highly adaptable, living in rainforests desserts, very hot and very cold climates… and they can certainly adapt to living wholly and solely inside a house. There are downsides for your cat though.
- Cats supplement their diet from the garden… and by that, I don’t meet from eating the critters from the yard… cats will eat grass which helps their digestion and provides them extra fibre and nutrients.
- An indoor-only cat will tend to get bored and destructive.
- An indoor cat requires more entertainment.
- An indoor cat leaves more cat hair around the house.
- An indoor cat requires more kitty litter cleaning. An outdoor cat may never use a kitty litter tray again after discovering the joy of going in the garden.
It’s really a personal choice. Work out what’s right for you as a cat owner and make your own call.
Letting a new Cat or Kitten Outside for the First Time
So if you ARE considering letting your kitten have an outside live first you need to decide when to let them outside for the first time.
When a new kitten or cat is first brought into a new home, it should be kept inside for a minimum of 2 weeks. In that time it will bond with its new owners and realise home is where the food is. It will claim the inside of the home as its territory, marking the furniture with scent glands in its cheeks.
A new cat that you wish to be at least a partially outdoor cat can be allowed out after 2 or 3 weeks, but kittens should not be allowed outside till they are 8-months old. This is not a hard and fast rule, but by this age, they have a more strongly developed sense of self-preservation, up until that time they are liable to get into trouble. If you do let them outside prior to this age, it should always be with supervision.
To your kitten, the outside world will be an exciting and almost overwhelming assault on their senses with many new sounds, smells and sights. They may also for the first time, smell the markings of neighbouring cats who have already claimed this turf which will be confronting for them. Do they respect this turf as belonging to another… or should they claim it as their own?
Best time of the day to let your new cat outside?
Cats are very much creatures of habit, so if your intention is to let your cat out for only a small part of the day, best to do it as the same time of the day. Just before mealtime is a guaranteed way of ensuring their return. In the case of kittens, go outside with your kitten, and repeatedly call their name to reassure them you are there, and they are welcome to come back inside at any time.
Have some treats on hand to tempt them back inside if they are unwilling to do so or are straying too far. Some cats will be quite happy on a lead.
Within days, your kitten or cat will understand this is his or her turf, and commence scent marking it by rubbing its head and flanks against trees, fences and other garden equipment. This is your cat’s ‘Home’ territory which will be defended vigorously against intruders. Cats that are allowed out for extended periods will also establish a hunting territory which is far larger, often several blocks. This territory is scent marked, but your cat will understand it’s an impossible task to claim sole rights to access to such grounds and defend it less vigorously. Male cats will tend to have larger hunting grounds than females, whether they are neutered or not.
Should I install a cat door?
A cat door is a great way to remove your responsibility of always opening the door when your puss wishes to enter or exit the yard. Many cat owners will shake their heads at a cat threat meows incessantly to go outside… and then promptly meows to come back in 30 seconds later.
Your cat door should be lockable, to keep puss inside at night, but also to prevent the neighbour’s cats coming inside and raiding your food… even fighting with your cat inside your house! Upmarket versions can be set to only open to your cat when they are wearing a special collar.