What You Need to Know to Safely Raise an Indoor-Outdoor Cat

Cat owners have been letting their feline friends roam outside for centuries, but that doesn’t mean the practice of raising an indoor-outdoor cat is harmless. While cats naturally enjoy time spent outdoors roaming, exploring and hunting, there are many pet experts who argue that letting your cat spend extended time outdoors is simply asking for trouble.

It’s an issue that has no clear answer: Some cats thrive outside, while others certainly do end up harmed as a result of their time outdoors. If you’re considering raising an indoor-outdoor cat, here’s what you need to know.

Safety Concerns

First, it’s important to be clear: Allowing your cat outside will always carry some risk. There’s nothing you can do to completely alleviate danger for cats who spend time outside. If you do decide to allow your cat outside, here are some of the risks you will be taking:

  • Animal attacks: While cats can certainly hold their own against most rodents and birds, coyotes, foxes and stray dogs are another story. Even if your cat has successfully spent time outside for years, all it takes is one aggressive dog to get loose down the street, and your cat’s life may be at risk.
  • Cars: An alarming number of cats are killed by cars each year.
  • Humans: Unfortunately, many humans behave aggressively when they see cats in their yard or neighborhood. A cat spending time outside is at risk of being hurt or bullied by mean people.
  • Disease: Stray cats can transfer multiple diseases to free-roaming kitties.
  • Toxins: Even if you keep your yard organic and avoid pesticides, your neighbors might not.

How to Train Your Cat to Spend Time Outside

Despite the risks, many cat owners attest that their furbabies simply love exploring outside. It’s only natural, after all, for cats to enjoy hunting and exploring. If you do decide to take the risk, here is a beginner’s guide to training your cat.

First, start by taking your cat out on leash or harness at the same time each day. Do this before feeding your cat — you will be rewarding the cat later on with a meal after he comes inside. This will establish a regular schedule based on your cat’s internal clock. You want the cat to become accustomed to coming back inside for food — your cat should never be left outside all night.

After your cat has become used to this schedule, start letting him off the harness. Stay with him and set boundaries for where he can go. When he starts leaving the safety of your yard, tell him no and reposition him back toward the house. According to Cat Be Good, you’ll have to do this for a while — your cat needs to attempt to leave your yard’s perimeter from every angle, and be subsequently told to stay in the right direction.

You should also teach your cat to avoid strangers. When cars or people walk past your home, Cat Be Good advises acting scared and letting your cat see your reaction. You can even walk quickly and silently toward your door, teaching your cat that he should come home if a stranger approaches, rather than go toward that person.

When you feel confident that your cat understands these boundaries, you can begin letting him out on his own. Keep a close eye on him, especially at first.  Make sure he becomes accustomed to coming inside for his meals, advices the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

Strategies to Decrease Risk

In addition to properly training your cat to go outside in relative safety, you can mitigate the risks of outdoor life in a few different ways:

  • Don’t declaw your cat. Cats who are declawed have a difficult time standing up to predators and larger animals.
  • Introduce your cat to your neighbors. This way, they will know the cat is part of your family, rather than potentially taking him to a shelter if he comes into their yard.
  • Take your cat to the vet regularly. Cats who spend time outside will need a variety of immunizations and their check-ups should always be a priority.
  • Always make sure your cat is inside before it gets dark at night.

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146 comments

Lindi S
Lindi Smith18 hours ago

CATS RULE!

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Peggy B
Peggy Byesterday

Noted

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Elisabeth T
Elisabeth Tyesterday

Thank you for the good information.

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Roslyn M
Roslyn M4 days ago

I'm totally against keeping a cat indoors. I've had sick cats who won't get well until they're allowed outside again. It's not natural to keep them shut in.

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Beverly D
Beverly D4 days ago

I adore cats and kittens and have had several in my life. None now, however, my sister makes up for that :) . She just cannot not rescue whenever she sees one in dire need. We went to the Vet day before yesterday to pick up my two dog children's flea and tick medication and of course she wanted to bring every kitten that was up for adoption that was in there. I'm glad that I didn't go in as I too would have had an arm full. I enjoyed all of the comments and just want to thank all of you wonderful animal loving friends. God bless~

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Elizabeth O
Elizabeth O5 days ago

Thanks for the article.

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Marija M
Marija M5 days ago

tks

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Kathy G
Kathy G6 days ago

Thank you

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Teresa A
Teresa A6 days ago

Thanks

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Carol S
Carol S6 days ago

I have never let my cats outside. They have lived to 19, 20 and 24. I doubt that would have happened had they been outdoors.

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