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.

Related Articles:

156 comments

Fran F
Fran F1 months ago

Outdoor cats, and dogs, are also at risk from wildlife roaming into towns and cities. I recently heard a local news report a cat being killed by a cougar. A feral cat adopted by my neighbors was unhappy if he didn't have time outdoors, but unfortunately he was killed by several raccoons who had been in the area.

SEND
S J
S J1 months ago

Thank you but they say meowwww--means no! I can just do my best for them.

SEND
Elisabeth T
Elisabeth T1 months ago

Great information, thank you for sharing.

SEND
Sheila Miller
Sheila M1 months ago

My cats are adopted and have never been outside. They do like to sit in the window to feel the air, but none of them have ever tried to skip out an open door. I believe they feel comfortable and safe inside the house. I would not feel comfortable letting them roam. Too many cars or other animal dangers.

SEND
Renata B
Renata B1 months ago

Julia S: how right you are!!! The words of Saint-Exupery are gold.
Roslyn McBride: we have three cats at the moment, but in the past we had Seven: we built a catio in our garden. All the vets who saw them for all their lives were always impressed by how well balanced and relaxed they were. Animals are complex beings, like us. Their happiness and welfare depend on many factors including emotional factors. And this means the environment and most of all the relationship with the other inhabitants of the house. I lived in Italy for most of my life and there people mostly live in flats. Cats are not less happy, I can assure it to you. They can go on balconies, yes, that are like catios in a house. Exposing them to dangers they are not able to face and even to understand is criminal.

SEND
Renata B
Renata B1 months ago

I can't even imagine declawing a cat: the US - I think - is the only country (in the West at least) to allow declawing. People also say "Cats can look after themselves": totally wrong. They are not equipped for a human world. Still at the beginning of 2000 I read a NATIONAL statistic (meaning that included also little populated areas with low risks) of a cat killed outdoors every 2.5 minutes. Imagine in towns and cities. You wouldn't allow a little child to roam free, you wouldn't even allow a dog. Why on earth should it be different for a cat???? We adopted last summer an old cat who was mostly outdoors. They just gave him food (and very little indeed) and that was it. He doesn't even go on the windowsills of the front of the house because he is so scared of cars. He pees on himself when we take to the vet (we go on foot, it's near us). And I believe - from his reactions - that he must have been kicked in the side or back. Lucky to have survived for 11 years. Outdoors cats often die much younger, as we know of many cases.

SEND
Lisa Zarafonetis
Lisa Z1 months ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Julia S
Julia S1 months ago

Just don't have a cat. Seriously. Driving a car in the morning, I often see dead cats on the road. Imagine the pain they endured before they died. Cats feel the pain the same way as you. Yes, I admit that many cats enjoy being outdoors (picking fights with other cats, killing birds, digging in garbage bins), but NONE of them would enjoy being killed. The best option is walking your cat on a leash if he/she enjoys being outdoors. Just like dogs, cats get used to the leash. Exupery said: "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." Would you disagree?

SEND
Sandra V
Sandra V1 months ago

Thanks

SEND
Sandra V
Sandra V1 months ago

Thanks

SEND