Training indoor cats to become outdoor cats should be a gradual process to ensure a favorable transition that appropriately acclimates your kitty to an entirely new living environment. Keep in mind that outdoor cats are more prone to accident and injury than indoor cats, so taking preventive steps to protect your kitties is vital to their safety and longevity.
How to Change Indoor Cats to Outdoor Cats
There are advantages of being an indoor cat.
The greatest advantage of having an indoor cat is safety. Indoor cats don't have to worry about predators beyond a pet sibling they may not get along with. They always have the food, water and shelter needed to keep them happy and healthy. Indoor cats also live much longer than outdoor cats, statistically. Cats that live primarily indoors have a lifespan of 12-18 years, while outdoor cats live an average of just two to five years.
The difference in lifespans comes down to health and safety. Outdoor cats are at greater risk of traumas such as car accidents or attacks from other animals. They are also more susceptible to life-threatening viruses like feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia. These viruses can be transmitted through contact with another outdoor cat. You may consider moving your outdoor cat inside to reduce these dangers.
How can I give my outdoor cat a longer life?
Outdoor cats are free to roam far beyond the boundaries of their homes, but this freedom comes with greater risks than an indoor cats normally face. Outdoor cats are more likely to experience trauma like motor vehicle accidents or violent run-ins with other animals. They are also more susceptible to picking up diseases such as feline leukemia or feline AIDS.
There are steps you can take to keep your outdoor cat happy, healthy and away from harm. Consider building a "catio" or a cat patio. This is an outdoor enclosure that offers your cat the best of both worlds: endless fresh air and protection from outside dangers. You can also go on walks with your cat letting her explore the world with you by her side. If your cat travels alone, provide her with a safe collar and I.D. Choose a collar with a safety clasp that will come undone if your cat should get caught in a fence or other tight space. Put identification tags on your cat with her name and your contact information. For extra safety, you can spend a bit more and invest in a tracking device that allows you to monitor the whereabouts of your cat. Keeping your outdoor cat safe is what keeps her alive, giving you many more cat years to calculate!
There are benefits of being an outdoor cat.
There are also many great benefits of having an outdoor cat, however. Outdoor cats are free to roam, explore and execute their natural instincts without the constraint of four enclosed walls. Indoor cats may suffer from occasional boredom, but outdoor cats get to hunt and scratch and play! Making your indoor cat an outdoor cat means taking more risks, but the risks may be worth the reward. Before changing your indoor cat to an outdoor cat, consider the following tips.
Slowly transition your indoor cat outdoors.
Cats who are used to being indoors need a slow transition to outside living. Start with 10-minute intervals and monitor your cats. Treats are a great way to lure them back inside. Work up to a routine and allow cats in and out at the same time of day, so they become accustomed to the regularity of their new schedules. Continue to spend quality time with them, either indoors or outside, to let them know they're loved and cared for.
Update your cats' vaccinations before allowing them outside.
Make sure your cats are fully vaccinated and in good overall health before you let them outside and continue to take them for regular veterinary exams. This will help protect them in the event they get into fights or injure themselves in any way.
It's not a good idea to allow any declawed indoor cats to roam outside, as they lack the basic mechanisms most cats need to defend themselves and hunt.
Create an outdoor food-and-water station for you indoor cat.
Your indoor cats are likely accustomed to having regular access to food, water and shelter, so replicate those conditions as best as possible outside, particularly in the early transitional stages. Your cats should have a supply of fresh water, and you may need to check daily food allocation to ensure other neighborhood pets or wild animals are not eating their food. Consider establishing a daily feeding routine so your cats instinctively know when to come home and eat.
Provide outdoor shelter and safety for indoor cat.
Create a safe spot for your cats, so they can seek protection if necessary. This may be a kitty door that leads into your home, a garage or a shed, or it may be an enclosed structure with warm, dry bedding like straw. Always provide warm shelter for your cats in inclement weather and bring them in at night if possible. You may want to place a litter box outside, both as a sense of familiarity for your cats and as a way to keep your pets from defecating on neighbor's property. Let your neighbors know you have outdoor cats, so they don't call a shelter or animal control to remove them.
Spay or neuter your indoor cat before letting them outside.
Spay or neuter cats before allowing them to roam outside. Not only will this reduce the potential for creating unwanted litters of kittens, it also will help to prevent howling and traveling far distances from the home in search of a mate. When female cats are in heat or male cats are seeking a female in estrus, they are more prone to ignoring outside dangers and are more likely to be hit by cars or otherwise injured.
Deciding whether to have an indoor or an outdoor cat is completely up to the owner and what works best for the household. There are pros and cons to each situation. While indoor cats have fewer safety concerns, there is the risk of boredom and lack of stimulation from the natural world. Consider a creating an indoor garden for your cat or turning an Ikea shelf into a cat patio.
Outdoor cats should never be bored. They have the world at their pawtips! With these feline friends, make sure you do everything in your power to keep them safe. Transition indoor cats to outdoor cats slowly and safely, and the world will be theirs, literally.