When can kittens go outside?
It can be scary to let your kitten outside for the first time, here's how to prepare yourself and the kitten for the next stage in life
When can kittens go outside for the first time?
It varies much between individuals when kittens can go outside for the first time. There are many aspects to consider. Such as your kittens' personality, how much life experience it already has, how willing it is to be independent, and most importantly, the environment they live in and around.
When can I let my kitten go outside and how do I start the preparations?
A kitten can start to roam the outdoors freely when it is around one year of age. However, with the right preparations, it can be let out a little earlier. When your cat is ready depends on how you have prepared it and when you started the process.
Theoretically, you can start training your kitten to get used to the outside whenever you want. If you're going to start early, you must live in a safe environment, preferably with a fenced-off garden in the quiet countryside.
The many loud and abrupt sounds of a city landscape could easily trigger your cat to panic. In the worst-case scenario, it will scatter off and never return.
If you live in the countryside and you choose to bring your kitten outside in your fenced-off and secure garden, then it will not be likely to explore far from you.
If the kitten is around six months of age, it will not feel confident enough to leave your side unless it gets frightened. In a secure garden, that should not be a problem.
It is recommended that you wait to bring the cat outdoors until it is at least six months old. It would be advantageous for both of you if the kitten got some sense of confidence and life experience before bringing it outside.
If you live in a quiet part of town, you can start to prepare the cat for the outside at a young age, but you should train your kitten on wearing a leash before you take it outside.
A city is unpredictable, and it does not take more than a bicycle to fly past you to scare the cat. If it wears a leash, its options to run off are limited.
When can I let my kitten outside supervised?
Start with small doses. Let the kitten familiarise itself with the area close to your home. The cat will learn to orientate itself with its future territory.
As you gradually introduce the kitten to places outside your garden, it will feel more confident about its whereabouts. A cat can navigate relatively well, but it will be helpful if it knows the area. To rely entirely on the cat's inner compass is not the best option because cats are much more confident with their other senses.
Read more: How cats navigate home from outside their territory.
If you don't make your cat wear a leash, then make sure to stay close to your kitten at all times. It will need a guardian, and you will need to see it if it runs off to hide.
A great way of knowing if your cat is close by and safe is to make it wear a cat-tracker. These are most commonly worn as an attachment to a collar and can be of great reassurance. You will always know your cats' location.
Like with a leash, not all cats like wearing collars, which is why you should introduce that too from an early age. If your cat doesn't mind wearing a collar, it will quickly get used to the attached cat-tracker. The tracker barely weighs anything and will provide you with precise information regarding its wellbeing and position.
Read more: Cat tracker – tap in on your cats' secrets.
When should I let my kitten go outside independently?
This step is a big step for both the owner and the cat. Your best option will be to let your kitten build up its confidence outside along your side. At the beginning of the introduction to the outside, your kitten should wear a leash.
As time goes by, you will have to take the leash off so the cat can roam independently in your presence. Most likely, the cat will keep close to you as it is not used to independence yet. When the leash comes off, you can transition into the cat tracker.
Keep staying outside with your cat for some time, and soon enough, it will start to wander off for short periods. Do not worry. It is not likely to walk far. It will probably just familiarise itself with the places you have already brought it. It will go a bit further as it gets used to being alone, but even then, your cat will prefer to stay close to home.
Read more: How far from home do cats venture?
The territory of other cats
If you live in a residential area, most likely, your cat has been introduced to another cat's territory. Cats are likely to fight about the territory, but such fights are rarely devastating. If your cat loses the battle, it might run off and hide for a little while, but it will find its way back. Cats usually have overlapping territories, and eventually, they will find an agreement.
Allow it to come home whenever it wants
Cats are most active at night and might decide to come back while you are sleeping. If you leave a window open or the balcony door, the cat can come and go as it wants. It will help if it feels welcome when it returns. If the door is closed, it might wander off again.
You could also leave some food and water outside if it comes back for some while you are asleep.
- Let your cat build some confidence and knowledge about its whereabouts from an early age.
- Start by wearing a leash inside for practice, then bring it outside with the leash on.
- Be in the presence of your cat when you eventually decide to take the leash off.
- Contemplate replacing the leash with a cat-tracker to ensure yourself that your kitten is safe when you are not there.
- Slowly let your cat out of your garden, you can walk with it at first, but eventually, it will want to roam freely.
- Give your cat time to figure this out. Do not panic if you don't see it in over 20 hours.
- Leave a window or the door open for it to come back inside whenever it wants.
- Leave a welcoming snack and some water on the porch if you go to bed before it comes back.