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Blog /Safe Ways To Give Your Cat Outdoor Time
Life with Pets June 03, 2024

Safe ways to give your indoor cat some outdoor time

Learn how you can satisfy your cat’s curiosity and sense of adventure—while keeping them safe at the same time.

Cats are known for their curiosity, and many indoor cats can benefit from the sights, sounds, and stimulation of the world outside. However, letting your cat roam freely can expose them to numerous hazards. Fortunately, there are safe ways to let your indoor cat enjoy some outdoor time.

Be mindful of outdoor dangers

Many pet parents keep their kitties indoors to protect them from the risks associated with roaming freely. So before diving into the safe ways to let your cat experience the outdoors, let’s review the dangers we want to avoid:

  • Traffic: Cars pose a significant danger to cats, especially in busy urban areas.
  • Predators: Outdoor cats can become prey to larger animals like coyotes, dogs, and even large birds.
  • Diseases: Illnesses such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) may be transmitted from other cats.
  • Parasites: Fleas, ticks, and other parasites are more prevalent outdoors.
  • Toxins: Cats might encounter poisonous plants, chemicals, or antifreeze, all of which can be fatal if ingested.

Precautionary steps for outdoor time

To keep your cat safe during their outdoor adventures, consider these precautions:

  • Vaccines: Ensure your cat is up-to-date on vaccinations, including rabies, FeLV, and the feline distemper combo.
  • Parasite prevention: Use flea, tick, and other preventives as recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Identification: A collar with an ID tag and a microchip with your current contact information will help if your cat gets lost.
  • Supervision: Keep a close eye on your cat when they’re outside to prevent them from wandering off or encountering dangers. (And remember, cats can be both sneaky and fast!)

With those basics in mind, let’s get into the fun stuff: outdoor activities you can explore with your cat!

Cat in a pet backpack at the beach.

Taking your cat for a walk

Leash walking

Leash walking can be a fantastic way to let your cat enjoy some outdoor freedom while still giving you control over where they go. Walking on a leash may not come natural to your cat, but with a little practice, many cats learn to enjoy it. Consider these steps when getting started:

  • Harness selection: Choose a comfortable and secure harness designed for cats.
  • Start slowly: Let your cat get used to wearing the harness indoors before attaching the leash. Then, begin with short, indoor sessions before moving to a quiet outdoor area.
  • Be patient: Some cats take to leash training quickly, while others may need more time. Be patient, use treats to encourage positive behavior, and watch your cat’s body language to gauge how well they are adapting to the new activity. 

Pet strollers and backpack carriers

Some cats prefer that you do the walking for them. In this case, pet strollers and backpacks can be great options. Strollers provide a safe and enclosed space for your cat to enjoy and can work well for longer excursions. Pet backpacks have similar advantages, though your cat may not have as much space to get comfortable. 

Whether you choose a stroller or a backpack, be sure to get your cat comfortable with being in an enclosed space before you set out for a long walk. Start by letting them explore the stroller or backpack. Then, place them into it, but don’t zip it up. Take them for laps around the house to get them used to the movement. Once they feel comfortable, you can take them outside in the yard and, eventually, for a walk around the neighborhood.

Long-haired orange cat sitting outside in an enclosed catio.

Cat patios (AKA "catios")

A catio is an enclosed outdoor space that allows your cat to enjoy the fresh air safely. They are often free-standing structures made of wood and wire mesh, and they can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Some are small and have space for just a comfy cat bed or perch. Others have multiple levels, ramps, and things to climb.

Whatever set-up you choose, make sure it’s constructed from durable materials and has secure latches. And even though catios are designed to be escape-proof, it’s best not to leave your cat in them unsupervised for long periods.

Outdoor tunnels and playpens

Tunnels and playpens provide a safe, enclosed space for your cat to explore and play. Tunnels can be set up in your yard and connected to a catio or window box, allowing your cat to move between spaces safely.

Playpens are typically more portable and are great for giving your cat outdoor time. But remember, cats can climb and jump, so you’ll want to select one with a covered top to prevent them from escaping.

Window boxes

Not quite ready to let your cat all the way outside? Window boxes are an excellent way to give your cat a taste of the outdoors without leaving the house. These boxes attach to the exterior of a window, creating a safe, enclosed space for your cat to lounge and watch the world go by. You can even set up a bird feeder outside the window box for some added entertainment.

Cat sitting on a cat tree on an enclosed deck.

Breeds that may enjoy outdoor adventures

Cats of all breeds (and mixes) may enjoy outdoor activities. However, there are some breeds that are known to fare well with some of the suggestions we’ve covered. These include:

  • Bengals: This breed is known for their high energy and love of exploration.
  • Maine Coons: These gentle giants enjoy the outdoors and often welcome new environments.
  • Siberians: This breed is known for its boldness and playful nature.
  • Abyssinians: These curious, active cats often thrive with outdoor stimulation.

Final thoughts

Every cat is an individual and has their own set of likes and dislikes. And while many cats love to be outside, they may not love to be outside and restricted from free-roaming. As a pet parent, it’s up to you to determine if outdoor activities are a good fit for your cat. If they are, giving your indoor cat some outside time can be a wonderful way to enrich their life and satisfy their curiosity.