Letting Your Indoor Cat Outside
My cat was once a 100% indoor cat; she never left the house since the one time she arrived. She was satisfied with the indoors, since the house (her world) was a decent size and she was free to explore any area of the house she wished. Sometimes, we'd let her into the basement after she discovered that it existed, and her excitement was priceless. As they say, ignorance is bliss, and since the cat didn't know the world beyond existed, she was satisfied. Eventually though, in the summer, she would start sitting by the open window. She'd hear birds chirping, see trees blowing, and witness the many other wonders of the great outdoors, all from the safe confines of the house. It seemed like the happiest medium, as she was safe, but still got to experience nature.
How My Indoor Cat Started Going Outside
Now, when I got my cat she was already declawed so from day one I was very strict about her ever being outside. However, last summer, when we set up seats on our backyard patio, I thought it would be a good idea to take her outside. At first, I would keep her in my lap the entire time. It was an exhilarating experience for her, you could tell from the look on her face. She was too scared to even step down from my lap, so I thought it would be okay to take her out in the sun every once in a while. I started using this time to brush her as it was so much easier doing it outdoors. After a week or two, the cat overcame her nerves and in a shocking move, lept off my lap into the grass! Really, how could I have underestimated the curiosity of a cat? The one thing that over-powers their fear.
The first few times she lept off I instantly grabbed her and put her back in my lap. Over-time though she got more comfortable in the outdoors, and I got more comfortable letting her off my lap. My family would also take her outside every time we went into the backyard, so we decided that we would only let her out if we were outside. She was safe under our keen eye, and the backyard was sealed with fences so there was no way for her to really run away. Dear god though, once she discovered the outdoors, she would not stop begging to go outside. Seriously, in the time she wasn't sleeping or eating, she was constantly by the kitchen sliding doors, pawing away and and constantly meowing to be let outside into the backyard.
By now, she was already in control. At one point or another, each member of my family, whether out of annoyance or pity, would take her outside for a little while. However, every time we let her in she would again beg to come outside. By this time though winter was approaching and there was no way she would be going outside in the winter. After the first snowfall, we stopped letting her out. After a few days she forgot all about the outdoors, and we vowed that next summer we would avoid the whole hassle and not let her out at all.
And then we arrive to this summer. In all honesty, I don't even know how it started. All I know is, my cat once again discovered the outdoors. Since the backyard was sealed, and all of last year not once did the cat ever manage to jump the fence, we figured it was safe to let her outside on her own. After a few trials of watching her form the indoors, we eventually started letting her outside for hours on end. For the past 2 or 3 months now, my cat has been in the backyard for upwards of 8 hours of the day. We decided it was smart to have the vet come over and give her all the shots an outdoor cat would need, not to mention powder for flea control and such. Any time we need her to come inside it's easy as she's right in the backyard, and usually comes in whenever you call her. We only let her out when it's daylight outside, so there isn't any threat to her from racoons or anything. The majority of the time she just sits in the grass or contemplates ways to catch birds. My once indoor cat, is now officially an indoor-outdoor cat. Even though she is declawed, she still safely and happily enjoys the out-doors.
How to Monitor your Cat Outdoors
Okay so, you have an indoor cat that's recently discovered the outdoors and won't stop begging to go outside. Or, you simply want your cat to enjoy a bit of nature. No worries. My cat got a very gradual transition, and still defecates and eats inside, so she knows she still lives indoors. She also knows that she can never be outside during the night, and so now doesn't even bother asking for it. You need to train your cat in the same way, and it's a lot easier than it sounds. Just make the transition gradual, watch your cat the first few times, and see how far she goes.
Boundaries are key, and must be restrictive. By this I mean, cats are curious by nature, so you can't train them to stay on your property. If they see something they want to chase, they'll instinctively go after it. You need to make sure that it isn't possible for your cat to leave the property. If your backyard is fenced, then you're in luck. Just make sure all the small nook and crannies are sealed. Cats can easily squeeze through small holes or breakages in the fence, so make sure those ways are blocked. Make sure your cat cannot jump high enough to the fence, or that there isn't anything the cat can use as a median for jumping onto the fence.
If there is no fence, trying using a harness, although often times cats are easily mangle their way out of it. Harnesses can also be very uncomfortable and sometimes painful for your cat. They can even be a choking hazard if not tied right. See if a harness works for your cat, if not, avoid it. You can try being creative and build your own little outdoor house for your cat out of wood, or better yet get a screen tent such as the one pictured to the right. They come relatively cheap and allow for protection for your cat. They usually work better for declawed cats as they can't rip through it, but even if your cat has claws there are some tents she won't be able to rip through.
Just make sure your cat is confined wherever you decide to let her out, and watch her for a couple of weeks before you leave her alone. If your cat is going outside, he/she needs additional shots and needs to be washed more often. Your cat also needs powder so that it doesn't get fleas. It is possible for your cat to be indoor-outdoor in the right limit, you just need to dedicate a little bit of time and care to it. In the long run, both you and your cat will be happier.