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Indoor to outdoor transition

Discussion in 'Cat Health and Nutrition' started by Helen Raymond, Aug 3, 2019.


  1. Helen Raymond

    Helen Raymond PetForums Newbie

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    Looking for advice, we have two 5 year old cats (brothers) who have been indoor cats all their lives. We made the decision to keep them indoors based on where we live and the surroundings. It's looking like we will be moving house in Oct/Nov time and would like to look into transitioning them to outdoor cats once we move. Aside from the obvious, up to date vaccinations and micro chipping, does anyone have any advice as to how we should go about it?
    Thanks
     
  2. buffie

    buffie Mentored by Meeko

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    If your cats have been happy as indoor cats why risk allowing them to wander into heaven only knows what dangers.
    After 5 years of indoor living they will not have the "street smarts" that some outdoor cats apparently learn as youngsters, I have never allowed any cats to free roam so dont know if its a myth or true.
    You could cat proof your garden that would give them some outdoor experience but will also keep them safe.........
    https://www.petforums.co.uk/threads/cat-runs-cat-proofed-gardens.211361/

    If you do end up allowing free roaming then I would suggest you don't start until spring next year when the weather is better and there is more daylight........
     
  3. Ottery

    Ottery Cat Lady

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    When I let my kittens outside I accompanied them into the garden and let them mooch about with me. I'd do that for as long as it took them to get over a fence and out of the garden - then I had to let them get on with it. But I would go out and call them every so often and see if I could tell where they were and get them to come to me (sometimes yes, sometimes no). Start by letting them out for short periods and then lengthen the time when they are more confident.

    I always used a snap-free collar with a robust ID disc containing with my mobile number and brief address on it (as well as microchipping).

    Obviously you'll need a cat flap - I'd get a microchip version so neighbouring cats cannot get in. We had a couple of Sureflaps and they worked well. The Sureflap gives you an 'in only' option so you can set it to that when you want them in for the night - I would personally recommend only letting them out during the day and keeping them in at night.

    Do you have pet insurance? Worth having as outdoor cats have more opportunity to get into bother. There are risks, but I am sure you've thought about that. Just be prepared to be worried when they stay out too late, which they inevitably will.
     
  4. Helen Raymond

    Helen Raymond PetForums Newbie

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  5. Helen Raymond

    Helen Raymond PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks, I think it's just because I've always wanted them to be outdoor cats and we were just waiting for the opportunity although I realise there's more risks involved. They're also ruining our furniture and carpets, no matter what we try, we are on our 3rd stair carpet in 5 years!
     
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  6. Precious1

    Precious1 PetForums Newbie

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    We got my cat when she was 3 years old and she was an indoor cat living in a flat. We introduced her to the garden - at first she was very cautious, but now loves it and we have a cat flap. She doesn’t roam far, but I feel going outside has really added to the quality of her life - she loves basking in the sun, hiding in bushes, climbing trees and catching occasional mice!
     
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  7. sandy-cat

    sandy-cat PetForums Senior

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    Apart from his first few weeks Fili had been an indoor cat before he came to me, as he'd been in foster care, but he was fascinated by the outside from the start - especially because Sandy would go out and come in smelling all kinds of interesting! Fili loved being in the conservatory and watching everything going on outside, so after about a month, during which time I got him used to coming when I called him, I decided to start letting him out.

    I started with him going out before mealtimes so he had an incentive to return, and very short supervised garden-only visits. My garden has six foot fences which Sandy can scale easily but Fili, at the time, was rubbish at jumping (he's a LOT better now!) so I was fairly comfortable that he wouldn't get out of the garden super-quickly. We did 20 minutes a day for a few days, then a bit longer, and so on until he found a way to scale the fences. After that, as @Ottery says, you sort of have to let them get on with it...though it's agonising! Initially he was happy in the garden as there was lots to explore and he was bounding around like a mad cat, but once he got comfortable with the garden, he was keen to explore further.

    Once he was off out of the garden, I would call him every so often. One of the lovely things about Fili is that even if he doesn't come, most of the time he will at least answer! So I would call him and hear a "miaow" back which would give me an idea of where he was. This period, which lasted 2-3 weeks, was about him extending his territory into neighbouring gardens and finding his way back - which meant learning to jump better! He's now a pro at either jumping or finding alternative routes :) So I would call him, he would reply, and we'd do this until he figured out how to get to me (I preferred for him to figure it out rather than to go and get him). Of course, there were many times where he didn't respond - which caused me worry until he trotted back in later on as though nothing had happened. It doesn't help that he genuinely has no interest in treats (weird cat!) so that doesn't work as an incentive either!

    Since then Fili has really adapted well to outdoors access. He absolutely loves playing, both in my garden and in a garden backing onto my neighbours which is currently quite overgrown as the house isn't occupied! He's also made friends with the lovely elderly couple who live directly backing onto my garden - apparently he let himself in through one of their floor-to-ceiling windows and snuggled up with them on the sofa, and often plays with them in their garden too! Luckily they are fond of him so don't mind his visits, but also know he belongs to me :)

    He tends to go out for hours at a time and then sleep for hours at a time, which has taken me some getting used to because Sandy is more likely to pop out for a short while at a time only. But the more freedom he has, the more willing he seems to be to return to the house. Initially he really didn't want to come back in, even when I called him, because he knew that was "it" and he'd have to be indoors again. Now he is more willing to come when I call, and I think that's because he knows he isn't immediately going to be shut in.

    We also did catflap training which took a while - he was quite happy going out of the flap but less keen on coming in - but once he got it, it was fine. I have a microchip catflap and initially I turned off the microchip reader so that he didn't have to deal with the "clunk" of the locks going down, but I've now switched the reader back on after a couple of weeks and he's absolutely fine with it now that he's used to the idea of the catflap. He does however like to stick his head and front paws out of the catflap when he goes out then hang there, half-in, half-out, while he checks things out :D

    Sorry that's a bit of an essay but hope it is helpful!
     
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  8. sandy-cat

    sandy-cat PetForums Senior

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    Here is Fili in the outdoors, I love this photo :)[​IMG]
     
  9. Ottery

    Ottery Cat Lady

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    @sandy-cat he's beautiful, lovely markings!
    What you do is pretty much the same as me, including turning off the microchip reader on the cat flap. For the less confident kittens, I also peg the flap open to begin with.
     
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  10. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    How many scratchers do they have,?

    I would not let them free roam. Build them a secure place.

    All it takes is once then there is no going back.
     
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  11. Psygon

    Psygon Yoshi Tonks! :-)

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    I'm not sure they are going to stay away from your furniture and carpets just because they start going outside. In fact potentially it could get worse if for example there are other cats outside and your cats feel the need to mark/defend their territory more...

    I think it would be good to try and deter the scratching behaviour...
     
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  12. Jackie C

    Jackie C Cat slave

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    I think you have to weigh up the pros and cons of cats going out, and I am a firm believer it is the cat guardians choice, and the individual cat. If your cats are happy to stay in, I personally would keep them in, but it's your decision.
    My cat goes out and I believe her life is enriched by it. She loves it, she springs around the garden, she runs in and out the house, running and playing and generally being silly. She chases moths, spiders and flies and has a lot of fun. You've obviously given this a lot of thought, and are moving to a more suitable area.

    You will need to leave the boys in for 6 weeks before they go out. They need to know the new home is home, you don't want them setting off somewhere confused. I would go outside with them for the first few times, and for the first few times when out alone, leave the door open so they can come in. First few times, don't let them out when they've just eaten, being hungry can make them come back.
    We don't have a cat flap, but I never leave my cat out at night, nor let her out after a certain time. I never go out if she's out (last few times, when it's been hot, I've gone out for a short period, but left the back door open for her, secured with a security gate).
    Worth thinking about, will your new neighbours have dogs? Cats are experts at escaping through/over fences!


    ...Oh, BTW, although I let my Holly out, it doesn't stop her scratching the furniture/carpet.
     
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  13. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    Lots of feel good stories every time one of these threads come up but the truth is, we see threads all the time from people who are devastated because their cat got killed/maimed/poisoned/lost/stolen/sick, etc.

    Not to mention the numerous threads about people complaining about other people's cats: pooping in their gardens or harassing their own pets.

    Or the complaints from cat owners who let their cats roam, complaining about how their neighbors are complaining about their cats (or threatening them.)

    "Your decision" is all very well, and of course it is, no one said any different but the OP came here for opinions, so let's keep it balanced. Your cats are also your responsibility. If they are roaming, they are not under your control. Perhaps in an ideal world letting them roam would be okay. In my opinion it is not okay, as this is not an ideal world. Keeping your cats contained in your own property is the responsible thing to do, both for them, and for your neighborhood.

    Especially 5 year old cats who have never been out and have no idea how to behave outside. They would need far more than 6 weeks to acclimate in their new home, in my opinion, even before offering them an enclosed outdoor area, let alone roaming "free"
     
    #13 lorilu, Aug 29, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
  14. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    I am not against cats going outside, I have two inside/outside cats myself. However as others have mentioned, the part about not having 'street smarts' is really important, and after 5 years of not having to be alert to the dangers of outside, I would be very concerned about letting them out.
     
  15. Jackie C

    Jackie C Cat slave

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    Agreed. If they're happy staying in, the better thing is to continue the same. But, if the OP wants to let them go out, it's good to share tips. :)
     
  16. Ottery

    Ottery Cat Lady

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    I can see both sides of the discussion because for decades my various cats roamed. I think each of us does a 'risk assessment' in terms of how safe it is to let them do this. I lived at my last house for ten years, with four cats, and not one of them had a brush with a car, or any other life-changing incident. I actually chose the location with the cats in mind as I knew they'd be as safe as they possibly could be, they had a fantastic life and if I had kept them in for those ten years, I would have done them a huge disservice.

    But since we moved to our current house, within two years two of my cats were run over, and another was attacked by a dog. So my cats are now confined to an enclosed garden. I've done this purely because I became aware of the risks in this particular location, if we moved again I'd reassess. There are benefits to both confinement and roaming, but I would never say all cats should be confined, any more than I'd say all cats should roam.
     
  17. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    This is not a general inside/outside thread though. This is about the OP's specific cats, who have not had any experience with being outside and have not had any opportunity to develop a sense of self preservation. That is a very important factor in the risk assessment IMO.
     
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  18. Ottery

    Ottery Cat Lady

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    @O2.0 as you can see, I replied fairly comprehensive further up thread to the OP in particular. My second reply was to the subsequent general comments about cats going outdoors.

    In the OP's case in particular, I don't see a problem with a 5 year old cat going outside - again it depends entirely on the cat and the location, as per my previous post. There are various opinions about the right time for a kitten to first go out - anywhere between post-neutering and 12 months. But they are just opinions, there is no right answer, and I don't see much difference between a 1 year old and a 5 year old going out for the first time. You could argue that a 5 year old is better equipped than a 1 year old - more likely to be more cautious and less reckless. Every cat will have to learn street smarts whatever age it first goes out. Again it's just a case of taking a judgment for the individual case.
     
  19. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    I do.

    I do. A huge difference. I speak from experience with cats living in areas where there are real dangers like coyotes and other predators.

    I don't hold with the notion that some cats learn to avoid cars and other human dangers. I think some cats are just luckier. But I do think there is something to be said for a cat being predator savvy. Even in a place like the UK, it behooves a cat to be smart about avoiding larger animals like dogs, and cats who don't know to do that endanger themselves (and sometimes others).
     
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  20. Ottery

    Ottery Cat Lady

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    We'll have to agree to disagree. As I said, it depends on the cat and it depends on the location, and we each hold our opinions due to our own experience. I'm sure the different opinions will allow the OP to make up her own mind.
     
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