As co-habitants in our cat's apartment, we sometimes feel bad that we get to go outside and explore the world while they sit inside on the couch all day. This gets especially obvious for us on weekends when we come back from a beautiful day at the park and wish we brought our cats with us.
But, does your cat actually care about going outside? And if you let them go outside, will your cat come back to you?
Well, with our cats we have had some tough choices to make. Their mother, Naz, is actually an outdoor cat that we found and domesticated. So she has some pretty strong natural urges to get back out there. The children, who have been inside their whole lives, are afraid of the outdoors.
Why Does My Cat Want To Go Outside
Let’s start with the why - and there’s a lot of reasons for a cat to want to be outside. The most common reason we’ve seen for cats wanting to go outside are that they want to follow their instincts. Cats aren’t meant to be indoors all day, they are predators.
Cats are extremely territorial creatures. Our cat Naz has a pension for sneaking out when we open the door. And when she does she is searching for another cat who gets a little too close to our house for her comfort. She wants to show that cat that they are in her territory, which is one of the worst reasons for a cat to be going outside, because it just means they are going to be fighting.
If you haven’t gotten your cat fixed, chances are that they want to go outside to find a mate. They will scratch at the door and howl for you to open it so they can find a partner. If you fix your cat, you can alleviate their pain and suffering and your own suffering from their behaviors.
Now, hunting can be for sport or for food. If your cat is hungry due to a poor diet, they might want to escape so they can get some food. But if you’re feeding them regularly, they may want to hunt for sport. Cats enjoy chasing things, and there’s not a lot of prey in your apartment (hopefully), so they look to the outdoors to fulfill that need.
Outdoor Dangers For Indoor Cats
There’s a lot of reasons most cat owners don’t endorse an indoor/outdoor relationship for their cats. Mainly because it’s too dangerous. On average, an outdoor cat lives about 5 years, and an indoor cat can live up to 20. That’s a rather significant difference in life expectancy to attribute to being outside, but it’s due to the numerous dangers cats face on the streets.
Even if you have gotten the proper vaccinations for your cat, there’s a plethora of diseases waiting for them outside. From leukemia to rabies, cats are prone to lots of different types of diseases. They could obtain feline AIDS or parasites such as fleas or ear mites. All are awful and tricky to deal with, and if you have an indoor/outdoor cat they can bring these diseases into your home.
There’s a great big animal kingdom out there and cats aren’t very high up on the list. They are small and scared creatures and are prey to a lot of larger animals. The biggest threat to a cat is a dog, and even without stray dogs in the area, other peoples dogs are likely to attack a cat in the wrong backyard. There’s also a high likelihood of attack from other predators such as bears, wolves, or even rattlesnakes depending on your area.
Unfortunately the world we live in is not perfect, and there’s some sick people who love tormenting animals, especially animals they find on the street. In our neighborhood it’s common for us to see cats without tails, or cats with stubs for tails. There’s no prevention for this kind of cruelty, it’s simply a risk you take when you let your cat roam free.
Probably the biggest fear we have is cars. How quickly they can take a human life or multitude of lives if used incorrectly. And we see it all the time. If cats can hit other cars, what’s going to prevent them from hitting a small cat that doesn’t have any lights on it? Absolutely nothing. Cats get run over by speeding cars all the time, and if your indoor cat isn’t used to this danger, there’s no real way to know how they will respond to it, they may run directly at a moving car thinking it’s a game.
Preparing Your Cat For The Outdoors
So you understand the risks your cat faces in the great outdoors and you want to get them out there anyway. We get it. It’s normal to think they will be happier outside than inside. So here’s what you need to prepare for their big day outside.
Of course your cat needs to be up to date on their shots, spayed/neutered, and microchipped in case they get lost. Once you have those covered we can get into the logistics, but don’t consider your cat ready to enter the outdoors without them, or terrible things may happen to them or you may never see them again.
Training Your Cat To Your Call
One of the biggest concerns for you should be how to get your cat to come back inside when you want/need them to. To do this, you need to train your cat to respond to your call. The best advice we’ve seen is to slowly prepare your cat for the outdoors by allowing them to go outside briefly before their morning breakfast.
Usually cats aren’t going to run away very far in their first outing since they are naturally scared and conservative in new environments. Let them roam for a few minutes and then prepare their breakfast and call them by name. This will begin to condition your cat to respond to your call with the expectancy of food, a strong motivator for them.
You can slowly allow them to spend more time outside with this method until you no longer need food to get them to come back. But as long as a cat knows where their food comes from, you can be relatively safe they will come back. Plus, cats love their owners.
Do Cats Come Back If They Run Away?
So, what if your cat actually doesn’t come back. Have they run away from you, found a better home, fell in love and started a new life? All these questions can run through your mind when a cat doesn’t return home after a while. But most cats will make their way home, at least if they want to.
Cats have a natural homing instinct that draws them back to their base. As long as they have clearly established your home as their base (you haven’t moved recently), they will probably know how to get home. They just may be busy on some mission of thiers, or in the middle of a big hunt and too busy to return just yet.
All this is to say that most likely your cat will return home soon, but if they don’t it’s time to start calling for them to draw them back home (remember they think they will get some food). And if all else fails, you can start calling local shelters to see if any cats turned up.
You may have to start walking around the neighborhood to find your cat, and it may be unsuccessful, but don’t lose hope. Cats are not that adventurous, they prefer safety, and home is where they are fed. Most likely they are close by. Have patience and persistence.
Enriching Your Indoor Cats Environment
The real solution to letting your cat outside is to enrich their environment to the point where they don’t need or want the outdoors.
What are cats missing inside that they can get outside? A cool breeze? Just open the window. Live prey? Get them a cat toy.
In reality, cats require a lot of stimulation. If you are in a small apartment, your cat may want to run. Get them an exercise wheel to help that craving. They may want to climb. In that case, you can invest in cat shelves. If they need live prey you can get them toys that move automatically, it will keep them entertained.
And if you feel like you want your cat to know how it feels to dig their paws in grass, you can always put them on a leash and bring them to the park. This method allows the best of both worlds; they get to learn about the outdoors while still being protected from all the horrible things that await them.
Hopefully with these tips you can find the right balance for your cat.