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There’s plenty of discussion among cat lovers about whether it’s safe to let feline friends outside. Many feel it’s a cat’s natural instinct to enjoy climbing trees and chasing birds, but the hazards of an outdoor life are far greater than they are for a cat who remains inside at all times.
As a responsible cat owner, if you do decide to allow your cat to roam around outside, it’s important to do all you can to keep your kitty safe while she’s doing so. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to providing your cat with the protection she’ll need once outside.
1. Get a New Kitten Used to Her Indoor Environment First
When you bring a new kitten home, her first few days should be spent in one room of your house, where she can build up her confidence in her new surroundings and become aware of the house indoors before venturing outside. Spend time with your new cat, gently letting her get to know her home and making sure your new bundle of fur has food, water and a litter tray close at hand. These steps will make her feel safe, secure and help her adjust. If you’ve recently moved, you can follow the same steps to prevent your cat from returning to your old home. Keep in mind that cats are very territorial, so it takes time for them to get familiar with new surroundings.
2. Expand Her Surroundings
Cats are incredibly versatile, and after just a few days you can introduce a new cat to the rest of the house. If you do this one room at a time, she will not become overwhelmed or distressed. It’s vital to ensure all windows and doors are kept closed so your cat doesn’t escape before you’re ready to introduce her to the outdoors. Some cats will be naturally adventurous and eager to explore the rest of the house. For those that are less bold, you will need to encourage them to move through the house by making lots of reassuring noise and giving plenty of cuddles to reward the behaviour you want.
3. Get Her Properly Vaccinated
To protect your cat from unwanted diseases that can be easily caught in the outside world, it’s essential that your cat is fully vaccinated before you let her outside. Kitten’s first vaccinations start at about 9 weeks, with another injection at about 12 weeks. While your kitten is still suckling from her mother, the colostrum in the milk gives her natural immunity against viruses known as MDA (Maternally derived antibodies). So as suckling dwindles, further vaccinations are required to offer your kitten full protection.
There are three main diseases which cats are vaccinated against in their primary boosters: cat flu, feline enteritis and feline leukemia. Once your cat or kitten has been vaccinated, he will require annual boosters to keep him fully protected. Catteries will often ask to see evidence of up-to-date vaccinations before allowing your cat to stay. Some may also ask for your cat to be vaccinated against feline kennel cough, or bordatella bronchisepta. Speak to your vet, who will be able to advise you on the best vaccinations for your cat.
Also keep in mind that most vets recommend kittens don’t go outside until they’re neutered and fully vaccinated, which tends to be at about five or six months old.
4. Provide Her With the Proper Tags
While at the vet to vaccinate your cat, ask about getting her microchipped as well. This is a quick and painless way to protect your cat and increase the chances of him being returned if lost. This tiny microchip is inserted under a cat’s skin, providing them with their own unique code. If someone finds your lost cat and takes her to the local rescue centre or vet, she will be scanned for a microchip once there. The chip will be matched to your home address details which are kept on a database. It’s important to update your address if you move house so you can be reunited with your cat should she get lost. It’s not a bad idea to keep an up-to-date collar with your telephone and address on your cat at all times, as well, as this would be the easiest way for someone to return your missing cat.
5. Introduce Her to the Great Outdoors
Once your cat has had at least three weeks to get familiar with your home and family, then it could be time to consider opening the door if you’d like to give her the ability to roam outside. Don’t be tempted to rush this process. If your cat doesn’t feel totally at home yet, you may find that when you open the door to the big wide world, she could run off and not come back. Ensuring that your cat feels loved and taken care of in your home is an essential ingredient to making sure she returns after her outdoor adventures. If you can, try to pick a warm and dry day for your cat’s first adventure outside. Don’t feed her before you let her outside for the first time, either. Making sure she’s hungry helps to encourage her to return home for food. It’s also best to go outside with your cat at first, too. Talk to her calmly, stroking her and sitting with her when she ventures outdoors. Do this for five or ten minutes, and then bring your cat inside again to be fed.
6. Give Her Freedom…With Some Boundaries
Once the first trip outside is complete, you can gradually increase the amount of times your cat is allowed outside. As she builds up her confidence you may consider giving her access during the day to come and go via a cat flap in your door. To prevent unwanted feline friends popping by, consider a magnetic cat flap which is activated by your cat’s collar. It’s also best to bring your cat inside at night to prevent her from getting into fights when other unneutered or stray cats are likely to be roaming around, or from getting locked into garages or struck by cars or other vehicles whose drivers may have a harder time seeing your cat at night.
7. Provide Plenty of Food, Water and ShelterIf you are out at work during the day and your cat has the ability to roam around outside, make sure she always has access to fresh water, food and shelter. In the summer, especially, it’s vital your cat can keep hydrated, cool and comfortable. Any extreme weather conditions should be observed with caution and, if in doubt, bring your kitty inside where it’s safe.
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