Much like a baby taking their first steps, a kittens first adventure outside is one of those memorable moments you want to remember with an aww not an aghh. If you’re wondering when can kittens can go outside for the first time, we’ve written up a couple of tips to help ease any nerves and ensure it all goes smoothly.
Indoors vs. Outdoors?
Chances are if you’re reading this blog you have already held this debate in your mind. An impawtant first step in deciding when can kittens go outside is whether you intend your kitty to be an indoor or an outdoor cat. This can be quite a controversial topic, with some holding particularly strong feelings for or against. Ultimately though, the decision is your cats (then yours). The main point in favour of being an indoor cat is the reduced exposure to risks and danger, with indoor cats typically living longer. Whilst those in favour of being an outdoor cat argue the wealth of experience and mental enrichment contributes to positive health and well-being. Other factors such as where you live, the breed of cat you have e.g a maine coon and their activity-levels should also come into your decision-making process. Click here for more information about indoor and outdoor cats.
Of course, there is also the ‘middle ground’. This includes activities like cat-proofing your garden, using some sort of catio or pen or even attempting to lead-train your kitty.
Before your new kitten can go outside:
Once you and your kitty have made the decision about whether they’ll be venturing outdoors, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure your kitty has before they make their great escape. These will not only protect your own kitty, but other feline friends who might be out and about too.
Tick-off the points below to know when can kittens go outside:
- Micro-chip – get your kitty micro-chipped by your vet. This can be done from the age of 5 weeks or onwards. The process involves implanting a tiny chip under their skin. Your details are then uploaded onto a database. This helps identify your cat should they go astray and traced back to you.
- Collar and tag – make sure your kitten is wearing a comfortable collar with a tag on that details your own name and contact number. Never include your pets name on the tag to help prevent pet theft, which is sadly on the rise. If you’re adverse to your kitty catching any mice or birds you may also want to include a little bell. The jingle will give the little critters a pre-warning that they’re about to be pounced on.
- Vaccinations – before your kitten goes outside, you’ll want to make sure they’ve had both their kitten vaccinations to prevent them picking up any unwanted illnesses.
- Neutering – neuter your cat before their outdoor adventures. For their and other kitties sake. Kittens can be neutered at the age of around 4 months, before they become sexually mature. If you have chosen to adopt your kitty from a rehoming centre, chances are they will have already been neutered with the cost mixed into the adoption fee.
- Flea prevention – this is more relevant to outdoor kitties, or indoor kitties who have outdoor fur siblings. You’ll want to make sure they’ve had their anti-flea treatment. This can be done in a number of ways from topical to oral preventatives. Whilst this doesn’t sound like a particularly glamorous task, there are some companies modernising and ‘prettifying’ the process with monthly flea subscriptions. We'd recommend you stick to your Vets who are the only one's allowed to prescribe the crème de la crème of flea treatments.
How will they access the outdoors?
Finally, you’ll need to plan how you’re going to give your kitty long-term access to the outdoors. There are a number of options, from the basic cat flap to pretty nifty micro-chip flaps that can only be released by your specific kitty. This prevents any unwanted friends from popping in to say hi / gobble up all their Scrumbles.
Kitten proofing the outdoors
Eventually your little kitty will venture well beyond the confines of your garden, but for the initial trips outdoors it's worth kitten proofing your garden to make it as safe as possible. If you have a pond or water feature cover it up with a board or something that could bear the weight of your kitten incase they do tread on it. Do the same with any exposed guttering, drains or pipes.
If you have an outdoor shed or garage filled with garden tools, chemicals or machinery ensure your kitten can't get inside. Then do a thorough perimeter check of your fencing, especially if you live near a busy road, Remember they are small and very flexible, so no matter the size of the gap, cover it up.
For a couple of days before your kittens first outdoor trip spend a little time each day looking outside to see if any other cats roam into your garden. Cats are very territorial beings, and if other felines think your garden is 'theirs', disputes may arise if your kitty then decides to claim it as their own. This is another reason to accompany them for the first few weeks so they can establish their scent trails and deter other cats from entering. Essentially you're acting as their two-legged bodyguard.
The big day when kittens can go outside has arrived
The big day has finally arrived; you’ve ticked off all the above steps and are ready to feel some grass and mud under your paws. Typically this will be around the age of 13-14 weeks. Although if you've rehomed your cat, you shouldn't let them out for 4-6 weeks to allow them time to settle in to their surroundings. This includes if you relocate to another home in the future. It might not be obvious but there’ll be some nerves from both ends, so to make going outside as stress-free as possible we’d advise choosing your time-slot wisely.
Take things slowly
We all know our kitties aren’t such a fan of getting wet, so opting for a dry day after a period of no rain is ideal for a starter.
Start by gradually escorting them out through the door or flap. Not all kittens are as brave as others, so you might need to take this process very slowly. Gradually take them further outside, always having an exit-route back inside easily accessible incase it all gets a little too scary. A gust of wind is enough to send Boo running back home.
Go before a meal time, not after
Rather than taking them out after their Scrumbles dinner time, take them out prior to a meal. Food is one of the only one-ups we have over our kitties, so use this to your advantage. They will be much more likely to come back to you if they’re in need of a little snackette. Arming yourself with a bag of our dental cat treats or other cat treats to shake and tempt them back in if they start making a dash for it is another of our sneeky tricks. Always praise your kitten when they come back to you, and once you return form your first excursion. This will help build a positive association with recall, which will be handy for you both going forwards.
You’ll also want to pick a time that you know your chosen outdoor location will be free from any distractions. This includes other two-legged or four-legged beings, or any other 'spooks' that might distract them i.e a cucumber-free zone.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Finally, no blinking, not even for a second. Keep your eyes glued on your little kitty! They might be small but they’re anything but slow and can disappear quite easily if you’re not careful.
It might take a few attempts to get your kitty fully used to the outdoors. With patience and positive praise they'll adapt to their new playground in no time. Leaving you wondering just how did they grow up so quickly?