Cute cat enjoying himself outdoors.

Can You Keep a Cat Outdoors Safely?

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In an ideal world, every cat would live indoors and enjoy a warm, loving home. Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world, and some cats must live outdoors due to circumstances beyond their or their person’s control. Here’s what you need to know about cats who live outside.

Only spayed or neutered cats should live outdoors. Cats should wear a breakable collar with ID and your contact information, but many cats are Houdinis when it comes to collar removal. Getting the cat microchipped is crucial.  It serves as a critical backup in case he wanders off.  You should also keep your cat current on all vaccinations and treat the animal regularly with parasite control products.

What cats are better suited outdoors 

For some cats, living outdoors is the best option. Barn cats and other working felines provide rodent control or at least rodent intimidation. Feral cats may never adapt to living indoors. There are some housecats who cannot stand being inside, and make every effort possible – including tearing through screens – to get outdoors.

Then there are the cats for whom an outdoor life may prove the only option other than euthanasia. These are the animals with chronic inappropriate elimination issues that haven’t responded to medication and other therapies. Finding indoor homes for such cats is nearly impossible. Perhaps someone in your household has become severely allergic to Kitty. Rather than give the cat up, outdoor life may allow the animal to remain part of your family.

Photo: Danny Buehring/Getty Images

When outdoors is not feasible 

Keeping a cat outdoors in a high-traffic area is not possible. The risks are simply too high. The same holds true if predators frequent the area, ranging from loose dogs to coyotes. Declawed cats are never candidates for outdoor life. Nor are cats with disabilities such as deafness.

However, if you live on a low-traffic street or far away from the road, in a relatively quiet location, keeping your cat outdoors may work well. Barn cats are often in demand in rural areas, and feral cats usually make the transition to barn cat quite easily.

Containment systems

Purchase containment systems at a pet store or online or DIY if you’re handy.

Related: 4 Ways To Safely Give Your Indoor Cat a Taste of the Outdoors

Gimme shelter 

Provide a warm, safe place for your cat to sleep and protect himself from the elements. Maybe you have a garage, porch or shed to serve this purpose. If not, cats can do well in a homemade or premade shelter. Such shelters aren’t large, as a big shelter is not heat-efficient for one or two cats. Keep the doorway small enough so only a cat can get in. Hang a flap over the door to keep the wind and rain out.

Line the shelter with straw for bedding rather than towels or blankets. Straw is an absorbent bedding, while towels and blankets simply get wet in inclement weather. You can feed the cats inside the shelter to draw them in, or make it more appealing by sprinkling catnip within.

Protecting wildlife

Cats are natural-born killers. That’s not a judgment, simply a fact. Protect the wildlife on your property from your outdoor cat by placing a bell on the animal’s collar to warn birds and smaller animals of his presence. Of course, that’s not realistic if your pet is a working cat whose job is reducing the rodent population.

Top photograph: DeanDrobot/Getty Images

Read Next: 7 Tips for Making Your Outdoor Cat an Indoor Cat

16 thoughts on “Can You Keep a Cat Outdoors Safely?”

  1. Our mostly indoor, occasionally outdoor kitty was killed inside our fenced back yard, which he never left. We suspect a raccoon or most likely a great horned owl. No kitty is safe outdoors unless under your watchful eye or on a leash. The 2 kitties we now have never go outside.

    1. Miss Augusta Hevesi-Nagy

      My Suggestion is To Build an Outside Cat Enclosure, That Way They Still Enjoy Fresh Air And Sunshine ☀️ Instead! Their Protected and So is Wildlife. Cats Can Easily Get Bored if Left inside For Long Periods at a Time.I Know Because I Own 3 Furbabies Myself, Hopefully This Helps You and Your Cats.I Wish???? You Many Cherished Hours Of Special Moments With Your Fur- Family.Keep Safe???? Augusta ☺️????????

  2. There’s really only one way to keep your cat safe outdoors, and that’s to train him/her to walk on a harness and leash.

  3. two years ago, our family adopted a three year old black maine coon from the shelter. his name is bagheera and the friendliest cat i’ve ever known. six months ago, we found a baby black and white stray kitten under the hood of our car. we brought him in and we cleaned him up. he slept in a shoe box in the bathroom for one week, with water and wet cat food. he was too afraid to come out. when he finally got the courage to wander out, he met bagheera. bagheera was very territorial and very jealous of all the attention the new kitty was recieving. at first, i thought the new kitty was a girl. i named her babette. it didn’t take long for bagheera to accept babette, to look after him, to cuddle up next to him and bathe him. now, babette plays and lounges as if he owns the place. and bagheera just lets him think he does. i am in love with our cats.

  4. Linda McGivney

    I’m new to catster and this is my first time accessing the site. For years now all my kitties have been adopted, either unwanted or stray. I grew up on a dairy farm with many barn cats and my love of cats started very early in life. I think I will like it here, lol.

    1. Heidi Christensen

      Breaks my heart too, BUT MY one cat WAS an outdoor cat and would even pull back and pull out of his harness to get free.

      Finally I used my savings and hired a handyman to make me a cat fence.

      I stapled black netting to my wood fence (chain link or wire you will have to wire the netting to it) and screwed pvc piping in the shape of a Triangle to it. THEN I brought the rest of the netting up and over the top of the piping. This way I had a netting top for my fence. MY cat did everything he could but could NOT get out!

      1. Sandra Krachey

        Can you show a picture? I can’t picture what it would look like and we would like to use this idea

  5. I keep a feral cat. I think she is mute …. and infertile. Never meows ….. just opens its mouth and hisses occasionally. Never lets me approach her, but she knows I am her food source. I keep her comfortable with food, shelter, and warmth (harsh winters here).

    Over past 18 months, I’ve gottin closer to her and exchanged some slow eye blinking …. but no petting.

    One night, she fought with another cat and injured her left forearm. Limping around. I tried to trap her, but she was too smart. Fortunately, it healed and she seems ok.

    She disappears for a few hours, but always returns to her territory. I think she’ll live awhile with a very comfortable and happy life. She’s very wary …. with heightened senses.

  6. I feed the stray cats in my back yard, I was participating in the TnR program until they started to charge $85.00 per cat, I’m a disabled Veteran living on disability I can’t afford to pay $85.00 a pop.
    There are about 20+ cats that come here and eat then leave, I have about 12 that are here everyday
    I make sure they have shelter and fresh water and feed them twice a day, I have cleaned some of the kittens eyes when they get all boogery and I use an eye medicine I got from a veterinarian friend.

    1. Have you looked for a lower price TnR option? Some humane societies offer coupons for
      free spay/neuters. You may also consider a GoFundMe page.
      Thanks for taking care of the cats!

    2. Christine Johnston

      That is SO wonderful – for them, and, I am sure, for you too! We were adopted by a stray cat about a year ago. It has been fun to watch him grow to trust us (and other people) more and more.

    3. We had many ferals too. It was out of control because those babies will have more babies & before you know it, you’re overwhelmed. Keep looking for a TNR program. It wasn’t easy to find one but we finally did. Everyone was fixed & we now have a closed colony. Call every vet & ask if they know of any. Ask the Humane Soc. If you can find a group, they will take care of trapping & everything. Pls don’t give up. I don’t know where you are or how far away from things you are, but even the next town over. If your friend can start a “go fund me” page to help raise money. If you’re good on computers, maybe you can. Your heart’s in the right place, I hope you find help. I know the sad feeling of seeing all those cats that need help.

    4. Thank you for helping so many homeless kittys ~ so very kind of you! <3 Please try to find another TNR option or else a Rescue that can help you with expenses, before the numbers explode out of control :( Many Rescues have grants and programs that will help Colony Caretakers with spay/neuter costs (even for free) and often can help with food and other vet expenses too! What City are you in — I can try to find some ideas for you?

  7. Pingback: Can You Keep a Cat Outdoors Safely? – Growing Social

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