New cat? Advice and guidance about letting them out for the very first time

Wednesday 19th December, 2012 by Greg Findley.


Cats are creatures who are active both day and night, and although they spend the majority of their time in the vicinity of their home, they can roam quite some distance away, so you have to make every effort to ensure that they will return safely.

This may be less of a concern as time goes by and you become accustomed to your cat’s comings and goings, but allowing your pet that freedom for the first time can be quite daunting, even worrying, especially if you have not had a cat before and are not quite sure what to expect.

One thing you must not do is try to prevent your cat from following its natural predatory instincts in the outside world. Such action would inevitably lead to behavioural problems and your cat would be far from the contented variety.

Having said that, it is, however, advisable to keep an adult cat indoors for the first three or four weeks until it becomes used to the new environment and the routines associated with it. Just give your pet sufficient time to settle in, and then you will be able to allow it the freedom it requires. It is in a cat’s nature to bond rather more to places than people, so you do need to ensure that it quite literally feels at home before allowing it to venture outside.

During this settling-in period you will, of course, need to make provision for your cat’s toilet requirements, so make sure there is a litter tray at some convenient spot, but also try to find somewhere that provides a bit of privacy for your pet – and it needs to be away from food bowls!
Talking of food, you should start as you mean to go on by setting up a mealtime routine. Feed your cat at the same time each day, and your pet will quickly become used to expecting food at that particular point. Another thing, as you are preparing the food attract your cat’s attention by calling ‘grub’s up’ or ”feed-time’ or simply ‘dinner’ or ‘tea’ depending on the time of day. Do this, and in no time at all, if your cat is in the vicinity, you will find it will be ready and waiting at its dish by the time the food arrives.

While you are keeping your cat indoors in the initial few weeks of the ‘getting-to-know-you’ period it is very important that you remember to close doors and windows to prevent any means of escape, because the odds are that if your cat does manage to get out during this time it will not return. So better safe than sorry.

Right then, let us now assume that you have reached a point where you feel you can cut the apron strings, as it were, and allow your cat to explore the outside world. Your next question might very well be, are there good and bad times to make your move in this respect?

Well, it might be a good idea to check the weather forecast. You’ve no doubt heard the expression ‘raining cats and dogs’… Seriously, though, If there is any suggestion of really bad weather, rain, wind – perhaps even snow! – then it might be as well to postpone the venture for a day or so. Don’t give your cat a fright on the first day of freedom!

Another tip is to make sure that the immediate vicinity is quite peaceful at the time. For example, it might not be the most opportune moment for the cat to leave the sanctuary of the house if the kids are holding their version of the FA Cup final on the back lawn, or the grandparents are having a bit of a knees-up on the patio.

Once you have checked that the coast is clear then by all means meander out into the garden with the cat, who would probably appreciate such company on that first outside occasion. Then, however, leave your pet to wander at will, and make your way slowly back into the house. As you do so, leave the back door open if possible, so that the cat is aware that it can scurry inside if, for any reason, it feels a bit unsure of itself. This applies particularly if your cat is of a nervous disposition.

One more thing: make sure that your cat carries some form of identification. A cat collar is the ideal device, but do choose one with a safety release. It has been known for collars to get caught on some obtrusion, and the cat sustaining an injury as a result. So, while making it possible for your cat to be identified if it gets lost, at the same time incorporate that added safety factor. An identification tag on the collar stating that the cat has been microchipped is also highly recommended.

So, you have taken all the precautions you can. Your cat is out there in the wild blue yonder and all you can do now is wait for it to come purring home again when its curiosity has been well and truly satisfied. When that does happen make sure you give some reward in the form of a tasty treat. If you feel the need to try to lure the cat back home before it makes its return voluntarily, then go into the garden, with a dishful of its favourite food, call its name, add the familiar feeding time phrase, and that will usually do the trick.

Follow these guidelines and you and your cat will have a rewarding relationship that benefits both of you in equal measure. A purr-fect match, you might say.