What are the benefits of letting my kitten outside?
I think cats make wonderful house pets and as long as they have enough stimulation, they can live long and healthy lives without ever venturing outside.
But, having said that, there are many benefits to letting your kitten outdoors: it allows them to practice their natural instincts to hunt and explore, encourages exercise and mental stimulation and can reduce stress in your pet.
When can I allow my kitten to go outside? What do I need to keep in mind?
Kittens always need two sets of vaccinations at about 9 and 12 weeks old. These vaccinations are vital to protect them against diseases that can be caught from other cats and your kitten must have them before going outside.
The vaccinations need time to be fully effective, so I recommend that kittens can go outside from four months old. However, this should be in a secure garden and under the owner’s careful supervision.
I also highly recommend that any new kitten owner has their pet microchipped. Most cats can be microchipped from the age of 10-12 weeks.
Keep in mind that kittens can get pregnant from only four months old so, if your pet is likely to come into contact with other cats, you should consider having your pet spayed.
What are the risks of allowing my kitten outside?
At any age, a cat faces a number of risks whenever they venture outdoors. Whether it’s other cats or animals, poisonous plants or the risks associated with busy roads, the outside world makes for a potentially hazardous environment.
But for many owners, seeing their pet explore the world outside for the first time is a very rewarding experience.
How can I prepare my kitten for their first visit outside?
My first recommendation is to train your kitten to recognise its name before allowing them outside. You can do this by calling their name whenever you feed them or give them a treat – this helps develop a positive association with their name being called and means they’re more likely to respond when you’re outdoors.
When you’re ready to go outside, I’d suggest picking a quiet day around the house so your kitten is as calm as possible. Try leaving the door to the garden open for a little while before the morning feed to encourage your pet to explore in his or her own time. Stay close by and, after a few minutes, bring them back indoors and reward them with a treat. Repeating this over a few days will help build your kitten’s confidence.
How can I kitten-proof my garden?
Most cats cope pretty well with the garden environment but make sure you carry out common sense checks around your garden for things like sharp edges, rusty nails, especially in areas that might be tempting for your kitten to squeeze into.
Kittens are very inquisitive and can fit through the tiniest of spaces, so make sure you keep an eye out for those areas you might not otherwise check. Also check for any holes in fences, items such as string that they could get caught up in, and any poisonous plants.
What hazards or harmful items should I be aware of?
I’ve seen problems caused by all sorts of hazards. From toxic items such as slug pellets and poisonous plants such as daffodils and lilies, to rodenticides and toads, it’s important to make sure that there are no harmful items that could pose a threat to you kitten’s health.
Here’s a useful A-Z of some of the hazards and poisonous items to keep an eye out for.
What about other cats?
Cats can sometimes squabble, so check your pet regularly for any signs that they may have been in a fight. Look out for things like bite wounds that can sometimes become infected if left untreated. And to avoid unwanted pregnancies, my advice is to have female kittens spayed at six months old.
Mr Tiger’s story
See how five-month-old, short-haired tabby, Mr Tiger, ventured outside for the first time in this short video.