One of the first and most important things to consider before letting your cat outdoors is to ensure that they have some form of identification, ideally cats should be microchipped or at least be wearing a safety collar with an Id tag.
Risk of infection due to interacting with other cats is now possible, nasty conditions such as enteritis, cat flu and leukaemia can be spread so it is advisable that your cat is fully up to date with their vaccinations before allowing them to explore the outdoors.
Whilst your cat is still indoors it is a good time to practice recall, you can encourage this by using a tin with treats inside, shake the tin whilst shouting his/her name. Reward them with a treat when they come to you. Another useful idea is to spread some of their used cat litter around the edges of your garden, cats as we know are extremely sensitive to smells and this familiar smell may help them to feel safe and help with confidence. As well as informing neighbouring cats there’s a new cat in the area.
Cats are cautious by nature, so it’s unlikely they will bolt straight out the door. Most will take their time deciding if it’s safe or not. Do not pick them up and take into the garden be patient.
Choose a quiet time of day preferably when the weather is dry. Do not feed your cat as they tend not to roam very far on an empty belly.
Open your door and accompany your cat outside, leave the door open so they can retreat quickly to what they know as a safe haven if they feel the need to. Do not be alarmed if they disappear into a nearby bush this is actually a normal strategy in order for them to acclimatise to a new environment. After approximately 20 mins call your cat indoors using your tin if necessary.
As each day passes your cat will gain more confidence staying outside for longer periods at one time, learning and having fun displaying their natural behaviour.
Blog post written by RVN & Cat Advocate of Bay Vets, Jo McCartney.