How to Introduce Your Indoor Cat to the Outside World


walking a cat


No matter what side of the indoor vs. outdoor cat debate you’re on, it’s a fact that indoor cats are healthier and live longer than outdoor cats. There are dangers out there in the big world. In my neighborhood, and many others, speeding drivers, loose dogs, ravenous coyotes, and parasites threaten a cat’s well-being. There’s also disease from strays and ferals.

I’m committed to giving my cats their best lives. Dublin loves the outdoors. I am responsible for her safety and happiness. All this means compromise. My husband crafted a wicked catio that both our cats love to hang out in, and we take Dublin out for walks. Inside, we have lots of playtime, so the cats stay active and entertained.

Dublin loves stalking birds, brushing up against plants, and digging her toes into the grass. She loves the feel of sand in her hair as she rolls in it and strolling down the cool, morning sidewalk. She can’t get enough, even at the cost of wearing a harness.

Before she became adept at taking walks, we had to take slow, patient steps toward her outdoor glory.

If you have an indoor cat, he or she may long for the outdoors. But no matter how much they want to go out, you must take precautions beforehand.

Make Introductions

If you haven’t already, introduce your babe to the outside through an open window. From behind a screen, your pet can sit and smell all the wonders of the outside air. They can also acclimate to the sights and sounds of people and cars passing by.

Gear Up

Buy a harness. There are many harnesses available. Product websites and packages explain the differences in sizes. They also show how to measure your cat properly. Different manufacturers have different instructions for their product. Once you have settled on a harness, consult the instructions. Put the harness on your cat for a few minutes a day. Let them wear it for a bit and get used to the feel of the harness and the process of putting them in it.

Note: Never take your cat out in just a collar. If you do, the chances are good they will escape. Always monitor your cat. Put the smartphone down. Most harnesses require you to walk behind your cat, leash in hand. This reduces the possibility of them getting into a position in which they can squirm out of it. Again, consult those handy manufacturer’s instructions.

Cat on a leash

Get Stuck

Get your cat fully vaccinated. Talk to your vet and tell them you’re planning to take your pet outdoors for some fresh air. Ask if your pet’s vaccinations, especially leukemia, are up to date.

Get Out

Keep in an enclosed area for your cat’s first venture, like a backyard without the threat of dogs or traffic. Let your pet go at their own pace; don’t force them along. Let them wander around, sniff and explore, and ease into the new environment.


Be Aware

While you and your cat are strolling, watch for potential trouble. Neighbors walking their dogs or a rabbit shooting across a lawn can make your cat bolt. Keep the leash firmly in hand. If you see something that might scare or tempt your cat, calmly pick up your cat and head for home.

Don’t Force It

Some cats don’t mind living out their days inside. While our girl loves to go out, Oslo prefers admiring the outside from his window or the catio. That’s as close to nature as he will go. He is more frightened by than interested in leaving the house. It took him a good, long while before he ventured out into the catio. No amount of slow integration can change his mind. Don’t force your kitty to go outside if they are adamant about staying inside.

That’s it. Take it slow, be safe, and have fun.