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Letting your cat out for the first time

Letting your cat out for the first time can be daunting, especially if they’re an indoor cat or a young kitten still discovering the world. Find out when to let a cat outside, how to prepare and more with our guide.



When can a cat go outside?

Cats are curious creatures. If they’re not jumping up on the furniture or darting from room to room, they’re likely hidden away doing something else mischievous. And it won’t be long before they’re ready to take their adventures outside. 

But, before your cat can head to the great outdoors, there are some things to consider, like getting them microchipped or buying a fitted collar with a tag. This guide will cover what to consider when letting cats out for the first time, how to prepare and more.

How to prepare for when your cat goes outside for the first time 

You will need to get prepared when letting your cat out for the first time. It’s a big step for any cat and can be nerve racking for you too. You’ll need to make sure they’re healthy and the outdoor area is safe. Before introducing your cat to the outside world, you should:

Prepare your outside space 

Cats often wander past the garden, but you want to make sure it’s as safe and cat-friendly as possible. Lock away garden tools and cover any pipes and gaps between buildings. If you have a garage, make sure there are no open containers of antifreeze or oil, as these smell and taste attractive to pets.

Get your cat vaccinated

Cat vaccinations help to protect cats from becoming seriously ill. Although some infectious diseases are usually passed from cat to cat, other are spread in the environment. Before letting your cat outside, make sure they complete their primary vaccination course first.

Microchip your cat

It’s important that cats and kittens venturing outside unsupervised have a microchip. This tiny device helps to identify your cat if they wander too far. If they are scanned by the vets you will be contacted. Microchips can be inserted  at the time of their primary vaccination or during neutering.

Have your cat neutered

It’s worth having your cat neutered  before they journey outside without supervision. Female kittens can get pregnant at four months old, while male cats are at risk of roaming to find a mate or getting into fights with other cats. This can lead to them becoming infected with various diseases.

Train your cat to come to you

Before letting your cat outside, do some work teaching them to come to you when called. You can use treats for positive reinforcement. Simply call your cat’s name and shake their favourite treats. When they come to you, give them the treat, then repeat the process. If they’re successful every time, then you can try it outside instead.

Consider a cat flap

It’s important that your cat can get in and out of the house on their own. Consider getting a cat flap fitted to your door to allow easy access. Some flaps even allow you to program your cat’s microchip numbers into them, which prevents other cats from entering. 

Letting a cat outside for the first time

Once you let your cat out for the first time, they’ll get a taste for more. You’ll probably notice them standing by the door and meowing, eager for their next adventure.

Until then, it’s worth taking the following steps when you first let your cat outside: 

  • Go out with them – There’s no telling what your cat might do when they get that first bit of fresh air. Go outside with them and leave the door open so that they can either join you or quickly get back inside when they’re ready.
  • Sit down quietly and observe – This allows you to keep a close eye on your cat while they explore freely. You will soon learn their habits when they’re outside.
  • Keep a treat or toy with you – You can continue to train your cat to come when called. Try not to head inside straight away, otherwise they will associate a treat with having to go back inside.
  • Build up their outdoor time – It’s worth building up the length of time your cat is outside over a few sessions. Once they’re comfortable being outside, you can let them come and go unaccompanied.

What age can kittens go outside?

Kittens are small, vulnerable and can easily slip away if left on their own. It’s best not to let your kitten outside unsupervised until they are at least six months old and neutered. Kittens should also have all their vaccinations and be fully settled into your home before going outside. 

The outdoors can also be a little intimidating for your kitten, so even if they are old enough be sure to make sure they’re confident enough in the house first before they venture out.   

When should adult cats go outside?

The length of time before letting your cat outside depends on their character and how long it takes them to settle in. It may be tempting to let your cat out as soon as possible so they can get familiar with their surroundings, but some cats require longer. 

It’s best to allow at least two to three weeks and up to four to 6 weeks after you first bring them home – especially if you have an adopted cat.

What challenges do cats face outside?

The world is big and vast for a cat, and they might face some challenges as they establish themselves outside. Things like traffic, other cats, other animals and people can pose a risk to your precious feline.

You might be familiar with your street, but a cat’s knack for investigation means they can explore further than their own garden. It’s worth thinking about how safe it will be before letting your cat outside. 

If there are other cats in your immediate neighbourhood, it’s likely your cat may come across them. Cats are solitary hunters and will quickly establish their own territory which they will defend from other cats. 

Territories can cause problems for cats who are new to an area that other cats already ‘own’. It’s worth helping your cat to establish themselves in your garden so they can build their own scent and deter other cats from entering. 

Does pet insurance cover cats outside?

Cats are prone to accidents and injuries when they’re out and about. Whether you have a living room lounger or outdoor explorer, you can protect your cat from potential threats outside with pet insurance

With Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance, you can choose from three types of cover: time limited, maximum benefit or lifetime cover. 

Find out more about cat insurance with Sainsbury’s Bank.

Frequently asked questions 

How long before a cat can go outside after moving house?

How long you wait before letting a cat outside depends on the cat’s personality and how quickly they adjust to their new environment. As a general rule, adult cats would need to wait at least two to three weeks and up to four to 6 weeks before going outside.

How do I transition my indoor cat to outdoor?

To get your cat used to the big outdoors, start with slow increases of time outside. Once they become familiar with the smells, sounds and sights of the outdoors, you can establish a routine. Then you can let your cat outside at the same time every day and night.

I’m scared to let my kitten outside. How do I overcome that fear?

Letting a kitten outside for the first time can be overwhelming, but it’s worth giving them a taste of the outdoors. Kittens can go outside from the age of six months old, once they’ve been neutered and vaccinated. For their first time, prepare your outdoor space and stay with them as they explore. Start with 10 minutes outside, then gradually build their outdoor time until they’re comfortable on their own.


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