If you've had cats all of your life then you know that some feline friends are perfectly happy to live a life of indoor-domestic bliss while others will tear out a screen to get outside. If you're not sure how to tell if your house cat is actually an outside cat, and you're a new pet parent, there are some telltale ways that your cat will let you know. While adult cats adopted from shelters are more likely to have spent part of their lives outdoors, even felines raised inside since they were kittens can get the urge to go outside.
"Once Valerie LaRussell and her husband, Greg, let their cat Odie outside for a 'playdate' with a neighbor’s cat, there was no going back. The 2-year-old grey tabby would 'meow his head off' and tear up the furniture whenever he was kept indoors," WebMD reported. "They tried taking him outside with a harness, but he slipped right out of it. 'We just became resigned to the fact that he’s going to be an indoor-outdoor cat," LaRussell told WedMD. If you have a cat like this, and you don't live in a densely populated urban area, you might consider this option for the happiness of both you and your kitty.
However, letting you cat outside is not without risks. If your feline fur baby insists on going outside, you'll want to do everything you can to ensure your cat's safety. "Whenever possible, try to get them in at night. Most problems, such as getting hit by a car or having a wild animal like a coyote after them — it seems most of the problems occur at night," Bernadine Cruz, DVM, associate veterinarian at the Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Hills, Calif., told WebMD.
You'll also want to make sure you cat has a breakaway collar, which ensures your cat can get the collar off it becomes caught on anything. The collar should contains a tag with your phone number and address. It's also a good idea to get your cat microchipped and registered, because if your cat does end up at a shelter, they will scan to see your cat is chipped and call you right away.
"Pets get lost all the time — they run off, slip out of collars and slide through gates," Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Michelson Found Animals and creator of the first national microchip registry, tells Bustle. "No one likes to think about losing a pet — but being prepared just in case will increase the likelihood that they’ll get back to you and give you peace of mind."
While some cats might insist on going outside, other cats are more than content to enjoy the outdoors by looking out the window. What's more, because cats who spend their lives indoors have not developed the same hunting and safety instincts as their outdoor counterparts, letting them outside could be dangerous.
Once your cat realizes that being indoors is way better than roaming around an urban jungle, most will be more than happy to observe the world through a window. Some cats can be trained to walk with harnesses outside like dogs, but not all cats are into this restriction, and crafty cats can easily slip out of their harnesses. Additionally, cats that aren't spayed or neutered have a stronger drive to go outside because they have a primal urge to mate.
Aside from doing your part to control the stray cat population, spaying or neutering you cat when its young can help quell the urge to go outside. Cats in heat can create a lot of other cats, and these cats and their kittens can seek harbor in unlikely spaces — like your attic. That's not good for anyone.
If you really want your cat to experience the great outdoors, you can build what My Cat From Hell host Jackson Galaxy calls a catio. A catio is just like it sounds, a patio for your cat. It can connect to a window and should be covered with a screen that your cat can't scratch its way out of. If you live in an apartment in an urban area, this might not be an option, though — so, if your cat is driving you bananas with constant meowing and scratching to go outside, the Humane Society noted on its website that the number one way to keep your cat happy indoors is to make being inside as fun as being outside.
"Give your kitty plenty of indoor options to express their natural behaviors," the Humane Society advised. "A cat's play is all based on the hunting instinct, so give them plenty of toys to stalk, chase, pounce on, and kill. They don't have to be fancy; a ball of aluminum foil and a paper bag delight many a cat."
What's more, since humans tend to be owned by cats versus the other way around, you're going to have to make your living space super cat-friendly. "Cats like to observe their world from above (which is why they climb trees and roofs), so give or make yours a cat tree or kitty jungle gym to climb," the Humane Society noted. "Give them a sunny window so they can watch the birds or bask in a sunbeam. Grow cat grass (available at pet supply stores) for them to chew on. Give them lots of your time and attention."
If your cat is demanding to go outside and you've tried everything, it might be time to consult a cat behaviorist. Cats are complex and mysterious creatures, and understanding what your cat wants and needs can help you and your fur baby have a happy and healthy relationship.