Safe Outdoor Adventures for Your Indoor Cat

Cats live longer and healthier lives when they are kept indoors, but if you’d like to give your favorite feline some outdoor adventures, there are safe ways to do it.

Create a Catio

Whether your home is big or small, consider adding a catio to your space. A catio is a cat enclosure or “cat patio” that provides your cat a safe place to enjoy a sunny snooze or simply enjoy nature.

Seattle-based Catio Spaces offers custom built catios, do-it-yourself catio plans and catio kits in a variety of designs and sizes for a window, porch, patio, deck, garden or yard.

“Cats need enrichment and stimulation on a daily basis and a catio provides them with opportunities to climb shelves, watch birds and take a catnap in the sun,” said Catio Spaces founder and catio designer Cynthia Chomos.

From a large space that includes ample areas for climbing to a small “window box” style catio, there’s something that will please your kitty.

Of course, if you live in an apartment or home that doesn’t have a backyard, you could consider getting a balcony with ample space; companies that help with the installation of glass balconies in the North East (or wherever else in the country) may be approached for such services. Not only will this give you space to create a “catio”, but maybe also a space for yourself!

“We design (catios) to compliment a home and garden and they can be painted and decorated to become outdoor garden rooms for humans too,” said Chomos.

Benefits of a catio:

  • Protects cats from predators, poisons, diseases from other animals and getting lost
  • Reduces vet bills from vehicles, cat fights or injuries
  • Provides a healthy lifestyle with the enrichment of fresh air, exercise, sunbathing and bird watching
  • Helps reduce indoor multi-cat issues by adding more territory and stimulation
  • Helps eliminate indoor litter odors (with an outdoor litter box)
  • Maintains good neighbor relations by keeping cats out of neighbors’ yards
  • Provides cat guardians with peace of mind knowing their cat is in a safe and protected environment

“Another benefit to catios is they also help protect birds and wildlife,” said Chomos. “And with a loss of habitat, pesticides and other dangers to birds, I believe it’s important to see the big picture and catios are a win-win.”

Step Out With a Stroller

The author’s cat Vinny enjoys a stroll.

Your best buddy may enjoy an outdoor excursion in a stroller, which allows you to take a walk with your cat while she is safe and secure. She can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature without being exposed to the dangers of traffic, dogs, or parasites.

Actress Jennifer Garner caused a stir when she was spotted taking a stroll in Los Angeles with her cat in a stroller. “It’s so LA it hurts” proclaimed Metro UK.

But a cat in a stroller is not unusual. It’s a great way to take your pet outside to enjoy time with you and get a change of scenery.

Cats like to sniff the air just like dogs do, and a walk will provide mental stimulation. Elderly cats or those that have physical limitations may enjoy a ride around the neighborhood.

When I downsized to a smaller apartment, my cat Vinny was NOT happy with the new arrangement. At the large place we were across from a busy park and Vinny was able to sit in his window seat and watch people and dogs and all sorts of activity. But our small apartment doesn’t have much going on so he was testy, to say the least.

On Instagram I follow a big fluff cat named Lou, who goes out in a stroller. I contacted Lou’s person and got some advice on the stroller.

Strollers come in various shapes and sizes, most with a mesh enclosure, which is what I got. The stroller is big enough for Vinny to easily move around in (Sometimes he likes to look out the back “window.”) and it folds up so it’s easy to store.

At first Vinny was a bit scared when we went out but he quickly warmed up to it and if the stroller is set up for him, he will jump in and wait for me to take him outside.

Cats are pretty smart, and if they know the only way they are going to get outside is in the stroller, they can be persuaded.

Vinny gets lots “aww” reaction from people we pass when we walk around our neighborhood, and I think he enjoys the attention.

Opt for Exploration

If you are truly adventurous you may want to get a harness and lead for your cat and go for a walk near your home, or even venture out into the woods.

Marc and Christie Lassen’s cats Midnight and LJ are shop cats at Wild Birds Unlimited near Sequim. The two kittens took over at the store after their predecessor, a cherished ginger cat named Luther, passed away.

The Lassens enjoy hiking so they thought it would be fun to be able to take the kittens along.

Christie said at first, Midnight and LJ were a little frightened of the harness going over their heads but treats and lots of play with the harness on made them forget they were wearing it.

The kittens were five months old when they went on their first outdoor walk.

“They were great, and excited to be outdoors,” said Christie.

Months later, the kittens have grown into seasoned explorers.

“It’s interesting that they have figured out the extent of their leash,” said Christie. “They know how far they can go and have become confident on the leash.”

“We try to stick to trails without a lot of activity on them but every now and then we run into a hiker or mountain biker and they are getting more and more comfortable with that too.”

Christie’s advice for people who want to take their cats outside:

“Be patient. And start your training in a place they feel safe,” she said. “The first walk we did we went to a place close to our home that was quiet, someplace cars and other animals would not be.”

“We also practiced a lot of picking up the cats while they had the leash and harness on before we went outside so that if we did need to pick them up outside they were comfortable with it,” she said.

More tips for new adventure cats:

  • Be sure your cat is interested – don’t force him
  • Your cat should be microchipped and current on vaccines
  • Practice indoors first. Find harness that a good fit. Make sure your cat is comfortable inside before you venture outside.
  • Try short trips first. Don’t push your cat outside of his comfort zone
  • Give treats!

Image of Captain Jack Midnight and Lord John Grey photo courtesy of Christie Lassen