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A cat lying down outdoors, with a bell on its collar.
Pet Blog

How to Safely Expose Your Indoor Cat to the Great Outdoors

It might be tempting to let your indoor cat outside to chase the butterflies, but the outdoors come with big risks! Find out how to safely expose your kitty to the outdoors and enrich their life.

The debate between indoor and outdoor lifestyles for pet cats has been going on for years, and there are pros and cons for each option.

The outdoors come with a lot of risks from cars to predators to poisons to other cats looking for a fight. Moreover, house cats are not a natural part of the North American ecosystem and they can do serious damage to local populations of songbirds and small mammals.

On the other hand, your miniature apex predator has the instincts to run wild! Nature is full of smells to track, animals to chase, places to hide, and things to climb. Cats need a chance to flex those instincts and put their minds and bodies to work in order to be happy and healthy. So how can you let them get a taste of the outdoor life while minimizing the risks to them and your native wildlife?

Keep reading to find ways to safely bring your cat into the outdoors and to bring the outdoors to your cat!

Safe Outdoor Activities for Cats

Catios and Cat Runs

Creating a fully enclosed outdoor space for your cat is one of the safest ways to expose them to the outdoors! The mesh walls of a catio keep your cat in and other animals out while allowing them to run, jump, play, and sniff everything your backyard has to offer.

These can range in complexity from a small mesh popout for your window to elaborate mesh-enclosed patio areas big enough for you and your cat to enjoy while you catch up on some 1:1 time. If your cat run is attached to a window or cat door, they’ll have the independence to choose when to head outside for a sunbathing session.

Cat-Proofed Backyards

Upgrading your backyard can make it a safe area for your cat to roam freely! Consider installing a cat containment fence which is curved inward at the top to prevent any ambitious jumpers and climbers from hopping the fence. You can find specialized cat fences that are ready to install or an angled topper to add to your existing fencing. Once you’re sure your backyard is sealed tight, kick back in your lawn chair and watch your cat get their frolic on!

Leash Training Your Cat

Getting your cat used to a harness and leash can have a steep learning curve (we’ve all seen the videos of cats going boneless), but it’s totally possible! If you have a bold and adventurous cat who wants to roam beyond your backyard, exploring the world with them at your side is your best bet. Train them to walk on a leash and harness and soon your feline friend will become your adventure buddy for trips to the park or to the mountains!

Bringing Outdoor Enrichment Inside

Decked Out Windows

We all know that cats love looking out the windows, so level up that experience! Set up pillows on the windowsill or install a cat hammock for them to recline in for the perfect view. Put a bird feeder outside for the ultimate viewing experience (bonus points if you get one that suctions right to the window glass)! Open the windows whenever the weather allows to let them enjoy all the scents coming in on the fresh air—as long as the screen is securely in the window, of course.

Bring Nature Inside

Let your cat experience the smells and tastes of the outdoors from the comfort of your home! Try growing some cat grass for your kitty to nosh on (perfect for the cats who try to sneak nibbles of your house plants).

Create a dig bin using a storage tote or deep baking tray and fill it with clean leaves, sticks, and other outdoor detritus that’s safe for your cat to explore. Get those hunting instincts going by hiding some treats in there and letting them go to town sniffing out the hidden treasure!

Provide Places to Climb

If you’ve ever wondered why your cat wants to be on top of your fridge so badly, it’s because cats have a natural instinct to climb and watch the world go by from a safe perch. Let your cat express those natural behaviors in their indoor environment in a way that doesn’t give you a jump scare when you try to go get a midnight snack!

Provide a cat tree or go a step further and install cat shelves or a climbing wall for your cat to explore. They’ll get to flex their jumping and climbing muscles, wear down their nails as they claw their way up, and survey their kingdom (or living room) from the proper place of honor.

Find more ways to let your cat express their natural instincts with toys, games, puzzle feeders, and more in our list of enrichment activities to keep your indoor cat happy!

You know your cat better than anyone and can tell which activities suit their adventurous spirit (or lack thereof), but don’t be afraid to try something new with your cat! Your resident couch potato might just discover a hidden sense of adventure they didn’t know they had.