Give Your Cat a Taste of the Great Outdoors

Check out these three safe and fun ways to bring the outside to your cat, or to bring your cat outside.

By Kristina Lotz

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Ragdoll mix breed on a leash -- Bring Outdoors to Your Cat
The author's Ragdoll-mix cat, Sassy, leashes up for a stroll.
Even the most spoiled penthouse Persian has a wild tiger lurking inside her. This inner personality can be cute, like when a kitten attacks a sun spot on the carpet or your cat tries to go after a bird from inside the house. It can also be destructive – remember when you came home and found your cat had teepee'd your bathroom? While we all know cats are safer indoors, in order for them to be happy, find a way to bring nature inside. It will also help deter the frat parties in the bathroom.

1. Get Cats Some Sun
According to Dr. Deena Leong, from North Tustin Veterinary Clinic in Tustin, Calif., cats need sunshine to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for their immune system and bones. Regular sunshine ensures they have adequate amounts of this nutrient and helps regulate their mood and mental health, she explains. But how do you give your wild cat some sunshine without the fear of her coming to a bad end in the concrete jungle? Where I live, someone has screened off their front porch, turning it into a sun room for their cats. This is a safe way for your indoor cats to get sunshine and exercise.

If you don't have a porch, Christina Pawlosky, owner of Pet Connection in Warren, Ohio, recommends a window seat, either the kind that sits inside the house at window level, or the ones that actually hang outside the window, allowing your cat to sit suspended above the ground, just like a tree branch. Similarly, several companies now make “kitty compounds” – fully-enclosed playpens for indoor cats that you can put in your back yard or on your balcony.

2. Let Cats Hunt in the House
Cats are predators. It is this drive that makes them pull on your blinds' cords or attack your feet as you trip over them with your morning coffee. Bring the outdoors in by giving your cat something to hunt. Dr. Leong suggests a DVD of scenes with fish or birds for your cat to watch. Many motorized cat toys can simulate hunting for your cat, too. My cats love their motorized cat toy, which has a furry ball on the end of a pole that moves erratically around. Keeps them both entertained for at least an hour – just enough time to reroll the toilet paper.

3. Walk Cats Outside
Take your leashed cat for a stroll! This is my favorite tip, because it gives your cat a real taste of the outdoors and exercises them. Make sure you buy a cat harness, and not a dog harness – a cat can slip out of a dog harness like butter off corn! First, put the harness on your cat inside and allow him to walk around wherever he wants, just so he gets used to it. Once he is comfortable, put the leash on. You are mainly there to guide your cat on walks and to use restraint should your cat try to go anywhere dangerous.

If you follow one or all of these tips, your city kitty will be happy, less destructive and healthier – now doesn't that make you want to purr?

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Reader Comments

Bill    Lexington, KY

3/14/2014 9:20:34 PM

These are great ideas. If you want to read a great in-depth tutorial on how to get started walking a cat with a harness and leash, check this out: LINK

NSF    San Jose, CA

3/1/2014 6:12:33 PM

Alternatively you can get a pet stroller. My neighborhood has several dogs. Also, my cat is barely 7 lbs. She LOVES her stroller. We take 2 or more strolls each weekend day. I also stroll her when I work at home. Sha also loves the windows & sunlight.

janet    bethlehem, PA

10/24/2013 3:31:07 AM

my cats NEVER ever go outside, except in carrier to the Vet

Vendetta    McMinnville, TN

6/6/2013 7:04:51 PM

Good article. I have three cats now. I have had the first one for eight years and is declawed so she goes outdoors with me only. The second one I took in from a neighboring field. He is use to running wild. I let him outdoors for a few hours during the day to run in the field next door from where I took him in. He doesn't like it but I make him stay in at night because he came home at times all scratched up from fights. About 6 months ago he brought him a feral kitty that was about 2 months old and wild. I trapped her and had her fixed and tamed her. She goes out too during the day but stays in at night. They have a wonderful screen room to use and a large cat tree but still howl to get out. I know I should keep them in all the time but they love to catch mice. We do live in the country with a road that is traveled lightly. I still worry.

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