How to take your cat outside safely

Guest Post from Maggie Marton author of


IMG_20140519_183014_2Before I get into sharing our strategies for taking Newt outside, let me start this post with a quick disclaimer: I know there is a wide and varied spectrum of opinion about whether cats should or shouldn’t go outdoors. Personally, I believe they’re safer inside than free roaming. In our area, there are hordes of feral cats, armadillos, coyotes, prey birds, and more, but even if we lived somewhere else, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable letting Newt out. The risks are, in my opinion, too great. So, if you’re on the same page, here’s how to take your cat outside safely!
For many weeks, Newt attempted to escape out our back door. To let the dogs out, we had to distract her with treats or close her in the bathroom or sneak the dogs out while she was napping. It wasn’t sustainable, and there was always the risk of her getting past us some day anyway. So, instead of stressing about the situation, we decided to allow Newt outside but on our terms.IMG_20140601_191347_2
First, we purchased her a harness. It came with a four-foot leash and was only about $10. We put the harness on her and gave her time to get used to the feel of it. Then, we clipped the leash to the harness. She flipped out about the leash, but we gave her tons of praise and lots of treats. After she was calmer with the leash and harness combo, we led her outside.
The first time we went out, she was so frightened and started straining to get back in the house, which we let her do. I want to make sure she feels in control. During that same first jaunt, we realized that the leash was unrealistically short; luckily, we had a long, 20-foot line we had used for dog training that was light enough for her to drag.
So, we repeated these exercises every night after dinner, and Newt came to love being outside. It’s her favorite daily activity now, and it allows her to express a lot of her “catness” that she doesn’t get to do indoors. She leaps after bugs, climbs into bushes, scratches the plantain tree in the corner of the yard. By keeping her on the line, we know she can’t get out of the yard, and we’re cognizant of keeping her off the fenceline in case she decided to scoot under.
But it’s been incredible exercise for her! She enjoys hanging out with the dogs, lounging in the shade, and we enjoy the quiet time with our whole herd out in the yard.newtoutside
If you decide to give it a whirl with your cat, take the process slowly, allowing her to acclimate each step of the way. Give a lot of praise and treat rewards! And, incidentally, it nipped her escape attempts in the bud. She no longer tries to scoot out the door with the dogs; instead, she waits until she has her harness and line. She’s safe, and we’re all happier!

Maggie Marton
Guest Post from Maggie Marton, author of
Maggie Marton is an award-winning pet writer who focuses on the animal-human bond in her writing and her advocacy. She also writes the dog blog

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  1. That is so great….I really need to try this with Samantha. We had a harness for her at one point, but I don’t think I tried it more than once. My sister takes her cat out on a harness, and Nina loves it too.
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  2. I’m the only one who gets to go outside occasionally and it’s always on a harness and leash. I really enjoy it! ~Wally
    The Island Cats recently posted…Goodbye, SparkleMy Profile

  3. The problem is, once they are outside, they will always want to go outside. We’ve tried harnesses before and cats always seem to wriggle out of them at some point. Cat bro Bert is always trying to escape out an open door, and when he does we race out and capture him. If only cats would stay in a fenced yard like dogs it would be so nice, but that won’t be happening! Our kitties have to stay indoors.
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    • I think it’s safer that way Emma. Can you imagine the mischief Bert would get into if allowed to roam!
      KitKat recently posted…How to take your cat outside safelyMy Profile

  4. I agree with Emma, once they get a taste of outside, then you have to start worrying more about them running for the door when people open it. But this was a great post though
    xx husky hugz
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Pet Parading with Bowzer Box!My Profile

  5. Luckily we live where the cats can roam free outdoors. But I suppose this is a good alternative for some. My boys would shred that leash & harness or just lye down until they were freed of the indignity. LOL
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  6. Oh yes…I have dealt with this before. I decided to let Mikko outside on a harness and a long lead, because I live in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of Ottawa. But then he kept running for the door and he got out a few times. I stayed out looking for him until I finally found him. I never let him out again. Very great info, for those of you who haven’t let their kitties outside.
    Personally (now anyways MOL!) I wouldn’t let Mikko or Jax outside, but I don’t think Jax would go out anyways.
    Mikko and Jax from Happiness is Siamese
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  7. I agree cats are safer inside but of course my cat goes outside, she bugs the heck out of me to go out in summer months and will stay in the winter. She hangs out with my dogs when outside.
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