When Should I Let My Cat Outside

As some of you already know our cat Molly is the inspiration for ThinkMolly Pet Supplies, and with Molly having a poor start in life, we are probably a bit overprotective and possibly a bit over-cautious.

We had introduced Molly to the back garden, but no further,  when she was six months old, and she is now allowed to wander in and out of the house during the day. But as yet we haven’t let her out at night.

So you can imagine my wife Steph’s panic when she went out into the garden to call Molly in, and there was no sign of her.

Steph looked all over the house, in all Molly’s favourite snoozing places, but still no sign. She popped around to the neighbours to see if they had seen her in their gardens, but nothing. Eventually, she rang me at work. Concerned Molly may have got out and was now wandering the streets lost and alone. I came straight home.

I hadn’t been home five minutes before a dusty cobwebbed cat casually wanders in through the patio door, strolls through into the living room and flumps onto the floor with a yawn. 

After some investigation, it appears Molly had managed to get under the shed and decided it was now a new favourite place to snooze. And on this occasion, while well-hidden, Molly decided to ignore Steph’s concerned calls.

Relieved at Molly’s return and a chuckle at ourselves for over worrying, we realised that we would have to face the fact the Molly will want to go beyond the garden fence one day. I know some cats are considered indoor cats, but Molly is constantly looking up at the fence in a way that makes me think she is already planning her escape. If she does manage a Steve McQueen over the fence, there is the risk she might not get back again.

There are a number of cats along our road that seem to spend their days sitting under cars or on walls.  So, I have to wonder,  do cats actually go that far from home?

But what this all means is, that we are at that point where we need to make a decision. Do we let her out into the big wide world or not?

At the time of writing this Molly is eight months old. In our eyes, still a kitten and the thought of her, out there having to put up with traffic and other cats is a bit daunting. So, the way forward is to get onto the internet for some words of wisdom. The trouble is, there is more rubbish than wisdom on the web these days. But it’s still the best place to go. The questions I need answering are, 1. should she be allowed out at her age and 2. should she be allowed out at night?

Well, it seems that when it comes to letting her out on her own it is anywhere from six months upwards providing she has been spayed and that she has had all her vaccinations.

In general, it is important to give a thought to where you live and what risks there may be. If you live near a busy road or an area with high volumes of traffic, then it may not be advisable to let your cat out day or night. But then if you live in the countryside it may be safer, but you might want to consider the type of wildlife your cat is likely to encounter. Either way, it seems to be a case of weighing up the risks.

When you do get to the point where you are letting your cat out, don’t force them. If using a cat flap, tape the cat flap open, allowing your cat to get used to passing through, before dropping the flap for them to push through. But let them find there own way. They will be very nervous at first. When Molly had her first venture into the back garden it took her about five minutes from the door opening to her testing the outside with her paw. Now she runs out the door at light speed. When your cat is venturing out always make sure they have access to shelter.

With regards to letting your cat out at night, it is a resounding no across all the sites I looked at. Apparently, cats are most active at dusk and dawn, these are the prime hunting times when birds and rodents feed. So, it is recommended to try and train your cat to come in at dusk and keep them in overnight, and you should never lock your cat out at night. According to www.cats.org.uk, around 78% of all road traffic accidents involving cats happen at night. If your cat is out and about at night, it might be worth investing a high viz collar to make them more visible to drivers.

In summary, it seems pretty clear that I shouldn’t let Molly out at night. But when it comes to being outside the safety of our back garden, which is quite small, there are a number of factors to take into consideration, such as location, whether our neighbours have dogs, any other roaming animals in the area, how heavy the traffic is and the nature and personality of our cat. With regards to age, they can be let out from around six months as long as they have had all their inoculations and have been spayed or neutered.

At the moment, my wife and I have a lot to think about before taking that next step. But we would be grateful for any helpful suggestions you may have and it would be good to hear about your experiences.


All the best


Molly testing the snooze factor of the laundry basket

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