Some cat owners might feel reluctant about giving their pets free outdoor access, for fear of losing them. But there are also plenty of fur parents who believe that allowing their kitties to enjoy the fresh air outside is more natural and makes them happier.
Unfortunately, there are circumstances under which cats might run away, especially if they are used to living outdoors and have recently become indoor cats. Some might come back after a few days, while others might never make it home.
But it does not have to be this way! If you are worried about losing your outdoor cat, there are things you can do to ensure that your furry pal gets home at the end of the day.
Read on to learn how to keep an outdoor cat from running away and make sure they return safely after each outing.
Why do outdoor cats run away?
Cats might run away for several reasons. Even indoor cats might seize a good opportunity to slip out through an open window or door. Unfortunately, some cats may not find their way back home, instead ending up in the streets or in an animal shelter.
Understanding what would cause your beautiful pet to run away from home will help you find ways to prevent this from happening. We have summarized some of the common reasons below:
- Cats that are not spayed or neutered will naturally seek a potential mate within their area during the mating season. If they do not find one nearby, some might wander further afield to satisfy their urge to procreate.
- Cats that are confident and have free outdoor access will want to expand their territory by exploring their surroundings. This behavior is very common among intact cats. Spraying the area around your house – the yard, the nearest streets, and even the entire neighborhood – is called marking and signals ownership to other animals nearby.
- Cats might wander off for an extended hunting escapade because they feel there is not enough to hunt near your home.
- Cats are naturally curious creatures and love exploring the world around them, especially if they are given the freedom to roam outside. However, this could also mean facing possible dangers on the streets or getting lost as they wander further.
- Cats might run away from home if they feel threatened. This might have to do with sudden loud noises, introduction of a new pet or baby, a natural disaster, or a neighbor’s dog chasing them away.
How to keep an outdoor cat from running away
Most of us dread losing our furry companions, whether through a natural cause or because they run away and never return. There are various reasons that cats wander off, and often these reasons are beyond our control. But certainly, there are ways to ensure that they return home no matter what.
These tips should help keep your outdoor kitty from running away and give you some peace of mind:
1. Have your cat spayed or neutered
Getting your feline friend spayed or neutered is not only beneficial for their health, but also helps to stop them from running away from home.
You may, at some point, have heard the flirtatious yowling of a queen in heat, or a bunch of tom cats screaming in your backyard as they fight over a female cat. Either way, it is an unpleasant experience for both the cat parent and the neighbors! Unfortunately, we have no control over this – intact cats are driven by their hormones and will follow their natural instinct to mate.
On the other hand, a cat that is fixed will never have the urge to mate again. This means you will have a feline companion that is more affectionate and will likely stay closer to home throughout the day.
2. Get them microchipped
Having your furball microchipped will not prevent him from running away, but it will help you find him in case he gets lost.
Cats are unpredictable: one day you will find them lazing in the sun next to your window; the next, they are gone. But, with a microchip, you have a higher chance that your cat will be returned by a kind-hearted person than if he had no identification.
Name tags and collars might also work, but keep in mind that these accessories can easily break and fall off. Hence, they are not as reliable as implanted chips.
3. Get another cat
Getting another kitty will make your resident cat less lonely. Remember that cats are social animals, and having another feline friend will keep them from being bored. Both your furry friends will enjoy spending time and playing together near your home.
Be careful, though, when introducing a new cat to your resident cat. Make sure that they bond well and become comfortable with each other. One cat might become too aggressive and scare the other one off. If this happens, the scared one will likely run away to search for a safer place.
4. Acclimatize the cat to your surroundings
If you have recently moved to a new house, it is extremely important to get your outdoor cat acclimatized to the new environment before allowing him to roam freely.
Moving can be stressful, not only for homeowners but also for their beloved pets. Cats thrive in familiar surroundings and do not respond well to change. Without a proper introduction, your pet might freak out and run back to your old home.
The golden rule is to temporarily keep your cat indoors for a couple of days or weeks until he feels comfortable. You can also use familiar scents from his toys, bedding, and bowls to get him acclimatized to your new house. If your cat feels anxious, you can try calming products like Feliway. Hopefully, this will teach your cat where your new home is and he will come back once released outdoors.
5. Provide a warm shelter
Another possible reason for outdoor cats to run away is that they are looking for a warm shelter to stay safe and comfortable.
So, why not build a small cat house close to your home? This way, your cat does not need to seek a comfy place elsewhere.
If you do not have the luxury of time to build a DIY cat shelter, you can purchase ready-made ones from nearby pet supplies. You can also add bedding materials to ensure that your cat stays warm during cold nights.
Catios also work really well to entertain your cat and let him enjoy the fresh outdoor air. You can build a fully customized catio, or buy one online for convenience.
Make sure to place the cat house or catio near their feeding areas, so they can have access any time.
6. Feed your cat at the same time and in the same place every day
Cats are creatures of habit. They prefer living a routine-driven life as it helps them feel safe and confident. So, if you feed your pet in the same area and on the same schedule, he is more likely to turn up for breakfast or dinner.
Keep in mind that, although outdoor cats might go hunting for food, they also need their regular ration of cat food to ensure that they do not starve. With a fixed feeding time, your four-legged friend is sure to come home on time for meals.
7. Avoid sudden loud noises
Cats generally fear sudden, loud or strange noises, whether they come from gunshots, fireworks, or thunderstorms, for example. Just like humans, hiding or running away from what they perceive as dangerous or threatening is a normal survival instinct.
Unfortunately, some cats can be extra sensitive even to loud bangs, as they might be negatively associated with a bad experience. An anxious cat can run, as quick as a flash, right through your open door and might never return.
Although some external noises are not within our control, you can do something to protect your feline friend from the shock. Consider placing him in a crate if there are festive events or other noisy activities in your area. This temporary confinement should prevent your sound-sensitive pal from running off out of fear.
Some cats are better suited to living outdoors – especially adopted ferals. But this outdoor life does come with an element of risk that your pet may not return home safely after a long day of exploring the outside world.
The outdoor dangers and uncertainties can worry a lot of cat parents, even though their pets might feel more at home in the outdoor environment. So, in this post, we have summarized some tips to prevent your precious pet from running away or getting lost.
As we have mentioned here, mating and territorial behaviors are some of the most common reasons for cats to wander off. Thus, the most effective preventative measure is to have your feline friend spayed or neutered.
We have also discussed some other solutions to keep your cat happy and close to home. On top of these tips, make sure to provide your pet with lots of love. When cats are loved and provided with a safe space, they will almost always return home, no matter what.
Image: istockphoto.com / pudiq