Before you let any cat outside it should be fully vaccinated and spayed or neutered, and no younger than six months. Vaccinations are not 100% protection, but certainly offer some. Spayed or Neutered cats are less likely to wander or get into fights, and wont be a problem of contributing to the surplus of cats that already exists.
You should have a photograph of your cat in case it does go missing, and the cat should have some sort of identification. This can be a microchip, tattoo, or even a collar. Microchips are not visable, but if your cat is picked up by animal control they have a scanner that will link the cat back to you. A collar should have a break away feature so it does not choke the cat if stuck in a tree, and should have a tag on it, with your phone number.
Now there are several things a person can do to depending on the level of protection you want. I will cover all three.
- Letting the cat out on its’ own. If you have a back door that opens into a fenced yard, this is the best door to use. Never let the cat out the front door, which in most cases opens to a small yard, and then the road. A fence will not stop a cat, but will offer a bit of security for a time. Never let the cat out if you are not going to be home, if the cat should get hit on the road it might be suffering for hours until you find it. Never let a cat out at night, again it might get hit and be suffering until you find it. Although there is less traffic at night, it is also harder for cars to see a cat. Try to bring a cat indoors by your evening meal time. The best way to do this is start offering canned cat food (only a teaspoon is fine) at this time, this will encourage the cat to come in at this time of day. Teach the cat its’ name, by calling it and offering it treats as a reward when it comes. Be consistant about not allowing the cat out at other times or from other doors, do this by pushing it back with your foot everytime. Make sure everyone else in your house is familiar with the rules and can do this too. Cats can be trained to respect your wishes, if you train them properly, which means being consistant. If they really are determined to use other doors, give a squirt with a spray water bottle, when at the wrong door wanting out.
- Harness Training. If you are going to let your cat out on a harness, you need to train it first indoors. Start when the cat is young. Some people then put the cat out on a tie and leave it, others stay out with the cat, and either walk it, or tie it in their yard. Unless your yard is fenced, leaving a cat tied up when you are not there is very dangerous. It could get attacked by a dog or other cat. As such, if you are considering harness training your cat, you might want to be prepared to be out with the cat when it is out.
- Cat Enclosures. The safest way to keep a cat safe when outside is to build it a cat enclosure. This is easily done from 2×4’s and chicken wire. This can be next to your house so there is a window the cat can use to access the area on its’ own. You can put logs or other things in the area to make it interesting for the cat. If you are making an area where the cat cannot come and go (into your house) as it pleases, make sure the cat has water and shelter in the enclosure.
Finally remember overall indoor only cats live longer than outdoor cats. If your cat should ever go missing, make sure you call your local shelter and veterinarians right away.
Photo from Wikimedia, CC SA