who let the cat out of the bag?
It’s 60 degrees outside right now. Sixty! In January! Its incredible to me how much happier we all seem – the windows are open, the dogs have been playing in the mud all day, and everything is okay with the world for right now. As the next few days are supposed to be okay too, I thought I’d take the chance to start letting the kitten outside with the dogs in short bursts, with the idea of him being an indoor/outdoor cat come spring.
shit he’s gone
Sterling, the kitten-cat, has been outside about 5-10 times so far, but each time has either been on a leash (B’s idea, not mine…) or he’s dashed out between the legs of one of the dogs as they are coming in/going out. A week or two ago, on and evening when it was ice storming and completely dark out, he ran out the door and straight through the fence into the neighbor’s garden where there isn’t a back porch light. I couldn’t see him at all – I kept calling and calling and nothing. I was an absolute mess. I was so scared he’d get lost or confused and huddle up under a bush and literally freeze to death in the ice storm. I tried treats, I tried toys, I shook a bag of cat food around the garden, opened tins in every corner… eventually I gave up and let the dogs back out to go to the bathroom. Emma immediately put her nose to the ground, did a few loop-de-loops around in the grass and walked over to a big bush, stuck her head in and just stood there. There he was, possibly the entire time! After that, I decided the first nice day we get will be a good time to let him get used to going outside and coming back on his own.
uh just google it.
Having never taught a cat to be outside before (Toaster stays inside all day and she loves it that way), I figured google could tell me what to do. Wrong! There’s really nothing helpful in the blog/cat-fancier world about training a cat to go outside (and come back). The best I could find was ‘take cat out on leash’ (check), ‘train cat to come when called’ (what?? surely this person has never had a cat before), ‘let cat out and hope for the best’ (uh he lets himself out and I have a panic attack). So! Here’s what happened.
1. open door – cat will dash out, he always does
2. follow cat around until you cant see him anymore
3. wait where you are until cat comes back in to sight
4. call cat about 10 times. watch cat stare at you with disgust as he is far to busy playing with bugs and birds to listen to you right now
5. have weak moment, empty half tin of tuna all over the yard
6. go back inside to make a coffee and have a little cry. you’ll obviously never see him again.
7. look up to see cat poking his head in doorway – make kissy noises to get him to come in
8. approach cat to drag him back inside, as he won’t come in. watch him run away again, this time going over the other side of the fence
9. cry a little more (out of frustration)
10. ignore cat for 10 minutes. play hard to get
11. go outside and call cat’s name once, with complete disinterest – watch him bounce/run/float straight to you from 2 houses away
12. grab cat with death grip. apply snuggles. success!
I really do think he’ll keep coming back and it’ll all be fine. He LOVES being outside so much, there’s just no way I can force him to just be indoors, even if it does keep him 100% safe. I’m a bit worried he’ll get under the 8ft fence at the back and on to the street, or he’ll dash out before work one day and won’t come back before we have to leave. The good news is he’s terrified of strangers and won’t even come in to our house, so I don’t think there’s a risk of him being scooped up by someone else. He’s also getting a bit fat to fit through the fence, so maybe eventually he’ll just stick to our garden. Have you had to teach a cat to be indoor/outdoor? Any tricks of what to do if they get out in the snow/cold/rain?