An indoor cat go outside…and return!

Explorer Dexter

Dexter enjoying his new freedom with his leash

Have you ever wondered how an indoor cat becomes an outdoor cat?  Do you ever feel like you are being mean to your cat by making him stay inside because you want to keep him safe and all he wants is to go outside?  Hi all, Maria here!  This is a story of my cat and how we made him an indoor/outdoor cat.

My cat Dexter has always been an indoor cat. As a kitten, he used to destroy the house because he was so young and hyper. I always thought he would grow out of it as he got older, however he is over a year old and still has the same destructive habits. I’ve always noticed how much Dexter loved to chase birds and bugs out the windows, and knew he yearned to be outside. I was very timid on making Dexter an indoor/outdoor cat because I would be heartbroken if anything ever happened to him.

I tried to make compromises so he could get some outside time and I wouldn’t have to worry about him not coming home. I noticed how much he loved to be in the car when we took trips to the vet’s office. So, I started bringing him with me for short car rides to the grocery store or those midnight trips to McDonalds. He loved it. He would sit on the passenger seat next to me and look at all the cars and birds out the window. It seemed like we were both happy with these trips. However, soon after they became a regular thing, Dexter started sitting at the door and meowing when he wanted to go out. I decided to get him a harness and a leash to give him some more outside time. I had never seen him so happy.

Dexter and I started having outside time in the backyard together. I would pull up a chair and give him some extra slack on his leash. He would chase bugs and just relax in the grass. My boyfriend, Brian, and I then taught Dexter how to chase sticks and bring them back to us. Dexter became more like a little dog every single day!! He would walk around the back yard and explore. He was so happy!!

Before I knew it, leash time was no longer enough for Explorer Dexter. He started slipping out of his harness and running around the yard while we chased him and tried to coax him in with treats and food. It was like a fun little game for him. It became harder and harder for us to get him to come inside. I started to feel like we were doing him a disservice by keeping him inside all the time. He would hear cars pull into our driveway and immediately run to the door to try to make his escape when our guests came into the house. He clearly was becoming unhappy inside the house all day.

After the fifth time in a week of him escaping out the door, I finally decided to look up the transition for him to become an outdoor/indoor cat. Everywhere I read, it said to bring your cats outside, and then reward him with food and treats when you brought them back inside. We started bringing him outside on his harness like usual, and then giving him a treat as soon as he walked back into the door. We also started bringing him only out of our back-slider door so he would associate it with going outside. It seemed to be working! As soon as we would pick up his harness and leash off the fridge, Dexter would run to the back-slider door and wait to go outside.


We recently had family visiting from out of state, and the girls would constantly let Dexter out without his harness. It was scary at first because he was running right into the woods and would be out of sight for hours until we could finally get him back in. After a couple of days of him getting out multiple times a day, we started leaving his harness on all the time with his identification tag. Once he would get out, it was reassuring knowing that just in case Dexter got to far, he had our address and phone number on his harness. We stopped panicking so much when he got out, and just tried to be confident that when he got hungry he would come back in.


The last time that Dexter got out, we decided not to chase after him. He had his harness on and was determined to go on an adventure. We sat in our living room and kept an eye on the back-slider door. An hour and a half later, Dexter came up the porch and started meowing at the back-slider door. We let him in and he immediately ran over to his food dish for a treat!! It was so exciting! Going forward, were going to start letting Dexter out in the morning, if someone is home. It’s always scaring thinking about the possibility of him not finding his way home, but he is an explorer that cannot be contained!!

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