Gabriel explores the outside

My cat, Gabriel has reached a time in his life when he should have the opportunity to explore the outside under supervision and, to a certain extent, under controlled conditions. I have been taking him out on a harness and leash for about a month, twice daily. These two pictures show him outside, free-roaming, with me in attendance. There is a risk, certainly. I have decided on his behalf that the risk is acceptable and commensurate with the enormous benefits he derives from exploring the outdoors.

Gabriel Climbing and Watching

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The beautiful camouflage of the grey/brown spotted tabby coat is very apparent in the photo above. In the photo below his extreme interest in what is happening around him is on full display. This was his first visit outside without a leash.

Gabriel Alert

In a practical sense, I am in the midst of the ever present dilemma of whether to let him out or not. I am basically for him going out. The area where I live is about as safe as it gets for a cat in South West London. There is virtually no traffic problems here and traffic is the biggest killer.

My biggest worry is other cats. He is about 5.5 months old. Also, he is not yet neutered. I realise the risk but he’ll be neutered fairly soon and I am present when he goes out to prevent unwelcome interactions between him and other cats.

He almost demands to go out. He has a lot of pent up energy he needs to use up in a natural environment where there are sensations and stimuli. He is quite large now but still not an adult. He behaves in the cat equivalent of a boyish way. He could get into some jams because be lacks experience. I am certainly aware of the dangers and dread the though of him getting hurt or lost but feel I have to do this.

12 thoughts on “Gabriel explores the outside”

  1. He’s beautiful he still has whisker pads the same shape as a Cheetah which I find fascinating. Its always really scary when they first go out because of this overwhelming fear something may happen. Mr Jinks new mom was the same when she first let him out but she said ‘he’s bored inside; he needs more action’ then as soon as he’d been out a number of times she said he was like a different cat; calmer, happier.

    • I have exactly the same sentiments, feelings and experiences. I am terrified for him but have to let him go. I can’t let my fear affect his life and it is pretty safe where I live.

  2. Your method of introducing him to the outdoors is similar to my approach with Monty– first on leash only, then only with me very close by. We have a fenced yard, and Monty accepts the fence as the border of his territory. Maybe he is afraid if he climbed over the fence he would not be able to get back. Whatever the reason, he does not do it. We did have to create barriers to certain trees because he would get stuck up there, necessitating Jeff making trips up there on a ladder to retrieve him. We put chicken wire cones around the trees at about six feet up. Monty can go up to the chicken wire but cannot climb past it. The squirrels have no problem, so I was glad we were not interfering with local wildlife while keeping our cat contained in a safe space for him. Monty only goes out during the day, usually when I am out but sometimes I watch him through the window or go out every few minutes to check on him. This time of year he sits on the railing of the back porch in the sun. He hates snow on his paws so it helps to keep him close to the house.

    Had he been inclined to go over the fence, we could have installed chicken wire toward the top of the fence at a forty five degree angle, as we did with the tree cones. A cat cannot climb past a barrier above him at a forty five degree angle. Such an enclosure does not provide safety from large birds of prey and for Monty his biggest danger outside is bees. He’s had a bumble bee in his mouth twice. Once with miraculously no harm done and a very surprised bee covered in cat spit after I pried Monty’s mouth open. The other time he was stung on the tongue and had to be rushed to the vet. During the more frigid months he has greater freedom outdoors. During the summer I have to stand right by him and deflect his attention away from buzzing insects that could harm him.

    • Monty seems to be quite naturally cautious which is sensible. This is like Gabriel. He likes to go out but is not desperate. He likes the feeling of safety indoors.

      He much prefers it if I am outside with him. He then acts more confidently but still cautiously. I am pleased so far with his outside exploits. Safety is the biggest concern. At the moment he is behaving in a safe way.

      • Just watch him around bees after it gets warm enough for them to be buzzing about! It’s a blessing so much of our year here in Wisconsin is too cold for them.

  3. Gabriel is a beautiful cat, and I’m sure he appreciates being outside. Once he’s neutered, there may be less to worry about as far as impregnating females, and fighting with males.

    I used to take Mitzy out with a comfy harness (cotton with velcro) and a RED leash. I’d let go of the leash, but I could see (even when reading) wherever she went because of the color. A few times she jumped on the neighbor’s roof, and left the halter in the dust, before I caught her.

    For you, it’s best to take the halter and leash off because of the wooded nature of your environment. Hopefully there aren’t any dogs roaming around, off leash.

    He may even benefit from catching and eating “raw” meat! I don’t know what you’ve got in your area. My son’s cat, in Hawaii, catches geckkos.

    • Thanks Sandy. I wanted him get his bearings when on the leash. I didn’t photograph him on the leash because some people don’t like seeing cats on leashes. But he got used to it quite quickly. It gave me confidence too in respect of knowing he was safe while learning the environs.

      I just fear losing him to some “accident”. Or that he never comes back. I have to suppress these fears and let him go like a mother lets her children leave home and live their own lives.

      He is sensible and fairly cautious so he’ll come back when there is danger.

      I have trained him to come on command to a certain extent so I can call him. I trained him with a clicker and a laser pointer 😉 . I hope he does find some prey actually. Do him good. But don’t mention the ‘b’ word (birds).

      • Even though I’ve been fortunate never to have had a cat involved in a road accident and they tend to stay very close to home when they are out, I do worry whenever I let a new cat outside that they might be the exception.

        Many years ago a lady I knew from a local cat rescue, told me to feed cats small meals, several times a day. Not only does it mimic their natural hunting/eating pattern, but cats are creatures of habit and it helps ensure they return home at regular intervals.

        Her advice has always worked well and helps ensure my cats are home and indoors for the night before it starts getting dark outside. Of course in the longer days of summer, they’re not always ready to come indoors when I want them to. Whenever they’re having a bout of selective hearing, I’ve found that rattling a packet/tube of their favourite treats is guaranteed to have them come running 😉

  4. Lovely photos. I especially like the first one. He looks like a small, wild cat living naturally in a woodland somewhere 🙂

    Accompanying him is a great way to introduce him to the outdoors and help build his confidence. It also gives you a chance to observe whether he errs on the side of caution (or not) when encountering something new or hearing a sudden loud noise.

    New neighbours of mine started letting their young kitten outside unsupervised when he was just 4 months old. He was a fearless, bundle of energy and though they kept him in at night, I did worry whether he’d still get himself into trouble during the daytime. I needn’t have worried. He’s developed a great friendship with Charley my 3 year old ex-stray and they spend an awful lot of time together in my garden.

    I’m sure Gabriel enjoys his trips outside. As you say, there is so much more mental stimulation for him and he gets to burn off any excess energy. Are you finding him calmer in the evenings, since you’ve been taking him out?

    It’s difficult to predict how cats will react when they meet another, but fights, especially serious ones are rare. My experience is that quite often they are surprisingly sociable with each other or worst case scenario, will perhaps hiss and then avoid each other. Even my feisty Sophie who did not tolerate other cats well, avoided fighting. She always chased unfamiliar cats out of the garden, but if they stood their ground she’d quickly back down and beat a hasty retreat.

    • Thanks Michele. You are right. In the top photo he looks like a wild cat, almost. He could be. His coat is so designed for the wild and merges nicely wit the background.

      I felt a huge need to let him out and swallow any concerns I had because he has this pent up energy and natural drive to hunt and participate in the natural world.

      Thankfully he is naturally cautious and not overly confident so he races back in when there is a strange sound or a person turns up.

      At the moment I let him out by hand. I am planning a cat flap. He is testerone-fueled. He chased a Siamese cat back into his home the other day. He won that one on presence and energy alone. And another cat ran from him. In fact the other cat is a rare LaPerm.

      Not that I am a proud dad but…. 😉 .

      Here he is with me on my desk while I type this:

      cat on desk


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