For the cat allowed to go into the exciting outdoors, there are many dangers and there are ways to minimize them. Here are some suggestions.
Train your cat to come when called. The thought of this might put some people off. It does me, somewhat, to be candid. A lot of people don’t like cat training but they have probably done some informally without realizing it (or vice versa). There is a page on PoC on clicker training by Elisa and this is another page. It is said that all cats need some basic training instruction. The ability to get him back to home on demand is one good reason for it.
Usually, in the modern world, some form of training is useful to improve cat welfare. It won’t always be needed but often it will. Training is a compromise and it does take some input. People don’t usually associate training with cats but they can be trained and it makes life safer for them. I don’t see a downside to cat training.
It is best to train your cat when he is alert and hungry and this has to mean first thing in the morning. To train “come”, get your cat consistently interested in a treat in the hand. Show your cat the treat in your hand. Praise him for showing attention to it. As your cat touches his nose to the “target” move your hand towards you and say “Gabriel [his name] come” (Gabriel is my cat). Most cats will follow the treat. As he comes towards you say, “Good come” and as he reaches you give the reward. The clicker is clicked when your cat first noses the treat and when he reaches your hand to be given the reward. Initially have your cat walk a short distance to get the treat – about 6 inches. This distance is gradually increased, subsequently. Eventually your cat will come from a greater distance. After a fairly brief set of training sessions he’ll come from anywhere in the home or outside.
Train your cat to accept a harness and lead. This will allow you to introduce your cat to the great outdoors in a controlled and supervised way.
Initially let your cat out only before meals. When a cat is hungry he’ll have a better reason to come back and be more responsive to the command “come”.
Your cat should be microchipped or have an ID tattoo. ID tattoos are as good as microchips. Also your cat might wear a visual ID in the form of a collar with a safety release. It is important that the collar is a safe one. If not, they can strangle cats if they become caught up.
Neuter your cat. This should be standard and obvious. Neutered cats wander less.
Your cat should be properly inoculated in the usual way. Your vet will advise. Vaccinations are routine and recommended nowadays. They will help to protect your cat on his visits to the outside when he bumps into other cats. In some places where the cat guardians are all highly responsible, many cats are vaccinated which creates a safe bubble in the area against the standard infectious diseases. These are good areas for the outside cat.
Regularly treat your cat against fleas, ticks and external and internal parasites. Parasites are usually killed with insecticides and these are dangerous chemicals. They should be used with care and under your vet’s supervision unless you are completely confident. Misuse of parasite treatments can cause serious injury, distress for the cat’s guardian and death for the cat.
It is perhaps better to avoid your cat going out when dark. Either avoid allowing your cat outside in the dark, or if it happens ensure he wears a reflective collar. The hours of darkness are dangerous for a cat. On a road they may be dazzled by a vehicle’s headlights and freeze on the road.
Remove toxic plants and chemicals. If possible make sure that the plants that your cat encounters when outside are non-toxic. Also think about chemicals used outside. What about lawn treatments? Weed treatments for patios. Any chemical used outside should be reviewed from the standpoint of cat health.
In America, the presence or otherwise of wildlife that preys on the domestic cat must be a factor in deciding if your cat goes outside and when.