How to Train a Cat to go Outside and Come Back in 5 Easy Steps

Key takeaways

Surprisingly, you can train a cat to do plenty of tricks and behaviors. One of the most practical things a cat can learn is to go outside and come back home again.

This will help ensure your indoor cat gets the mental and physical stimulation they need to live a happy life.

Although it may seem scary and a little stressful, our five simple steps will make it as easy as possible. We'll also explore our top tips to keep your cat safe outside to help put your mind at ease!

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. 5 Steps to train a cat to go outside
  3. Tips to keep your cat safe
  4. FAQs
  5. Final thoughts

5 Steps to train a cat to go outside

Letting your cat outside can make them very happy. But we can feel stressed and scared that they may run away or get lost. However, as long as they have the promise of a tasty treat, they should be okay! The following five steps will make it easy to teach your cat to come back when you ask them to.

1. Sit outside with your cat

To get your indoor cat used to the outside world, they should be supervised at all times. However, don't force your cat out the door. This may cause them stress or fear, which they will then associate with the outdoors.
So, instead of picking them up, go and sit outside with the door open and a bag of treats. They'll be sure to follow you! Make sure you start off in a secure area, like a garden, away from loud noises, busy roads, and big open spaces.
Every now and then, shake the treat bag and call their name to return to you, and then continue letting them explore.
Top Tip: Make sure you stay relaxed, as your cat will be able to pick up on your tension and may become scared.
A cat exploring the outdoors

2. Bring them inside for dinner time

It's best to start with small periods of time, so after 15 minutes or so, shake the treat bag and call their name from inside the house. They should willingly follow you.
Make sure you don't pick them up, chase them, or sound frustrated. They will then associate coming inside with negative feelings.
Once they are inside, reward the positive behavior with a treat and some cuddles. It's even better if you can time these outside adventures with their feeding time. If they come inside and immediately get a bowl full of tasty food, they'll know to come home for their feeding schedule.
A cat waiting for dinner time

3. Repeat

Repeat these steps daily until your cat becomes confident in their environment. Ideally, by the end of training, your cat won't need to hear the shake of a treat bag to come inside. Just calling their name should be enough to trigger their association with dinner time.

4. Let them outside unsupervised

The next step can make pet parents nervous, and it's understandable why! The first time you let your cat explore the great outdoors on their own can be scary and stressful. With the risk of them running away and becoming lost or getting into trouble with other cats, we may be on the edge of our seats until they are safe home again.
But trust your cat! After all, they are incredibly intelligent animals and will be able to find their way home. And, despite what many people say, they are loyal.
Only allow your cat outside for a maximum of half an hour without your supervision to start with. You can slowly build this up over time.
A cat climbing a tree

5. Call them back for dinner time

Once again, call them back for dinner time. Reiterating this routine for as long as possible will help cement the training and association for your kitty.
Use the same recall word every time. Whether that's their name or calling 'dinner time', your cat will be able to recognize your tone, intonation, and meaning if you keep it consistent.

Tips to keep your cat safe

When you let your cat outside, there are ways to keep them safe. Make sure you follow these top tips to make sure your furry friend stays out of danger.

Microchip them

Microchipping your cat is essential. If you let your cat outdoors, then they need to be accounted for in case they get lost or mistaken for a stray.
When animal shelters or veterinarians find a lost cat, their first action will be to scan them for a microchip. Then, they'll use the contact details to alert the owners about their cat. Without a microchip, your cat may stay in the shelter and either get put up for adoption or euthanized.
To prevent this from happening, get them microchipped! It's a quick and simple procedure that doesn't harm your kitty in any way.
A cat getting microchipped

Make them wear a collar

Most cats wear a collar, and it's for good reason. An outdoor cat can easily be mistaken for a stray or feral cat if they aren't wearing a collar.
You can also put your contact details on the collar in case your cat wanders too far or a bell if your kitty is an avid hunter.

GPS track them

If you've got a particularly adventurous kitty, then you may want to keep an eye on them while they're exploring. Well, now there's a way!
By attaching a GPS tracking device to their collar, you will be able to see their live location through an app on your phone. It's a great way to put your mind at ease and keep your cat safe.
A cat sleeping in a garden

Install a cat flap

A cat door or cat flap will mean your kitty can come and go as they please. This can prevent them from getting trapped outside in poor weather.
You can also invest in a microchip cat flap, which means it will only open for your kitty. Without this, you risk other cats and animals entering your home.


Will my cat come back if I let it outside?

If your cat hasn't been outside before, they may not come back if they go outside. Before you let them out unsupervised, make sure you train them to come back to a specific sound, like their name or a bag of treats.

How can I get my cat to go outside without running away?

To get your cat to go outside without running away, you need to train them to return to you with a basic command. This can be calling their name or shaking a bag of treats.

Can you train a cat not to leave a garden?

It will be very difficult to train a cat not to leave a garden. They are naturally curious animals that like to roam and survey their territory. If you let them outside, you should expect them to wander further than your garden.

Do indoor cats run away?

Indoor cats may run away if they get outside because their fight-or-flight instinct can kick in. Without the street smarts of outdoor cats, they may get lost.

How far away can a cat find its way home?

A cat can find their way home from far away because of their excellent sense of direction and impressive sense of smell and hearing. However, if you have kept your cat indoors for their whole life, they may struggle to find their way home.

What to do if your indoor cat gets out?

If your indoor cat gets out, start searching for them straight away. Take a bag of treats and gently call their name. After this, report them missing.

Why is my cat so desperate to go outside?

If your cat is desperate to go outside, it may indicate that they aren't getting the mental and physical stimulation they need to live a happy life.

Final thoughts

Training indoor cats is a rewarding process. It will improve the quality of life your fur baby experiences by ensuring they get enough mental and physical stimulation.
With patience, time, and effort, your furry friend will soon learn to explore the great outdoors and come back home when they're needed!

Written by

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Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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