How to Keep an Outdoor Cat from Running Away

Having a cat can be really exciting. Some of them are kept inside all the time while others are allowed to be outside, roaming free and hunting for food. Cats are far more independent of a pet than dogs are, and exploring the neighbourhood on their own is very normal for them.

If your cat stays inside all the time you likely don’t have to worry about them running away, but when your cat is free to roam and explore you may worry that they will run away and not come back.

Running outdoor cat

Reasons Why Outdoor Cat Run Away

There are a few ways you can keep your outdoor cat from running away, but it’s also important to make sure you understand the reasons a cat might run away, too.

To find a mate

Many vets will advocate for you to spay or neuter your cats, especially if they are outdoor cats. Male cats will often run away in search of a mate during the reproductive period. It will be especially important to make sure you spay or neuter your outdoor cat so that you will not end up with an unexpected litter of kittens.

To hunt prey

Cats naturally hunt, especially if they are outdoor cats. Typically cats will stay within their familiar territory to hunt prey but that doesn’t mean they won’t venture outside of it.

Sometimes they could be on the hunt and their prey will keep running so they need to pursue it further. Additionally, if there are a lot of outdoor cats in your neighbourbood then they might be forced to extend their hunting perimeter due to the number of other cats hunting in the same area.

Due to stress

Is there construction happening in your neighbourhood? Did you recently move to the neighbourhood your cat is used to has changed?

pregnant woman stroking gray cat

If there is something in their current environment that is stressing them out it can trigger cats to run away. It can also happen if there’s a territorial dispute with another animal or even the arrival of a baby into your home.

Being stressed or disturbed can cause your cat to explore further territory and potentially not return for a while, or at all.

Better food

This is not to be confused with the earlier point made about hunting. This fact can be attributed to homes in another neighbourhood that might be putting out better food for your cat. Cats will return to where they were fed – especially if it’s really tasty – so it could be the reason for why they’ve run away.

Tips to Make Sure Outdoor Cat Has Not Run Away

So knowing that there are reasons beyond your control for keeping your outdoor cat around, how can you best make sure they stay healthy and come home every once in a while?

Here are a few tips for making sure your outdoor cat has not run away.

Put food and water outside

If you know what kind of food your cat prefers, putting some of it outside can help make sure they keep coming back to your home and know where their territory is.

Make sure it is put in a place that is easily accessible to your cat and that you change it out frequently, especially the water during the summer as they might not have a source of cleaning drinking water otherwise.

Try not to keep them caged up

It is important that you have indoor shelter ready for your cat, especially during the cold months. However, if you keep them confined for too long – when they’re used to spending their time outside – can have the opposite effect you want it to.

Cat in crate

A cat who is used to being outside will not like being confined indoors all the time so it’s important to let them roam a bit.

This might seem counterintuitive but letting them be outside, to explore will give help them come back home.

Tips to Keep Your Outdoor Cat Safe and Healthy

Knowing that your cat really enjoys being outside, you want to make sure they are kept safe and aren’t going to be in any danger while they explore. You can help keep your cat safe and healthy, even if you can’t be with them all the time. Here are a few tips to consider with your outdoor cat.


Having a microchip implanted in a pet is a very common way of tracking pets now. Just in case your cat loses their collar while exploring, a vet’s office can scan the chip and bring up all your information so they know the cat belongs to a family.

Most veterinary clinics are equipped to do implant a microchip, so it’s best to do right when you get your cat if you know they’re going to be an outdoor cat. You can also update your information on the chip at any time so if you move or change phone numbers, whoever finds your cat knows how to contact you.

Get tags and a collar

This might seem redundant if you’ve already done the microchip part but it isn’t necessarily. If your cat has a collar on it, with tags containing your name and phone number, then a person who finds your cat doesn’t have to take it to the vet or city animal control. They can just call the phone number to let you know they have found your cat.

Black cat with collar

Some owners decide not to put collars on their outdoor cats because it can get caught on tree branches, fences and other debris outside while they’re exploring. Depending on the laws in your city, you may need to have a license for your cat (even an outdoor one) so this option could also prevent any monetary fines you may face if your cat it outdoors without a license.

Get vaccines

There are a lot things your cat can get into outside that will hurt them or even cause them to get sick. If you know your cat is going to be spending most of the time outside then it’s important to make sure they are up to date on all of their vaccines every year.

When discussing this with your vet, be honest about how much time your cat spends outside as this will help you vet determine the best course of treatment for your cat.

Keep a curfew

Being out at night is one of the most dangerous times for a cat: it’s cold and there are a lot of predators – like owls and coyotes – that can be really dangerous for your cat. You can entice your cat to come inside at a certain time with their favourite treats. Eventually, your cat will know when their curfew is so they will be inside overnight.

Get a GPS tracker

This is a pretty high tech option but it can be helpful if you want to make sure you know where your cat is at all times. This tracker is often attached to a collar and you can see your cat’s movements via an app on your phone. This option can be pretty expensive and won’t be for everyone, but it is a really neat technology to keep track of your outdoor cat.

Outdoor cat wearing a GPS tracker

Be outside together

If you don’t feel completely safe with letting your cat roam on its own then you could be outside with your cat. At your local pet store, you can purchase a harness and leash to fit your cat so you can take walks together.

Make sure the leash is long enough to let your cat explore a little bit while you walk. This is a good exercise for you, makes sure your cat stays safe and still gets to enjoy the outside.

Build a catio

This might seem like an odd option, but it’s a way to give your cat the best of both worlds if you are worried about them being outside on their own. This catio should be outside your home in a place where your cat can breathe fresh air, watch the animals outside but yet not be able to escape and completely wander on their own.

Wrap Up

When you have an outdoor cat, it can be really difficult to keep them completely safe. Cats naturally want to hunt, and they can’t do that inside your home. Keeping your cat locked up can result in your cat destroying things around your home and trying to escape when you open doors.

If you can get your cat used to being an outdoor cat safely they are much more likely to come back to you. When your cat can explore the outdoors they will be happier – even if it means you’re worried about their wellbeing.

With regular vet appointments for vaccines and overall check-ups you can make sure your cat does not contract any diseases from other animals or food they might eat while outdoors.

Additionally, you can train your cat to come indoors when it starts to get dark by giving them their favourite treat around that time. Additionally, you should always keep some food and fresh water in an area that’s accessible to them so they can get to it if they need to.

It’s very natural for cats to want to be outside, it keeps them happy and when you have a happy cat they will be more likely to come back to your home. In fact, you’ll likely be “gifted” one of your cat’s prey from their adventures over time.

If you have questions about other ways you can keep your cat safe while outside you can always speak with your vet.