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When should kittens be allowed to go outside?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I guess it depends on the situation.

When the mother cat first started hanging around here (to eat) she was semi feral but has since become very affectionate to me (although she is still a little skittish sometimes). The kittens were born outside and she brought them inside the house at 6 weeks. She has been what I would call a very good and caring mother. There are 3 kittens - they are almost 4 months old now and have full run of the house. The mom no longer nurses them and spends most of her time outside. But she does come in several times a day and there is a display of affection and also a lot of playing between her and the kittens.

One of the things she does while outside is what I interpret as calling the kittens to come outside. I have not been letting them out because I was told by a neighbor that when a feral mother cat considers that the kittens are 'grown up' she will lead them away to a point where they can't find their way home and leave them there and return by herself. I wonder if she has enough of her primitive instincts where this could actually happen?

Has anyone heard of this behavior or does anyone have any suggestions about letting kittens out for the first time.

Sincere thanks,
Bill
post #2 of 9
The vast majority of the advice you will receive here will lean toward taking this opportunity to keep the kittens in and not let them be outdoor cats at all, as many people (particularly in North America) consider that to be preferable/safer. I won't tell you that, myself, though I will say that it does depend, as you note, on the situation. In many cases, that would be prudent, but depending on your area and all manner of variables that only you can assess, it might not be necessary, and would then be a matter of what you prefer.

At any rate, they should not be allowed out before they are speutered and recovered from that surgery. Has Mom been spayed? If not, she should be, so that she doesn't produce more kittens.

As to the concern about her possibly taking the kittens away somewhere they can't find their way home -- I'm no expert on feral behaviour, but I find that a little difficult to believe. However, there are others here who are much more informed on the subject, who can set me straight if need be.
post #3 of 9
The vet that takes care of all our ferals has years of experience with them. He told me this same thing not long ago. In his down to earth manner he said that when the kittens were a certain age that mama cat would take them off "on vacation" and the kittens were not allowed to come back. He has taught us so much about feral behavior. Don't know if that is something that was studied.
post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skimble View Post
The vet that takes care of all our ferals has years of experience with them. He told me this same thing not long ago. In his down to earth manner he said that when the kittens were a certain age that mama cat would take them off "on vacation" and the kittens were not allowed to come back. He has taught us so much about feral behavior. Don't know if that is something that was studied.
well, i can only speak for the ferals whose behavior i'm familiar with... but there are several around my place who were born here & still live here. either only some ferals do this, or mine are abnormal!
post #5 of 9
I do not believe that because there were so many ferals by our place and caught as many as we could. The Moms always took care of the ones we could not catch even when they were all grown up.
post #6 of 9
Are you planning to keep them as pets? If so I would keep them indoors. There are SO many dangers outside- it's not worth the risk IMO.
post #7 of 9
Keep them inside. I would trust what they vet told you. I am sure this does not always happen. But you never know. I am a big keep the cats inside person so my advice may be biased but you don't want the mother leading them away.
post #8 of 9
IMO the kittens do NOT need to ever go back outside whether or not mom cats wants them outside. If you are planning on keeping them, then its up to you if you want them outside - but mom being feral may indeed lead them away and you will never see them. If you keep them, keep them as inside cats, get mom spayed and either rehome her or let her go on.

If you are adopting the kittens out, keep them as inside kittens too and keep them for a minimum of 10 weeks - adopt out around 12-16 weeks for ideal.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for the responses. Sorry it took so long for me to get back. There is certainly a lot to think about here. For any of the kittens that I keep (which will probably be all of them!) I would like them to be indoor-outdoor cats. I have let them out a few times when the mom is away and stayed out with them. (I let them out after a nap but before they eat so that they are kind of hungry and don't stay out too long). I want them to get used to where 'home base' is and where the door is to come back in. So far they are doing well - they come back to the patio to rest between bug chasing adventures. I don't intend to let them out unsupervised until they are neutered and have their shots and I feel that they are familiar with the surroundings. Also I will get collars with my phone number on them. I'm trying to be conscious of not letting the mom feel like she is a competitor with them in any way i.e. I feed them all at the same time, try to give her a lot of attention, etc. As I indicated in the original post, I'm amazed at the amount of affection that she still lavishes on the kittens even though they are almost as big as she is. I'm hopeful that she won't want to lead them away and will be on the lookout for any signs that she might. If I note anything interesting or unusual, I will pass it along.
Again, thanks for the replies.

Bill
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