I recently moved house with my cat, Felix, and our new place has a garden. He won't go outside and I don't know why. How can I persuade him to get out and about?
Graham, via email
Moving house is regularly cited as one of the most stressful events in a person's life, along with redundancy and divorce; cats may not have to deal with the latter, but moving home is every bit as stressful for them as it is for us, and it has clearly taken its toll on your cat Felix. And it's not just the unfamiliar surroundings of your new home that Felix has to adjust to: it's the outside world too. As owners we assume that our cats and dogs love going outside, being able to run free and enjoy themselves. But some don't really like it, either because they've had bad experiences or because of lack of socialisation. First things first. Why do you want Felix to go outside?
There are many dangers out there, from traffic, to dogs in neighbours' gardens. Other neighbourhood cats will already have marked out territory, and Felix could get injured in a fight. Plus, if Felix is not fixed, there is a high probability that he will stray. He will also be at more risk from feline diseases, and people who may purposely hurt or poison him. Some people who don't like animals take great offence at "cat presents" in their garden and will go to extreme lengths to stop it happening. If you still decide that you want him to be an adventurer, you've got to make him feel more confident about going outside. You can leave the access to the garden open so he can smell the outside world; this might entice him to explore. Also, start gradually moving his litter tray and food bowl towards the door, but don't put it straight there since he might freak out and not want to eat or go to the toilet. Go and have a game (use his toys) in the garden by yourself. If he sees how much fun you're having he might join you. If your attempts fail you may have to accept that you have an indoor cat. There is, however, a plus side to this – indoor cats may live longer!
Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended