While we certainly would love for every cat to live in a safe and enriched home with plenty of beds, toys and opportunities to cuddle, many, many cats started their lives as outdoor cats with little human interaction and do not thrive as indoor pets. Many shelters have cats who are made available for adoption as “barn cats” or similar. These are cats who otherwise would not make it out of the shelters, as they are simply unlikely to flourish as indoor pets.
While the outdoors is not the safest full-time environment for cats, there are things we can do to increase their safety and comfort. Make sure your cat is neutered or spayed before bringing him/her home. The cat should wear a collar and personalized ID tag so everyone in the neighborhood knows he is your cat. You should also provide a safe shelter—yup, a little cat home!—that’s well-protected from the elements, as well as clean, fresh water and food.
He should be kept on a strict feeding schedule: Feed him a little bit first thing in the morning, but give him his big meal in the evening. That way, you will have an easy time bringing him into a safe, indoor space for the night. Nighttime can be a dangerous time for cats in many suburban/rural areas where predators lurk, so using his dinner to lure him inside an enclosed garage or other safe place will keep him safe overnight.
When you first bring your cat home, it is vital that he spend time in that safe, indoor space for at least a few days so he becomes comfortable in the space, learns where his food is and can get to know you. Your local shelter should be able to provide you with resources to introduce your new cat to his outdoor home. Good luck!