I will be living in a second floor apartment in a stand-alone house. Is it possible to have a cat there with me, who is used to going outside to hunt and explore? I'm concerned because I wouldn't know when she's ready to come back in again.
For starters, I have never owned a cat so I'm not experienced in this field but there are a lot of cats in my area. I have seen quite some people who attach wooden stairs to the outside wall of their houses to let the cats in through a window or balcony. Here are some examples of what that could look like:
There are several of these that you can buy online. I found quite a few on eBay starting at about 20 euros for where I am. (Search for cat stairs/cat ladder outside)
According to Trond Hansen you can put cat flaps into glass as well. So this might be a practical solution for both, you and your cat because the cat could go in and out on his/her own terms.
Potential issues that I see in this:
Burglars. The stairs could be used to climb up to the second floor. I'd personally prefer a rather hidden solution because of this. (Like the one in picture 3)
Everyone in the house would have to agree with this. Make sure to ask before you settle on this solution.
It depends on the configuration of the house. My sister once lived in a second floor apartment and her door was external (she climbed a set of stairs and THEN entered the house). A situation like that could have worked (especially if there was a screen or storm door so you could leave the heavy front door open).
If there's not any way for a cat to access your front door or a window, then likely not.
When we lived on the 3rd floor of an apartment building, we got our cat up and down the balcony using a basket on a rope. At first we used treats to lure it into the basket and then roped it up and down. After a while it understood how that "elevator service" worked. The cat meowed near the basket when it wanted outside and meowed below the balcony when it wanted us to pull it up.