Living indoors only is generally safer for cats. Allowed to roam free, cats are likely to get into all sorts of trouble, including being forced to contend with cars, hostile dogs, dangerous predators or vicious people out to hurt defenseless animals. Encounters with other cats are another bane of many outdoor cats and they often end in injuries, infections and disease. If all of that isn't enough, there's the issue of parasites: Going outside hugely increases the odds of Kitty entertaining unwanted guests such as ticks,fleas, ear mites and even worms.
"But my cat adores being free outside and keeps asking to be let out!"
That's perfectly natural. Once a cat is used to roaming outside, he or she has a territory to maintain. They will meow to be let out and try to find ways to get out there, to patrol their turf. This does not mean they should.
The good news is: It's entirely possible to turn an outdoor cat into an indoor one. Even a stray or a friendly semi-feral cat can make the adjustment and live happily and securely indoors only.
A note about feral cats -
Before delving into the various ways in which you can help kitty adjust to living indoors, it's worth mentioning that with feral cats - those born outside without proper socialization with humans - we have to consider carefully whether to make the transition. For some feral cats, staying outdoors is a better option. Unless they are very well-socialized, bringing them inside could prove to be more stressful than beneficial. It's doable but requires a lot of effort and preferably some experience with working with feral cats. Many of these cats will benefit more from being helped with food, shelter and medical assistance while remaining outside.
Back to getting socialized cats indoors.
Here are five golden rules to successfully bringing an outdoor kitty indoors -
Domestic cats should always be spayed or neutered. Hopefully, your kitty already is. It's worth mentioning here all the same: Reproductive behavior patterns are very likely to derail any attempt to turn Kitty into an indoors-only pet.
Intact cats are very likely to display stress-induced behavioral problems if prevented from going outside, including spraying smelly urine in your home. Spay and neuter several weeks before attempting this transition.
Read more: Why You Should Spay and Neuter Your Cats
2. Secure all exits
Make sure doors and windows are properly secured. Evaluate your situation and see how to best block exit routes for your cat. Is your cat used to climbing out the window? Make sure that window is latched when you're not around to watch over your cat. You're not creating a prison. You're helping your cat adjust to new territorial boundaries that are better for her or him.
3. Be persistent
Kitty stays inside. Period. No matter how much he or she begs to be let out. Give in once, and you've taught your cat to beg for longer next time. Either ignore the requests to be let outside, or divert Kitty's attention with a treat or a toy.
Read more: How To Set Healthy Boundaries For Your Cat
4. Make the indoors fun!
Environmental enrichment cannot be stressed enough.
The most significant problem with keeping a cat indoors is boredom. With no grass to munch on, bugs to chase, and yes, predators to escape, life can become rather dull for a cat. According to behaviorist Roger Tabor indoors-only cats are susceptible to "confinement stress", stemming from the lack of stimuli.
Fortunately, we can create a rich and stimulating environment within the safety of our homes.
Read more here:
5. Be patient
It's a process. Changing habits takes time. Some cats, especially older ones, may be so set in their ways, they could take weeks and even months to fully adjust. Do not despair. They can have a wonderful and safe life without roaming the great outdoors!
If you create a stimulating environment for your cat indoors, there is no reason for him or her to be exposed to the dangers outside. You are doing what's best for your cat and it is up to you to help Kitty make that adjustment and live a long and happy life in the security of your home.