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The Five Golden Rules To Bringing An Outdoor Cat Inside

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 - 

 

1. Spay/neuter

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:

Beating Boredom - What Indoor Cat Owners Need to Know

Cat Enclosures

Playing with Your Cat: 10 Things You Need To Know    

 

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.

Comments (11)

Excellent suggestions,!  Thank you for posting them.
Having a cat that goes outside also will require the regular purchase and application of flea and tic medication. If this is not done every month religeously you cat will bring a flea infestation into your house and boy will you have a problem then!

So if you are not able to be very consistant with the care of a cat and keep it inside leave the care of cats to those that can. You will. be doing both the cats and yourself a favor!
Excellent point, kittyperson!  Just one more great reason to KEEP CATS INDOORS! 
That's all true, took me about a year to get a cat used to being indoors. The worst thing was that she was scratching at the meshdoor to the garden all the time. It's a metal door, so it didn't damage the door but was very loud. After the first winter during which the door was closed all day long, she got used to it and dropped it mostly.
It can be done but can take a while
it takes a lot of love and persistence to change any cat's behavior. I have had a cat for almost two years and he still is scared of just about everyone but me. He's supposed to be a foster but as it is he will take at least another two years before he would be fit for adoption so he might just as well be MY cat. This cat was mentally abused although not physically (a care taker was scared of cats and walked into any room with a broom in front of him to ward off any cat, the cat parent had lost her mind) so when he came to me he would hide for weeks before I even saw him. Even now he runs from being picked up although once caught he can't get enough of petting and hugging, and purrs and chirps up a storm, turns on his back to have his belly scrubbed. A feral cat at can't be any more difficult to be socialized than this cat.
@Playerdark, good on you -- love and patience are indeed key, with cats, as with anyone else!
@segelkatt, good on you for your love and patience with your foster (whom I not-so-secretly hope will be a foster failure ;) )  One of my girls was rescued as a feral kitten and is only bonded to me.  She runs and hides when anyone else is around, even if it's someone she's been around many times before.  She hasn't bonded in the slightest with any of her cat family members, either.  Once feral, always feral, I guess -- but she is very loving and affetionate with me.  
somebody had come to look at the foster. He took one look at her and bailed, right past her and under a big chair where he stayed until she left. Afterwards he was  very leery of me also and the next day he still did not trust me and stayed hidden most of the time. Now he is back to his loving self, chirping while hanging around my knees and tapping on my leg to be petted while I am typing. Something spooked that cat, the prospective cat parent had a cat of her own and her other cat had recently passed after a long illness where she had to give the cat meds and fluids, perhaps my foster could sense that
No telling, @segelkatt, but one thing I've learned from a life of living with cats is always to trust them.  They are extremely intuitive and sensitive, and when they don't trust someone, we'd do well not to, either.
#5 rule is equally as important as 1. If you already have cats and bring in a feral and dont have it fixed, It will fit into rule 5 and take the main rooms where you are over and keep the other cats in other rooms. I went thru it. but you fix them perhaps even thinking about declaw then #5 becomes a cat that fits in with others. Fix them#1 is #1 then wait :)
#6 Have lots of Natures Miracle on hand.  Outdoor cats can learn to spray the bounds of their territory... if that bounding becomes the inside of your house, you could be in for an unwelcome, smelly, and damaging transition period.  It does get better with time though as they accept their new life
I recently acquired Lulu from her previous owners who live two streets away.  She kept showing up on my doorstep, (must have been the tuna I gave her!) so the owners decided to let her have a new forever home with me!  She was an outdoor cat and used to "outdoor bathrooms" and sits at the front door when she wants out.  Even though there is a litter box, the only time she has used it was when I was gone for seven hours.  So I will have my work cut out for me when I make her an indoor kitty only!
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