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outdoor cat conversion

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Background : I got my cat when I was in Elementary school; he was young and pretty wild. We had wallpaper that he loved to scratch , he also liked to attack the furniture and stalk our feet. Eventually my parents decided he had to be declawed (front only, he still has back claws). We tried for over a year to make him an indoor cat, but he was constantly escaping and hiding outside. We gave up and let him be an indoor/outdoor cat. Now, I'm sure a large number of cat enthusiast are thinking that I've broken a law by letting a declawed cat outdoors, but there was no resisting it, too many people coming and going and he was too determined. He liked to sleep all day and prowl all night, occasionally getting into scrapes with other animals. I always worried about his "handicap" in fights, but after watching him go rounds boxing dogs four times his size it became apparent he didn't know he didn't have claws!

Now he's much older (10 years or so older and he wasn't a kitten really when we got him) and we moved further down the same street. In the last 5 years more cats have moved into the street. I am sure he will wander between my old house and my new house which means he will probably meet all the cats in between. I am trying to convert him to an indoor cat since we moved. It's been 10 days and he's escaped twice. Once he's out he knows to run away from me So I end up following him until he gets distracted enough for me to catch him. If you question my commitment to converting him I can show you the cuts on my legs from the 2 mile hike through pricker bushes in the woods! We do have a screened in porch, which has aided a lot as a "compromise" for the cat.

What should I do!?! As long as he's interested in the outside he will get out. Should I give up and let him be outside? Should I get an invisible fence outside so atleast he'll be close if he gets in trouble? Will persistance ever change him? Should I confine him to upstairs somehow?

Sorry for the long introduction, thanks for any help
post #2 of 14
Welcome to the site!

I'm going to move this to the Behavior Forum where more people with experience will be able to help you.

Good luck with coverting your kitty to indoor-only!
post #3 of 14
I am currently converting an indoor/outdoor cat to an indoors only cat. He is about 6 years old and spent probably somewhere between 50-75% of each day outside. For the first month, he was peeing outside the litter box, primarily in my bed, and one night he actually peed on me in bed (we had a serious discussion on that one). After about 2 months, he still tries to escape every time we open the door. All in all, he is beginning to adjust to the indoors.

Per advice I found in the forum, I started using Feliway plug-ins in the rooms he hangs out in most. Since he was alpha cat outdoors and now on the bottom of the pecking order indoors, I've had to reprimand my other cats when they became overly domineering (2 of them mount him). I go out of my way to give him extra loving, special food treats, and reward all good behavior.

I have a friend that just went thru this with an adult rescue she took in. She said it took about 3 months for him to fully adjust. You just have to be EXTREMELY patient with them.....even if they pee on you in bed at night!

Now that you furbaby is getting older, he is not going to be able to defend himself like he has in the past, and I won't even start lecturing on letting a declawed cat out (you already know that lecture). He is older and won't be able to defend himself. You are doing the right thing by keeping him indoors.

Good luck and please keep us posted!
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
The idea of this conversion has not been well received. Unfortunately, I cannot guard the door 24x7, so I have to trust my family. They have stated their opinions that it is "unnatural" and unfair to keep him in. Perhaps I am like a child who is unable to take their dying parent off the respirator?? Am I robbing his quality of life?

I will try to keep him in as long as I (we) can stand, any ideas on how to counter meowing at the doors? I've been trying to distract him with food, toys, and letting him onto the screened porch, but he wants one thing and will except no substitutes!
post #5 of 14
Originally posted by Mantis
The idea of this conversion has not been well received. Unfortunately, I cannot guard the door 24x7, so I have to trust my family. They have stated their opinions that it is "unnatural" and unfair to keep him in. Perhaps I am like a child who is unable to take their dying parent off the respirator?? Am I robbing his quality of life?

I will try to keep him in as long as I (we) can stand, any ideas on how to counter meowing at the doors? I've been trying to distract him with food, toys, and letting him onto the screened porch, but he wants one thing and will except no substitutes!
My Bob wants one thing only also (out), but for his health and his life, keeping him in is for the best. It can be a tough call: live hard and fast outside, or adjust to the indoors and live healthy and long. At 10 years old and declawed, your boy isn't going to have much of a chance outdoors. Sorry to be blunt, but would you rather see him dead? It is not unnatural to keep him in, and over time, he will adjust. It is unfair to him to have to change his lifestyle at this time, but you can't change his history.

Have you considered building an outdoor "pen" for him? Someplace that he can feel the grass, climb a small bush, but be enclosed so that no harm comes to him from other roaming cats or dogs? That might be a good compromise for your baby.
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Well today when he was meowing at the door I thought I'd take him for a leash walk. Didn't go so well. He didnt like the harness so he just layed down outside and flipped his tail back and forth. When we walked every step he would hiss and growl. Eventually I decided I'd better bring him in and then he really freaked out and was hissing and biting at me. I scooped him up, accepted the scratches, and brough him in.

I still wonder about an invisible fence. Then I could atleast find him and bring him in before night. I'm not real worried about him being outside in the yard during the day, but I'm afraid he would bolt and I wouldn't find him easily. I'm also considering this.

Well, I gotta go tend to my wounds, cya
post #7 of 14
Ah, the famous boneless kitten syndrome

When you first put him on the harness, he will flop over and not move. That's normal. Just leave him be, flopped over boneless a foot (or inch) from the door.

He knew he could not run away when he was on the leash, so he was growling and hissing to protect himself. And you were a predator at that point. My cat loves going out on the leash and harness, and he will even hiss and growl at me if I pick him up and carry him across an open space.

Keep at it, he will (possibly?) learn to walk. But don't force him beyond his comfort zone, which at this point, is boneless cat near the door.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
When he was flopped I was worried his harness was too tight or something, so I caved and switched to his collar(which worries me more). Cats are just too squishy and flexible to get a harness on with confidence! Do cats ever get uninterested in escaping? Eventually I'm going to have to trust him to not mow people down when they come to visit. As harsh as it sounds, I still think hard about an invisible fence, then I think how stupid it is and that I should just let him go play, then i think about something else -- it's a cycle you see. It is definitely easier then he was a kitten though, I will say that!
post #9 of 14
A harness is much safer than a collar for a cat on a leash. I don't quite understand what you mean about a cat being "squishy". The harness can be adjusted to be tight enough that the cat can't get out, (mostly), but not tight enough to hurt them. But unlike a dog, with very strong neck and shoulder muscles and heavy bones, a cat's neck is very fragile, and can't take the pressure of a collar used as a restraint. In fact, a cat collar should be designed to give way, as soon as there is pressure on it, which makes is kind of useless for walking on a leash.

I would still work at this. Your cat should not be roaming outside unsupervised.

And as for a cat learning to tolerate a harness, one of my cats adapted really well, it only took two weeks. The second cat needed about 2 months. But they are both fine now. And wait at the door for their harness to go on before they go outside.
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
He has a break away collar, that's why I don't like using it. Cat's are very squishy, it makes it harder to tell if the harness is too tight. The way he holds his sholders and walks when he wears it, looks like it's tight, but i can still get my fingers inside the harness.

Anyway, today we tried again with much more success. First he sat down one step outside the door. After about five minutes he started moving. He walked slowly and didn't hiss or growl at me this time. He did cram through small spaces trying to lose me though. A step in the right direction at least!
post #11 of 14
A cat pen outside (used during nice weather & not 24hrs) might be a solution.
When we got Snowball (an outside cat) my husband built a pen. It's quite big 14longx4widex6high. Yours doesn't have to be that large, but if you put ramps and platforms at various heights your cat should love it!
He gets to go outside sometimes and is still protected from other animals.
Another thing that seems to help is to make inside your home interesting. Even at 10yrs old he probably likes to explore. An old cardboard box with holes cut in the sides & top where he can exit & enter gives him something to explore and sometimes a safe little haven to have a "catnap". Hiding treats around the house in areas where he likes to wander may help as well.

**Important: Don't use chicken wire for pen (a friend's cat got its claw stuck in the wire and had to be taken to the vet to get it off. The cat's fine.) Stucco wire works best (1 - 1 1/2 inch) and can be picked up at most building supply stores (not that expensive either).

Good luck & don't give up!

post #12 of 14
Introducing harness and lead to a cat needs to done over time. There isn't really a proper cat around, that if you suddenly put a harness and lead on them, they will happily follow you outside and go for a walk. There is a process involved, and a really good website about how to go about this introduction is in existence.

Here is an older post about this subject:

Leash Training
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
I have been using a figure 8 "ferret" type harness for leash training and it's a lot of trouble to get on and off. Also my cat hunches way down, he doesn't like the feel of the harness on his fur. Does anybody have expierience with these: http://www.hdw-inc.com/walkingjackets.htm or something similar?

post #14 of 14
Hi. The way we trained Shadow and Graycie to go on a harness was to leave it quite loose just tight enough so they could feel it around them. (I'm sure it still felt like a straight jacket though)and left the harness on inside for about 20 minutes 3 times a day. Shadow was harder to train but loves it outside now. She was an INDOOR cat all of her live and then one day escaped onto our back steps so I thought I'ld see what she did on a walk.
Hope this helps.
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