Convincing an outdoor cat to remain happily indoors is a task most cat parents will face at some point. While some outdoor cats settle into indoor life with no fuss at all, others may pace, yowl, spray, scratch, and behave aggressively toward humans and other pets. I feel that any outdoor cat can transition into indoor life successfully, although some will take more time than others. Preparation, patience, and commitment to meeting the cat’s needs are key to a smooth outdoor-to-indoor transition.
Why Keep Cats Inside?
Why not just let the cat go out? Several reasons:
- In many parts of the world, domestic cats must by law be kept indoors.
- Domestic cats can destroy native songbird populations by hunting, particularly in areas like Hawaii where cats were only relatively recently introduced.
- Indoor cats live far longer on average than outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats.
- There’s almost no chance your cat will be struck by a car inside your house.
- Cats kept indoors don’t need to worry about most communicable diseases of cats, since most of these conditions are transmitted through bodily fluid exchange only.
- An indoor cat can’t be stolen, locked in someone else’s garage, caught sleeping under a car hood when the engine gets turned on, picked up by animal control, targeted by animal abusers…..
Bringing Outside Cats Indoors
There are many reasons you might find yourself transitioning an outdoor cat into inside cat life. Maybe you opened the front door and a stray cat walked right in. Maybe you’ve kept an indoor/outdoor cat for years and have now decided it’s time to bring it in for good. Maybe you’re adopting a formerly feral kitty. Whatever the case may be, the best way to make the transition easy is to create a pleasant indoor living area for your newly indoor-only cat. Let’s look at the needs of outdoor cats and how to address them inside.
- Private and comfortable toilet area(s) comparable in privacy and escape potential to the cat’s favored outdoor toilet area.
- Opportunity to scratch and stretch to full height while scratching.
- Opportunities to forage for food.
- Exercise and interactive play comparable to self-enrichment found outdoors.
- Social interaction.
Addressing These Needs Indoors:
- Provide at least one more litterbox than you have cats, and offer a choice of location and litter and/or litterbox type. Consider shading one litterbox with large potted plants for privacy.
- Purchase one or more scratching posts/cat condos that allow the cat to stretch to its full height while scratching.
- Use cat grass, treats, and multiple dishes with small amounts of food to provide a foraging experience.
- Use interactive toys to play with your cat, preferably playing until the cat is exhausted at least once a day.
- Two cats are better than one. If you can’t adopt a second cat, make sure you pay lots of attention to your single cat.
A last tip: To ease the immediate transition, try a pheromone diffuser like Feliway, which often works well to reduce yowling and marking in particular when cats are frustrated by not being allowed outside.