Bringing an Outside Cat Indoors
Most cats who are kept
indoors from the start show no inclination to go
outdoors. In fact, they may become frightened if
they accidentally wander out the door.
But what if your cat
is already used to being allowed outside? Transforming
a free-roaming cat into a safe cat can be done,
but it does require planning, persistence and patience.
The key is to make the change from outdoors to indoors
gradually, until the new way of life becomes old
hat. Many cats will adjust with minimal effort while
others will be miserable and let you know it. They
may scratch at doors, claw at windows, yowl and
try to dash through open doors.
- If your cat has never used a scratching
post or a litter box, introduce both items well
in advance of transitioning your cat to life inside.
If you're feeding your cat outdoors, begin feeding
him indoors. Then, instead of letting the cat back
outside as soon as he's finished eating, keep him
inside for gradually longer periods of time.
- Other members of the household may have
to be "retrained" to close doors quickly
and provide more stimulation for their feline friend.
Playing with the cat is a great way to keep both
his mind and body in shape.
- Some former free-roamers will appreciate
your providing "kitty greens" for them
to munch on instead of your houseplants. Try planting
grass, alfalfa, catnip, wheat or oat grass (sold
in pet supply stores) in indoor pots for this purpose.
- If you live in a climate that has cold winters,
that season may be the perfect time to help your
cat make the transition to a life indoors. Your
cat is likely to appreciate a warm, dry bed in which
- If you're having trouble slowly transitioning
your cat to a happy life indoors, it may be better
to go "cold turkey." Letting your cat
outdoors occasionally may only reinforce his pestering
behaviors. Your veterinarian may prescribe a short-term
drug or homeopathic therapy to help your cat through
the transition period.
- If you have an indoor cat who is scratching
your couch or not using the litter box, think twice
before you put your cat outdoors. Consult your veterinarian
to rule out any medical problems that could be contributing
to problem behaviors. If your cat gets a clean bill
of health, work with your veterinarian, a trainer,
or animal behavior specialist who uses positive
training techniques. There is always a reason, from
your cat's point of view, for behavior that you
consider to be inappropriate. He is not acting out
of spite or revenge. Patience and persistence, not
punishment, are the best way to get your cat back
to his good habits.
- If allergies or pregnancy make you think
about putting your cat outside or even giving up
the cat, consult your physician and learn how to
manage those conditions while keeping your cat safe.
By providing for your indoor cat's physical and
emotional needs, you can create a safe and stimulating
environment. Although domesticated several thousand
years ago, cats still retain many behaviors of their
wild ancestors. These delightful behaviors can be
played out in the great indoors. A paper grocery
bag, a cat's vivid imagination, and your caring
attitude will go a long way toward keeping you and
your cat safe and young at heart.
If you would like to
work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist
one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please
call 414-431-6173 to schedule a consultation.