How to Transition Your Outdoor Cat to Life Inside

Although your cat might enjoy outdoor life, being outside could expose it to a variety of dangers. Outdoor cats are more likely to catch diseases and parasites from other animals. They could also become ill from eating questionable items or poisons. They’re more apt to be stolen by strangers, hit by cars, or killed by predators. There’s heat exhaustion and frostbite to worry about.

8 Ways To Help Your Outdoor Cat Become A Happy Indoor Cat

In short, your cat is just much safer inside. In fact, the average lifespan of a free-roaming cat is estimated to be less than three years. Indoor cats live about 12 to 15 years.

Luckily, there are some simple ways to help coax your kitty into indoor life, even if she’s a little bit stubborn. It may not be as hard as you expected after all.

1. Transition Gradually

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Particularly if your cat has been exclusively outdoors for most or all of its life, it might be a good idea to take your time with this change. Think about what will be different once your cat is inside, and try to bring those changes to her ahead of time. Will you be buying a litter box your cat’s never used? A scratching post? See how your kitty does with these items outside before moving inside. Try feeding your cat inside and keeping her there for a bit before letting her back out. Keep her inside longer each day.

2. Or Transition Abruptly

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There are two schools of thought on this one. You just read why transitioning slowly might be a good option. Now consider that adding this restriction to your cat’s life will be stressful no matter how you do it. So why not just get it over with? Your cat may thank you for not prolonging the aggravation and confusion. In the end, it’s up to you to decide which approach will work best. Pay attention to your cat’s behavior so you’ll know when she’s ready to come inside for good.

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3. Make Inside More Appealing

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If the food, the warm bed (especially in the winter), and all your cat’s other favorite things are inside, she may be more likely to want to stay. Buy your cat some treats and toys to entice her into sticking around of her own free will before your resort to force. Having a place for her to perch and a box for her to play in are easy ways to liven up her life and create a distraction from what’s on the other side of the door.

4. Play with Your Cat More

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Part of your cat’s problem with being inside is that there’s not enough to stimulate her active mind and energetic body. Making time each day (preferably a few times a day) to play with her will make a huge difference. Getting another pet as a playmate for your cat could help as well. We suggest another cat, but if you know your cat gets along well with dogs or other animals, that could be an option too.

5. Give Your Cat Some Freedom

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She no longer has the great outdoors to romp and play in, so do your best not to restrict her in other ways if you can. Don’t keep her in a locked room or try to keep her off all the furniture (although we’ll let you make the call when it comes to counters). Let her sit in the windowsills or on bookshelves. Anyplace she can’t cause too much trouble. Try to provide a perch–preferably up high–where your cat can go to get a good view of her domain and feel safe. If you can make your cat feel like the queen of the castle instead of a lowly peasant, she’ll probably enjoy staying indoors.

6. Ignore the Inevitable Complaining

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It’s unavoidable. Your cat is going to whine about having to be inside all the time. Hopefully it won’t take long, but for at least a little while, you’ll feel like you’re hearing her asking to be let out more often than not. Stay strong, friend. Ignore the meowing. If that’s not working, get a spray-bottle or some other deterrent to let your cat know you mean business. A good pet parent is one who knows when to not give in.

7. Be Smarter than the Cat

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Time to think like a cat. Figure out her probable escape routes and block them before they become an issue (going back to the abrupt transition, the more your cat accidentally gets out, the more she’ll want to be out…and the more she’ll resent you for bringing her back in later). Predict the naughty behaviors she’ll adopt to show you she isn’t happy (or just because she has too much energy), and come up with a plan of action to stop them. For example, if you think your cat might bounce off the walls in the middle of the night, feed her main meal to her right before bed, or wear her out with a good high-energy play session at the end of the day. And be sure to use the all-knowing World Wide Web to find solutions to the problems you didn’t foresee.

8. The Last Resort

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And if all else fails, you can always get an indoor-outdoor enclosure. This way, you know where your cat is and that she’s safe, but she can still get outside for some fresh air. If you have a screened porch or a high-fenced backyard (as long as you know she can’t climb it), that could be a functional option as well. Or you could just take her for walks on a leash now and then.

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