Fur the love of pets

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Can An Outdoor Cat Become An Indoor Cat?

Dealing with a cat's vocal protests or a mad dash for freedom everytime the door opens is no fun. But there are many compelling reasons to transition a feline to inside-only living, from preventing fleas, ticks, parasites and exposure to disease to the dangers of critters and cars. It's not hard to design a safe sanctuary for a cat to switch from roaming outside to hanging inside your home sweet home.

The shift must happen within you first—let go of the belief that cats are happiest outdoors. About two-thirds of all cats are indoor-only pets. Many pet parents and experts think felines should be confined to the house to spare the millions of songbirds that fall prey to a domesticated cat’s hunting instincts. Answer her natural needs to hunt, play, climb and scratch with indoor substitutes and a cat will easily find contentment.

Methods to avoid madness

Some vets believe moving a cat indoors “cold turkey” is the best route to abandon the call of the wild—in other words, just shut the door. But if a cat has spent years outside, an abrupt change may be stressful. A gradual shift with increasingly longer periods indoors helps a cat adjust over time. Patience will pay off. Feral kitties will resist being confined by yowling and attempting to escape at every chance. Be sure a cat is litter-trained first.

Other cats may easily move indoors in a couple of weeks. The most important strategy: make your home a cat-friendly environment. If your great indoors is fun, she'll eventually forget about the lure of venturing out. But key to the success is increasing your playtime and interaction.

Toys, treats and top spots

Enhance your home by offering an engaging refuge full of stimulating activities and they’ll love their home. The following recommendations help the conversion process:

  • Hideouts present cozy secure spaces—under beds, cupboards, in boxes and tunnels
  • Window access gives views of happenings outside and a place to soak up sunshine
  • Scratching posts, pads and cat trees; obstacle courses to explore, climbing opportunities and observation perches
  • Toys! From a ball made of a non-ingestable substance to food puzzles; rotate to keep up interest
  • Entertainment—a nature or wildlife TV show, video or music on the radio 
  • A planter of wheatgrass and catnip to nibble and enjoy

Bring the outdoors inside

When swapping environments, consider options for whiffs of fresh air:

  • Open screen-in windows to satisfy a cat’s curiosity to gaze at birds, squirrels and greenery. But make sure they're kitty-proof
  • Try a “Catio” enclosure on the deck
  • Harness-train a cat for leashed walks

No exit

Tips to distract a cat yearning to dart out the door:

  • Rattle coins in a jar, toss a toy across the room, offer a snack
  • Clicker-train a cat to stay or sit
  • Double-sided tape the floor as a deterrent (instead of a spray or static charge barrier)
  • Provide a meal upon entering and leaving

Also, post a warning for visitors to not swing open or leave the door ajar. And in case of escape, be sure a cat is spayed or neutered, has tags or a chip and up-to-date vaccinations.