How best to transition an outdoor cat to an indoor?

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Member Since
Purred: Fri Oct 11, '13 7:06pm PST 
Recently my indoor/outdoor cat has gotten into some pretty nasty fights with one or multiple stray/feral cats; and after his last fight I decided to make him an indoor cat. I was wondering if there is some way to make the transition easy on him? He doesn't want to play with any of his toys or interact as much with me, he just stares out the window. He's also been going to the door and scratching it to be let out... Along with the scratching he's yowling which saddens me because he seems to be so sad stuck inside.

Given how many fights he's been in (he's neutered) I think he's a "must be only cat", unfortunately.

Edited by author Fri Oct 11, '13 8:35pm PST



Purred: Sat Oct 12, '13 11:07am PST 
I think the trick is patience, lots of cat trees, more patience, and doing your best to make indoors entertaining. I don't have any experience transitioning cats to indoor life, but any change in their routine seems to throw them off for awhile.


World's Best- Kitten- Socializer
Purred: Sun Oct 13, '13 6:27am PST 
See, the trick is making him THINK he's getting what he wants. There are a few ways to do this. First, if you haven't tried him with a harness, DO IT! It will take some cats longer to get used to a harness than others, but some (like Iba) take to it right away. If he will take to a harness, you can take him for walks which fulfills his desire to be outside but puts you in control of his outdoor time. Iba was doing the same thing this summer (yowling incessantly at the front door), but he walks fabulously on a leash and harness, and it's helped him enormously.

Second--if you have a back porch (some do, some don't, but this has always been my dream), and it's not screened in, I'd seriously think about it. The windows/screening (however you decide to go) should be pretty sturdy since cats love to climb screens if given the opportunity. This would allow him to be "outside" without actually being outside.

Third--wherever there are windows that look out at interesting parts of the outside world, encourage him to hang out there. If there's a tree outside of a front window where birds like to congregate, put a perch or a bed or a cat tree or something there so he can enjoy the sights in the comfort and protection of home.

As for the yowling and pacing, again, I dealt with this with Iba this summer. I put a Feliway diffuser in our entryway and one next to Iba's favorite napping spot. The change in his behavior was quick and noticeable. Also, if you can find a toy that your cat really digs, try to play with him really hard a couple of times a day and tire him out. A sleeping cat cares far less about outisde time. I recommend something like "Da Bird" which allows him to get in touch with his natural hunting instinct.


'cause his touch- is too much!
Purred: Thu Oct 17, '13 11:03am PST 
Last August I made Midas an indoor only cat when I took him to college with me. It was easier because I moved with him to a new location. It made him MUCH more attached to me and my dogs. What also helped was having literally 5 cat trees of various sizes. The largest is 5 ft tall and about 3 ft wide. It is a beast, and he sleeps on it most afternoons. I want to make him another one that is wall mounted, but I just don't have room at the moment. I went home over the summer to where he formerly live, and he hated it. He really doesn't like other cats (my parents have 4), and had to be kept in only one room. He did always try to escape there. You got some great advice above, and now I will try to share my experience. Sorry if I repeat anything already said!

Now I have moved again to an actual house, and I have done some things to try to make him even happier!

First, curtains on all the windows. If you have metal blinds, they are going to get destroyed by the cat (probably). If you want to maintain your privacy while letting the cat enjoy seeing the outdoors, curtains are a must have (vertical blinds also work for really big windows). Midas is small enough to sit on most windowsills, though a cat perch on one or two favorites to encourage him to sit in particular windows certainly does not hurt either. Just make sure that if you do have blinds you tie up the cord so he doesn't run the risk of getting tangled in it.

I second the above poster who recommends an enclosed patio. I built one out of a gazebo and some lattice. It cost about $600. Eventually we want to put in a real patio cover, but we don't have the $2000 for that currently, plus we would need more lattice to enclose more space. There is some question as to if a cat can squeeze through the lattice, and while Midas has not, there is no guarantee that another cat won't.

They sell screen that is cat claw proof. It is great, and could be used on either your windows or if you chose to build an enclosure. I really recommend it for the windows though, as you really cannot tell much of a difference between screens, so even if you are renting, switching them out should not be a problem. It gives me peace of mind when I leave a window open, and Midas loves to smell all the things outside!

Another thing to do is attract local birds to your yard for him to watch from a window. Just a feeder will do, but I have found I just love having the birds around, and plan on adding a bird bath and some bird houses in the coming years. Of course other cats in the neighborhood might be a problem. Try to keep everything high and away from fences and easily climbable trees.

I think the last thing I want to add to this list is metal security doors. They are great to have on any home to help deter theft, but they also can be left open without worry of either the cat going out or people coming in. They are a great way to get a breeze during the summer too.

Of course, even with all of this, he has gotten out a few times (before I fixed the screens, doors accidentally left open, etc), and instead of running, he finds the nearest patch of dirt and rolls in it like a man who has been on a ship for the last year and just made land. It does help that he does not know the area because we moved, but I also think that dirt might be the only thing he is not getting being an indoor cat. That's fine with me though, as he sleeps on my pillow.