Keeping a cat indoors can be challenging, especially if the cat has been allowed outside in the past. But it’s not impossible. And it’s totally worth it because keeping your cat indoors can actually prolong your cat’s life and keep them safe (and happy!) In this article, we’ll talk about why cats should be kept indoors, we’ll discuss practical ways to keep your cat from getting outside, then we’ll discuss ways to make your cat happy indoors so they’ll stop trying to get out.
Is it Cruel to Keep a Cat Indoors?
It’s really not. According to cat expert, Jackson Galaxy, “…the threats outside are numerous and can be fatal. Between the transmission of diseases like FIV that come from the inevitable fights with other community cats, and the usual suspects of cars, people, and predators from both air and ground . . . it’s rough out there.”
Should Cats Be Kept Indoors?
Most humane societies and wildlife organizations recommend cat owners keep their cats indoors due to the fact that outdoor cats are at a very high risk of injury, disease and death. Not to mention the dangers of cold weather. I personally live in Western New York. It’s COLD here in the winter. I could cry when I see a group of feral cats, or if I see someone’s cat waiting at the door to be let in, freezing and desperate. If you live in a cold climate, please read these two articles (both include a video):
Would your cat be happier if they could go outside? Possibly. But given the severity of the dangers for outdoor cats, I believe it’s better to learn how to make your cat happy inside so they can live a long and happy life.
6 Ways to Keep a Cat Indoors
If you’re struggling with how to keep your cat inside, here are some suggestions:
1. Spay or neuter your cat. Cats who are not spayed or neutered will be way (way, way, way) more interested in going outside. Spaying or neutering your cat can help with this and other behavioral issues. If you need help paying for this, read my article, Free and Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Clinics (includes video).
2. Watch and secure doors and windows. Always look to make sure your cat isn’t nearby when you’re going out the door, or if you open a window. Limit your cat’s access to exits by keeping inner doors closed and windows secure. Installing self-closing screen doors or storm doors may help. If you have a dog, make sure the cat isn’t nearby when you open the door to take the dog outside.
3. Train your cat not to go near the door. Here are two effective methods for doing this from TheCatSite.com: Using positive training to reward your cat for staying away from the door, and teaching your cat to be afraid of the door. Here’s how:
Positive Training: Don’t show your cat any affection anywhere near the door. Don’t speak to the cat and don’t make eye contact. The goal here is to teach the cat that nothing positive comes from hanging around the door – whether you’re on your way in, or on your way out.
Create a “ceremony” of sorts where something positive happens when your cat is away from the door. When you come in, for example, ignore the cat until you’re, say, in the kitchen. While in the kitchen, give your cats lots of attention and possibly treats. When you’re getting ready to leave, “say goodbye” to the cat in the kitchen with affection. Leave a treat for the cat and leave while the cat is munching on the treat.
You could also purchase an automated cat toy which you start up for the cat in the kitchen just before you head for the door. My cat, Whiskers is madly in love with this squirrel toy. That’s him in the pic! The goal here is to make the cat happily in a place not near the door when you leave.
Try this for several weeks. If your cat is still too intrigued by the door, try the following method in addition to positive reinforcement:
Making your cat afraid of the door. It’s generally not a good idea to do anything to scare a cat. This can result in behavioral and emotionsl issues for your cat. However, cats who tend to dart out the door usually aren’t of the wimpy variety, and regardless, it’s just not safe for your cat to be outside so this method may be necessary if the positive training method doesn’t work.
Start by using a loud noise when the cat is near the door. Preferably, have someone else wait outside as you open the door just a crack. When the cat comes toward the door, have that person make a loud scary noise right outside the door. Some suggestions might be dropping a set of keys or a small can full of coins, stomping, clapping or even hissing at the cat. The idea is to scare the cat with a loud noise as they approach the door. It’s suggested to make someone else make the noise so your cat doesn’t associate it with you.
4. You might consider installing a cat enclosure of some kind or a “Catio.” You can find these on Amazon. I love these. To me, it’s the perfect way to keep your cat safe while still allowing them to experience the outdoors. But always make sure your cat isn’t left unsupervised in case neighborhood dogs, cats, or wildlife approach the enclosure.
5. Make sure you cat is used to getting praise from you when they come when called, in case they do get outside. You can do this by waving toys in front of your cat, then rewarding them with praise and treats when they come to you.
6. Make sure your cat can see out a window. Indoor cats are far more content to stay indoors if they can see outside. Make sure you have a windowsill or a chair next to a window for your cat to sit on. You might consider installing a window perch, and having a birdfeeder outside the window will keep them happy and entertained for hours.
How to Keep Indoor Cats Happy
For help on how to keep your cat happy indoors so they’ll stop trying to get outside, read my article, How to Keep Indoor Cats Happy, or watch my video containing 10 tips for keeping indoor cats happy:
How to Find a Lost Cat
You might want to familiarize yourself with ways to find your cat if they do get out. Read my article, How to Find a Lost Cat, or watch my video:
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