Transforming Your Outdoor Cat To A Safe Indoor Cat

Do you have an outdoor cat who keeps getting into fights with other cats? Has he been hit by a car? If he’s an unneutered male, is he a wandering tomcat? If female, is she having litter after litter?

There is a way to fix all of these problems. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worthwhile.

Take your kitty indoors and keep him there.

Loki didn't get to be this big by being a great outdoor hunter.
Loki didn’t get to be this big by being a great outdoor hunter.

I already hear your protests and let me tell you, I’ve been there. In 30 years of practice I’ve had only one failure, and let’s call him Rounder.

Rounder belonged to my friend, Ronald. He was a Siamese cat, and you know how vocal they are. Rounder had always been an outdoor cat, but he kept coming in with one fight wound after another. Finally, one of his wounds would not heal, and we suspected immune system suppression. We tested him for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)and, sure enough, he was infected.

Ronald, a Medical Technologist, understood the importance of keeping Rounder inside. It would be unfair for Rounder to infect other cats with FeLV, and Rounder didn’t need more injuries taxing his already-suppressed immune system.

Bless his heart, Ronald followed every step, but Rounder would go to the front door of the house and yowl and scratch and scratch and yowl and urinate on the door until someone let him out. Finally, Ronald called me one day and said, “Dr. Randolph, I don’t want you to be disappointed with me if Rounder has to come in again with a health problem, but I’ve tried everything you asked me to do, and he just won’t give up. I had to let him go back outside.”

I understood. Ronald made a valiant effort.

Ultimately, Rounder was killed by an automobile, as often happens to outdoor cats. If the car hadn’t gotten him, the Feline Leukemia Virus eventually would have.

Here are the steps.

First, have your male cats neutered and your female cats spayed. Rounder had been neutered at a young age, but the urge to wander is many times stronger in the unaltered pet.

Second, if your pet has been used to going out, don’t try to make the transition all at once. Over a period of a month or more, keep him inside a little bit longer each day. Be sure he gets his food indoors and completely discontinue outdoor feeding.

Make a litterbox for him that suits his desires. For tips on litterbox care, click here. There is no more important factor in litterbox consistency than keeping the box clean.  Several times daily is not too often.

Third, spend lots of TLC time with her. You want the indoor environment to be as inviting as possible, so feed her need for human attention, grooming, treats, a bed and her favorite food.

Fourth, be patient. Even if your kitty is a screamer, like Rounder, you will have to be strong to wait him out. Cats are creatures of habit, and changing ingrained habits takes time. If he’s been going outside all of his life it will take a little time for him to adjust. The fact that it’s now winter will help, as few cats like the cold.

If you have success stories of transforming a formerly outdoor cat into a guardian of the indoors, let us know by clicking on the COMMENT section below.


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