Transitioning an Outdoor Cat to an Indoor Cat

It can be a tough decision to make an outdoor cat an indoor cat. You will need to make some changes during the transition to keep your cat happy in their new lifestyle. Cats typically don’t like big changes and may be frustrated that they can’t go outside like they are used to. However, the benefits to your cat’s safety will make the transition well worth it.

We think that all cats can eventually adapt to living indoors if their owners take the necessary steps to giving them enough ways to make life inside interesting and meaningful. We’ve written this article to give you an idea of what making an outdoor cat an indoor cat is going to be like and how you can make the change easier for everybody.

How long does it take an outdoor cat to get used to living indoors?

There are so many different things that can affect how quickly an outdoor cat gets used to living indoors. Cat personalities, age, your schedule, and other animals in the house will all have a role to play. There isn’t a generally agreed on time frame which you should be expecting your cat to become acclimatized to their new life.

However, cats that go through big changes like moving houses or even countries typically take at least a month to settle. The change of becoming an indoor cat is perhaps more disruptive than these changes so you may expect to spend more time working with your cat to make them comfortable. Again, this is just general advice. Some cats may only need a couple weeks before they accept their new circumstances and others may take months.

What are the problems of making an outdoor cat an indoor cat?

You will almost certainly face some problems when making an outdoor cat an indoor cat. They will be quite likely to still be interested in going outdoors and show their frustration of being locked indoors. They will either show this to you by meowing and pawing at the door or attempting to escape when you aren’t paying attention.

The frustration of the sudden change may cause some cats to misbehave. As they may be lacking some of the stimulation that exploring the outdoors offers, boredom can creep in. They can redirect their energy when you aren’t about by destroying property. Knocking off objects from tables, scratching furniture, and chewing on fabrics are all ways cats keep themselves entertained when you aren’t around.

If your cat keeps up their bad behaviors with you it can be very frustrating to live with. Losing property and sleep can make you irritated with your cat and question if making your outdoor cat an indoor cat is even worth it. The best way to reduce these behaviors is to make their transition as comfortable as possible

How to transition an outdoor cat to being an indoor cat

As your cat won’t be able to experience the outside anymore, you will need to make more interesting things to do at home to make up for it. A big part of this will be regular sessions of interactive play throughout the day. Another part will be setting up places for your cat to explore and claim as their own territory.

Cats that don’t get enough interesting things to do and mental stimulation get bored and have a low quality of life. Eventually, this frustration leads to behavioral problems and even depression. Poorly behaving cats can be a pain to live with and what hurts more is the fact that the cat is acting this way because they are suffering.

Cats don’t do well with sudden changes and something as extreme as suddenly changing to permanently living indoors can be quite a shock. If you can, it would be best to gradually change your cat to being indoors only by keeping them in for longer times. You can try keeping your cat indoors for more hours and gradually adding hours on to their indoor time over a number of weeks.

Make your house more interesting for your cat to live in permanently

It doesn’t matter how small your house is, it’s more about what you do with your space. Cats can be happy in small spaces as long as they are designed for them. A good way to make a fun space for your cat is to introduce spaces to explore vertically. Cat trees are a relatively cheap and easy to install way to do this. If you already have a cat tree, you could consider getting another one in a different room or location in your house, so your cat has more places to explore. Place them in areas where your cat gets a good view of inside the house or the outside.

Indoor cats will also need a variety of scratching posts to satisfy their natural instinct to sharpen their claws. Place these throughout the house so your cat has plenty of options to go to. Cats also tend to prefer a particular material and position to scratch in. The options are normally rope, cardboard, or carpet. Experiment with a couple of options to see what your cat prefers so they don’t scratch your furniture instead.

Fulfill your cat’s need for play

Regular play sessions will also be an important part of making your outdoor cat an indoor cat. During their time outdoors, they were likely able to satisfy their natural instinct to hunt for prey on the local wildlife. This is good for your cat’s mental well being but can cause medical problems and damages your local ecosystem.

Keeping a cat entertained indoors requires some commitment. You should have regular play sessions at different points throughout the day. Similar to how you would take a dog for walks. If you already have regular play with your outdoor cat, you should add some more sessions throughout the day so they don’t feel like they are missing out on entertainment. Indoor cats typically need Rotating through a range of passive toys and puzzle feeders are another good way to make home life more interesting but you shouldn’t rely on them to make your cat happy.

My cat keeps wanting to go outside

Your cat will probably still want to go outside as they make the transition to becoming an indoor cat. They may show their need to go outside by scratching at the door, trying to escape when the door is open, and meowing throughout the day. The best way to deal with this is to ignore them completely. This sounds harsh but cats are talented at manipulating us and can be very persistent. If they realize that something works and lets them outside or even gives them attention once, they will keep doing it to repeat the outcome.

Cats showing that they want to go outside will benefit from some more entertainment to remind them of how good indoor life can be. To avoid rewarding their bad behaviors. Play with them after they stop whatever it is they are doing to get your attention. Make sure that there is a good pause, maybe five minutes or more, so they don’t think that their demands are working.