How to Change an Outdoor Cat Into an Indoor Cat

Outdoor cats endanger surrounding wildlife, particularly birds. They are also at increased risk of infection, disease, road accidents, and animal attack. Thus, bringing your cat indoors is good for the environment and good for the cat. Most cats will learn to love being inside; you only need to give them some time to acclimate and a home full of toys, trees and other cat conveniences to keep it happy and engaged.


EditPreparing Your Cat for the House

  1. Train your cat to use the scratching post outside. Your cat will always want to scratch on things, and if it doesn’t know how to use a scratching post, it will use your furniture instead. Before bringing your cat inside, place a scratching post in a dry spot, near your cat’s food. Give your cat at least a week to become accustomed to using a scratching post before bringing it inside.[1]
    Change an Outdoor Cat Into an Indoor Cat Step 1.jpg
  2. Train your cat to use a litter box outside. Before bringing your cat indoors, place a little box outside in a dry location. Fill the litter box with fine-grain, clumping litter. Give your cat approximately a week to get accustomed to the litter box before bringing it inside.[2]
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    • Make sure to clean the litter box every day. Outdoor cats tend to like to use clean areas to eliminate waste. If the litter box is not clean, they are likely not to use it.
    • Put the litter box in a safe and quiet area. Otherwise, the cat might be too scared or hesitant to use it.
  3. Take your cat to a veterinarian. Before bringing your cat indoors, you should be sure that it won’t be bringing disease with it. If your cat hasn’t already been microchipped, a process that allows it to be identified, your veterinarian should perform this procedure as well. A wild cat will also need to be vaccinated and neutered.[3]
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    • Before the cat is spayed or neutered, the vet should perform a test for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). FeLV is highly infectious between cats and can be deadly if untreated. The vet will do two blood tests to see if your cat has this disease.[4]
    • The vet should do a complete check-up of the cat. This includes checking for ear mites, fleas, lice, and other parasites. The cat should also be dewormed.

EditIntroducing Your Cat to Its New Home

  1. Take it slow. Your cat isn’t likely to adapt immediately to living indoors. To prevent it from doing damage to your house, you should let it outside periodically, until it seems to be comfortable inside.[5]
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    • Begin by allowing your cat indoors for brief periods of time. Then keep it inside for progressively longer each time.
  2. Feed your cat indoors. While you might still allow your cat outside periodically, you should only give it food and water inside. This way, it will come to associate food with being inside. This will create positive associations with your home.[6]
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  3. Give your cat two litter boxes. Place one litter box in a place that is convenient for you. Place the other near the door your cat takes to exit the house. This way, when your cat wants to go outdoors to use the restroom, it will see the litter box and use it instead. As your cat gets accustomed to the litter box, move the one near the door closer to the interior litter box. When the two litter boxes are next to each other, you can remove one.
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    • Use litter boxes that are large, but not very high. To encourage your cat to use the litter box, you should remove all obstacles. Thus, you should avoid boxes with tops or boxes that require your cat to jump up high to get inside of. [7]
    • The cat should feel secure when using the litter box. Place the litter box in a quiet area of the house where other animals and humans won’t bother it too much.
  4. Allow controlled outside time. Don’t allow your cat to decide for itself when it leaves your home. If you have a screened-in porch, you can allow your cat onto it periodically. You can also purchase a harness designed for cats and take your cat outside on walk. Some cats are resistant to walking on a leash but if you can leash train your cat you will both find it to be a rewarding experience. [8]
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EditMaking Your Home Inviting

  1. Buy toys for your home. Your cat will feel less of a need to break out to hunt, if it has plenty of opportunities to express its hunter’s instincts inside. You should have several balls, fake mice, and other toys for your cat to play with. Most importantly, you should play with your cat to give it something exciting to do in your home.[9]
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    • If you roll a ball along the floor, your cat might chase it and swat at it.
    • Try getting a toy mouse attached to a stick. Drag the mouse on the floor or dangle it over your cat’s head. Your cat should try to attack it.
    • Cats also like feather toys. These are often feathers that are attached to the end of a string or a stick. Drag them on the ground or dangle them in the air.
    • Try rotating new toys into the home every couple of weeks to keep your cat interested.
  2. Buy catnip. Many cats enjoy the smell of this herb. Buy some and place it in strategic spots where your cat likes to spend time or where you would like it to spend time. Placing it on a scratching post, for example, can encourage it to begin sharpening its nails on the post, instead of your furniture.[10]
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  3. Get a cat tree. Cats enjoy looking down on humans and jumping to high lookout spots. At the pet store, you can buy “cat trees” with multiple platforms for your cat to jump on and climb around.[11]
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    • Cat trees can be expensive. Alternatively, you can clear off some shelves or arrange your desks and bookshelves so that your cat has nice perches to jump to.
  4. Give your cat a warm place to sleep. A warm, comfy cat bed can be a great way to entice a cat indoors during cold and rainy months. If you don’t want to buy a special cat bed, try to arrange some blankets on your bed or couch in an inviting way. If your cat finds a spot that it seems to like, set the space aside for it.[12]
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  5. Give your cat a sunny spot to rest. Cats love to sit in the sun and providing an indoor sunning spot will decrease the incentive for your cat to run outside. If you don’t have a windowsill that is an appropriate sunning spot, place a table next to the window for your cat to lay on. Leave your blinds up near the bed, so your cat can catch some sun on a warm bed.
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    • If you open the window, be sure that the screen is secure so that your cat can’t bust out.[13]
  6. Grow some cat grass. Pet stores and even some grocery stores sell cat grass that can grow inside. The grass is a nice snack for your cat and will remind it of being outside.[14]
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EditDealing with Problematic Behaviors

  1. Designate one room for the cat. If your cat is scratching or refusing to use the litter box, put it in a small room with all its toys, scratching posts, and litter boxes. There will be less furniture for your cat to damage here and your cat is more likely to learn to use the litter box if it is confined to a small space with it.[15]
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  2. Buy SoftPaws. SoftPaws are pieces of plastic that can be glued onto a cat’s claws to prevent it from scratching. To place the soft paws on the cat, one person will need to hold the cat. Another person will clip the cat’s nails and then glue the SoftPaws on.
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    • Squeeze the cat’s paws gently to encourage it to show its claws. Then use a clipper to trim the claws. If you do not have experience trimming a cat’s claws, cut only the end, to avoid cutting too deep and hurting it.
    • Squeeze the glue that comes with the SoftPaws into the SoftPaws. Then place the SoftPaws on your cat’s claws and push until the plastic covers the entire claw.
    • Cats can have their claws permanently removed, but declawing is generally considered inhumane and should be avoided if possible.
  3. Discourage your cat from running outside. Even if your cat still periodically leaves your home, you should be in control of it when it leaves. Watch the door closely to ensure that it does not sneak out. If it does, do not hit it, because that will make it less likely to want to stay inside. Use moderate reinforcement to encourage it to behave better.
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    • If your cat tries to make a run to the door squirt it with a water bottle or rattle a jar of coins.
    • Throw a treat or a toy in the opposite direction when you open the door. This will encourage your cat to run away from the open door and break it of the habit of running away.[16]

EditSources and Citations

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