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Felinexpress.com home > Strays and Ferals > Keeping your outside cat inside and happy

Keeping your outside cat inside and happy

Stray cats brought indoors or feral cats trapped, neutered and re-homed sometimes have a difficult adjustment period if kept indoors. Cats used to being able to experience the freedom of movement that being outside offers can exhibit aberrant behavior when they realize they are living indoors. Living indoors no matter how plush the conditions, for them the experience can be one of terror and suspicion.

Turning into five second door dashers, meowing at the front door, or scratching furiously at the carpet, shredding wallpaper, the cats make their desire well known. They want their freedom and they want it now.

You can alleviate the stress these cats face by understanding their behavior and redirecting the behavior in a positive direction. Keeping your patience and your good-nature is key when working with cats used to wide open spaces. Consider your home, for awhile anyway, as a large padded cage that this cat can’t adjust to without help.

Bring the outside in:

Even before you consider making your home a haven for a stray or a feral cat, be sure the cat has been vetted, spayed or neutered and vaccinated. If you have resident cats, protect their health by keeping the new arrival isolated for at least two weeks. Even though they check out healthy, some outside cats are carriers.

Be sure your resident cats are up on all their vaccinations.

Keep your new cat in a small room with at least 3 litter pans at first.

If there are litter pan accidents, use organic potting soil over the top of clay litter so the cat can become accustomed to using the litter pan.

If you live near parks, look for large pieces of wood you can bring indoors. Are you near a beach? Check about the possibility of bringing driftwood home.  Spray it off with a hot water rinse, scrub it down and let it dry outside at least 3 days in the sun.

If you live in the city and don’t have access to close nature parks or trails, visit a local craft shop and buy some artificial plants and flowers. Use these plants and flowers to decorate a multi-level cat condo and recreate a jungle environment so your cat can feel safe. Use wire to twist the flowers around the cat posts and created a floral screen for your cat to hide behind.

Create secure caves the cat can hide in. Experience has taught me that even the most expensive cat tent, cat playhouse, covered cat bed or covered litter pan is generally rejected in the favor of a good old fashioned empty cardboard box, with no padding inside, and a towel draped over the top so the cat can feel like he is hiding. If you use padding, use sawdust, straw, or pet shavings at first. This cat isn’t used to cushions and soft things to lay down on so start with what he does know and work from there.

Offer interactive cat toys. An outdoor cat possesses a higher prey drive than an inside cat. This prey drive has kept him alive. Da Bird is a great interactive toy to engage his prey drive. Follow up the session with a nice meaty treat.

Plant cat grass. Use a large Rubbermaid container punch holes in the bottom, lay gravel and organic soil and plant an indoor cat grass patch for your cat.

Window perches are essential for outdoor cats. They can look out the window and watch the world, without shredding your drapes trying to get on the windowsill. Be sure your screens are pet proof if you want to keep your windows open.

Tall cat posts, cat condos, various scratching posts and scratch pads will help your cat release nervous energy. Make sure that your condos and posts in your home are secure. Brace cat condos so they don’t topple over. Offer several different types of scratching posts for your cat, some hang on doorknobs, others attach to the corner of your couches. There are even floor scratchers like the Turbo Scratcher that all cats love.

Bringing an outdoor cat indoors can be quite rewarding. Understanding how this cat views your house (as a trap) not as a luxury will help you understand why the cat might be hiding under the bed, running out of the room as soon as someone enters it, refusing food or hissing at you several times a day.

Working slowly, making sure the house is outdoor-cat friendly will help in easing the anxiety of a stressed cat.

The rewards of rescuing an animal from outside are plentiful. You will be assured that one day this cat will show you just how much he really does appreciate the “rescue.” The day that the first head-bump is offered is the payout. This signifies that you have helped this cat find a real home.


Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer, website content provider and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization, bottle babies and animal abuse issues.

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