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Changing an Outdoor Cat into an Indoor Cat

Category Cats
Some reeducation will be required to make an indoor cat out of one that has lived outside. This is a guide about changing an outdoor cat into an indoor cat.


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January 19, 2012

Animal Control recently laid down the law; keep our cats from straying into neighbor's yards. We achieved this by adding extra litterboxes indoors and by opening a window a crack for them to view the outdoors. They gradually discovered that the indoors was not so bad! There are no predators or bully top cats indoors. They grew to like us a lot more.

We do let the cats out for supervised outdoor time and discovered that they had developed an allegiance to their indoor quarters and did not roam. They seem to have more confidence in us opening and closing the door, rather than them freely using the anytime pet door. Since we are a multi-cat household, there was a transition period. But if you are faced with this situation, it is do-able.

Please email me through Thriftyfun if you need support in your challenge.


By Mary from Kensington, MD

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January 21, 20120 found this helpful

My husband and I are fostering a former outdoor cat for our friends who are moving house over the winter. Somehow when we agreed to foster the cat we also agreed to train him to be an inside cat who only went out on a harness!

He didn't have any real problems learning to use the litter pan, and to not rush an open door to get out but he did make it plain he wanted to go outside. It's taken a few months, but he now comes running when his harness and leash come off the hook.

Everyday, twice a day, we'd put the harness on him and let him wear it around-at first just in the house, then out in the garden with the lead attached. He hated it, would roll, cry, lie flat and refuse to move. But every now and again he would sniff, walk, show some interest, before seeming to remember he was leashed and throwing a wee fit.

But one day it was as though he 'got it'; he saw the harness come off the hook and ran TO us instead of away. LOL, when it was time to come in, he hissed and growled-he wanted to stay out!

We take him out on the harness twice a day. It is very different from walking a dog-we don't have a destination or a schedule, we simply follow the cat where he wants to go. We make sure to never drag him or even try to direct his movements unless he is heading for a neighbour's garden.

When he goes home we are going to adopt a rescue cat who will also be an indoor cat, I hope the harness works on the new furbaby! Keeping a cat indoors is much better for the cat in so many ways-vet bills are lower for a cat who isn't exposed to cars, disease, poisons, and angry neighbours, for one thing.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

June 16, 20060 found this helpful

I have two 12 year old cats who have lived their whole lives at my house. They are mainly indoor cats but have always been free to go outside whenever they wanted. In 2 weeks I will be moving to a mobile home. It has a small yard but there is a lot of traffic and I don't want to let them outside, at least not for a while. I know it will be a shock to them to suddenly be indoor only cats. If anyone has experience with kind of situation I would appreciate any advice.

Thank you,

Joyann from Visalia CA

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
June 17, 20060 found this helpful
Best Answer

We had the same situation as you. We just kept our 2 cats in a private room with fresh food, water & clean litter. They did just fine. Once you are all moved in, you can let your pets run around your house. They will adjust just fine.

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June 16, 20060 found this helpful

You are not G-d; you can't keep them alive forever. They'll think you moved, and they were thrown into prison.

No cat is ever an indoor cat, except by choice. So make indoors very inviting by keeping the litter box scrupulously clean, get those hammocks that lie near a window, things like that. Let them choose to be indoors most of the time.

After all, they did just fine outdoors so far. When they are near death, it is natural for them to hide.

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June 16, 20060 found this helpful

I too, had to move with my 2 beloved cats. I first checked with my Vet, and he said to keep them indoors for at least 6 to 8 weeks. This will give them time to acclimate to their new surroundings and get their bearings. Keep them occupied with toys, and places where they can look out so they can get used to their new yard. When you do let them out...try using a leash first...with a figure 8 harness so they can't get away if they are spooked..I took mine out one at a time so I had better control. Increase your outdoors time every day until they seem very comfortable with their surroundings. It worked fine for mine...they are now happy in their new home.

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June 16, 20060 found this helpful

Please don't let the cats out at your new home, they will not understand the danger of traffic. Cats adjust very well as indoor only pets. Like the other lady suggested get them perches etc. to sit on by the windows and of course keep their litter box clean.

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June 16, 20060 found this helpful

Hi, I disagree with the above poster. If you are moving to an area that poses a threat please do your best to acclimate these cats to the indoors. You have an advantage being that they have been indoors before. If you have an extra room, give that to them and keep them there for at least 3 weeks. Keep things pretty quiet and let them adjust. If you do not have the room, provide a place just for them. A covered pen or something else that they can go and feel secure in.

It can be done. All the very best to you and your kitties in your move and your new home.

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June 16, 20060 found this helpful

the key words '' small yard and a lots of traffic'' with this specification... i beleive that was not the case in her existing place...

I beleive the cat will adjust in time, you will need to be cautious each time you open the door. It may be difficult for such a change of life, you will need to make sure environment will still motivating for cat, toys, a cool area, plant they can still chew,and possibly a 2nd cat to play with... i did it before... but they never forget... and some time they can charge out when the door is open always be on your guard ... i hope you will get good results

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June 17, 20060 found this helpful

Although we don't have lots of money, our pets are family members, and we always do what is best for them, and we love them dearly. I have a sick cat that cannot go outdoors alone. He has a collar and leash and we take him to the park. Sometimes we just sit outside and let him experience the outdoors. I've recently bought a pet stroller and take him with me on my walks. We have a medium size cage that I put him in when I'm outside working in the yard/garden. That way I can talk to him and I know he won't wander off and is safe. We often leave our windows open so he can perch by them, listening to the sounds and smelling the smells of the outdoors. We have double-hung windows, and I'm considering having a frame covered in tight mesh screen made that we can bolt into place (like an air conditioner) on the outside of the house, so when we open that window, he can actually go out the window and sit outside, but still be contained "IN" the house. We'd only use it when we were home, but he'd be able to feel as if he were outside. Since yours are older and don't go outside all the time anyway, these ideas may work for you. Good luck.

Thanks for being such a cautious pet owner. I live in a high traffic area too. Everyone that has outdoor cats usually lose them by the second year. It's so sad to see them dead by the side of the road.

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June 21, 20060 found this helpful

The only way I was successful turning my outdoor cats to indoor cats was when I moved. Since you are doing just that, it will be easier than just not letting them out anymore. They protested of course, but because all of their surroundings were changed, they accepted it much easier than when I tried just keeping them inside at the old house. Good luck!

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0 found this helpful
November 3, 2015

I am taking in my neighbor's 4 year old Siamese female cat. I have been taking care of her for the last 2 years as the owner didn't seem to care if she was being fed or kept warm in the winters. I finally asked her if I could keep her and she said yes, my problem is that I want to keep her inside from now on. She will stay in during the day, but wants out at night to roam. She is fixed so I don't have to worry about that.

I could use some suggestions on how to keep her in. She will sit at the door and cry to be let out and won't stop till we let her out.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
November 5, 20151 found this helpful

The only way to stop this is to stop letting her out, despite her cries.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
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