Transitioning an Outdoor Cat to Indoors

by catfood

Autumn is giving way to Old Man Winter, and you’re growing concerned about the stray cat who moved into your backyard last summer. Homeless Hildegarde has been enjoying your outdoor hospitality under the deck all season, but with winter approaching, now is the time to introduce her to the comforts of indoor living.

Fortunately, bringing a friendly stray in from the cold or completely indoors an indoor/outdoor cat is not as difficult as one might think.

All that is needed is some environmental enrichment and education.The majority of people are concerned about litter box training. If the cat was ever taught to use a litter box, she will almost certainly continue to do so. For the former indoor/outdoor cat, a two-box system filled with fine-grain, clumping litter works best. Place one near the door the cat used to leave the house and the other near where you want the litter box to stay for good.

When she can’t get to the topsoil outside, she’ll use the box next to the door. Once you’ve established that habit, gradually move the transitional box closer to the permanent setup. You can repeat one of the boxes once they are adjacent.

A cat that has never been litter box trained will usually require confinement. Set up a cattery cage or a large dog crate with a litter box, a resting area, food, water, and toys for the cat. When the cat consistently uses her litter box, she can be moved to a small room like a bathroom or galley kitchen. You can give her more space once she gets the hang of it. If she slips, return to the last clean space the cat had.

Don’t forget to pay her frequent visits and provide her with supervised exercise, grooming, and affection while she is confined. Make sure she doesn’t try to use your potted plants as a litter box once she’s earned the right to roam your home. Wrap aluminum foil around the soil, or surround the plant with glass pebbles or marbles.

Making Your Cat’s Environment Better

You can begin enriching your cat’s new environment once you’ve completed litter box training. She’ll need something to do now that she won’t be spending her days searching for food. Window perches allow your indoor cat to keep an eye on the backyard bird population while safely basking in the sun. Your cat can eat cat-safe greenery from an indoor planter filled with feline favorites like catnip and wheat grass. Toys are essential for these reformed hunters, and interactive feathered playthings are particularly appealing. Simply rotate toys every week or two to keep your cat’s interest piqued.


Provide a variety of scratching posts and gauge her preference to protect furniture from a cat who is accustomed to scratching wherever she pleases. Search for sturdy, climbable posts. Cat tree furnishings, which typically include several resting platforms atop natural tree trunks or posts wrapped in sisal, are a good bet. Enjoyment is ensured by placing it near a bright window or patio door. Additionally, cardboard scratch pads with catnip embedded in them are inexpensive and can be placed throughout your home.

Overcoming the Lure of the Outdoors

Although living indoors has many advantages, the call of the wild can be very strong for some cats. When given the opportunity, these cats will attempt to flee whenever a window or door is opened or left open. Check that the screens fit tightly in the windows and cannot be yanked out by a determined cat. To discourage door-dashing, move your cat away from doorways when entering and leaving your home.

Roll a toy or toss a treat across the room to divert kitty’s attention away from the door. Stage practice runs with your cat if you have children who come and go frequently. If she begins to saunter out, startle her with a blast of canned air or a spritz of water from outside. Her enthusiasm for adventure is likely to wane if the outdoors proves inhospitable. A backyard cat enclosure can satisfy the need for fresh air while keeping the cat and nature safe from each other.


By the time winter arrives, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy watching the first snowflakes fall. Hildegarde will be safe and warm on the hearth for the duration.

Wondering about The Special Needs of the Senior Cat? Check it out on our latest post!


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