How can you turn an outdoor cat into an indoor cat?

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Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – I have a co-worker who has an indoor-outdoor cat. She would like to make him an indoor cat only, but her attempts have only led to very bad behavior on the part of her cat and a lot of lost sleep on her part as he keeps her up until she lets him out. Do you have any tips or tricks on how she can "train" him to be an indoor cat only?

J. Dutka


Hi – thanks for your email. You wrote that you have a co-worker with an indoor-outdoor cat that she would like to make into an indoor only cat. This takes time and patience. In the mean time, it is common to loose sleep.

In general, the recommendation is this. If you take in an outdoor cat, confine him or her to one room. Even a small bathroom works great – with a clean litter box and food and water. This is just for a little while your cat adjusts to the litter box, food, water, smells and sounds of your home. Interact and play with your cat as often as possible. Eventually, as your cat using the box and seems conformable you can expand the environment include more rooms or space. Provide lost of play time and interesting places to rest and sun. Window seats are treat. Cat trees to climb are also fun for cats.

Be REALLY careful around the door. Make sure you supervise carefully that she does not get out. Once she or he gets out – they will often become adapt at trying to get out.

Most cats will adapt within several weeks.

For cats that have already learned to be indoors and outdoors, then it can also be difficult. You can try clicker training – any time your cat cries or demonstrates a behavior that indicates that he or she wants to go out (such as crying at the door), she hears un unattractive clicker sound. When she stops – you resume play or give positive reinforcement.

This can be tough.

An article that might be helpful to you is Selecting the Right Environmental Enrichment for Your Cat.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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