We have all faced times when we find an outdoor cat that we think would do well inside. Still, the first question to ask yourself is how likely the kitty would be to even want to be inside. As indoor creatures ourselves, sometimes we assume that all animals would want to be indoors. But cats that come for feeding, and eat near you, but never want you to touch them may love you and still not want to live inside – living outdoors can be a great life for a cat, particularly when they have caregivers who feed them and provide shelter.
But what can be done for those cats who are showing signs of socialization – allowing you to pet them, rubbing against you, or allowing you to pick them up – and who seem to be indicating they are comfortable being in your immediate proximity? Below are some steps we have seen posted by other leading TNR sites, and that we have seen be successful.
If your cat seems to like people, and already goes in and out of your house, these steps may help make it easier to keep them inside for good.
- Make sure there are enough toys, scratching posts, easy access to litter boxes, and treats inside to keep them engaged indoors.
- Be sure to only feed them inside, feeding on a set schedule helps training them to want to come inside.
- If they sit by the door to go out, use treats and toys to distract them and take them away from the door.
- Have plenty of areas that allow access to window perches.
- Growing catnip or cat grass for them to graze on can help bring the outdoors inside for them
- Allow your cat to continue going outside, but shortening outdoor time over days or weeks. Using special treats or a call to get your cat back inside.
For cats that are showing signs of socialization with you, but who are still living outdoors full time and seem a little nervous about coming inside:
- Set up a small room to be used to transition the cat to the indoors
- The room shouldn’t have any large hiding spots, like under beds, that they have access to
- Fill the room with plenty of perching areas, small boxes they can hide in, scratching posts and toys to help keep them engaged
- Once the room is ready, trap the cat, have him or her TNRed (if they are not already), and release them into the room
- Allow the cat 2-3 days with minimal distractions or attempts to socialize so that he or she can decompress and discover their new area
- After that, start being in the room during meal times, without a lot (or any) physical interaction. If the cat is nervous, try not making eye contact or facing your cat directly
- All socialization should be on the cat’s time. Wait until kitty allows for further contact with you; trying to force the pace can increase your cat’s fear and anxiety – and can be dangerous for both of you!
- If the cat never gets comfortable inside, it may be that returning it outside with the proper sheltering is where the cat will be happiest – that is OK, and you can still have a close and meaningful relationship!
- If, on the other hand, the cat’s behavior gets better over time (for example, allows petting and seeks attention), s/he then be let out of the room to explore the rest of the house
- Supervised outdoor time either on a leash or by giving access to a catio can be a great way to give your cats a safe way to get their fill of the outdoors!
For more information, here are some additional links that may be helpful:
- HSUS- https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/home-sweet-home-how-bring-outside-cat-indoors
- Petfinder- https://www.petfinder.com/cats/cat-care/transitioning-outdoor-cat/
- Alley Cat Allies- https://www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care/kitten-socialization-how-to/
- Supplemental articles if it’s a multiple cat household: https://www.hshv.org/cat-cat-introductions/