Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I recently adopted an 8-year-old male, neutered cat from the shelter, and we have had a difficult time reaching any rapport. I have come to believe that he was, at one time, an indoor/outdoor cat — he is always pacing and vocalizing and spends a lot of time in the windows. I do not believe in having a cat be an outdoor cat. How long, if ever, will it take him to be content staying in the house? (He also wants to eat constantly, which I attribute to boredom, maybe from being in the house and getting no exercise or chasing mice.)
Siouxsie: Well, first of all, good on ya — not only for adopting a cat, but that the cat you adopted is an 8-year-old adult. As you probably know, adult cats have a harder time getting adopted than kittens do, and the older they get, the truer that is.
Thomas: An outdoor cat certainly can get used to enjoying the indoor life, but it’s going to take some time and patience on your part to help your guy become a happy inside cat.
Bella: Before we start on transition tips, we suggest that you contact the shelter and ask them how he behaved while he was there. Did he show any yearning for the outdoors? Did he act at all territorial? How long was he there? Did he have a special kitty friend? If he did have a buddy, you might consider adopting that cat, too.
Siouxsie: If he didn’t have a special friend, or if you can’t adopt another cat, that’s okay. We can still help you help your kitty.
Thomas: First of all, there are a couple of reasons why he might be pacing and hanging out at the windows. The first of these is boredom, and the second is that he’s seeing another cat outside and he’s seeing that cat as an intruder.
Bella: We’re going to address the boredom issue because we talked last week about how to deal with territorial stress brought on by other cats.
Siouxsie: First of all, your cat needs to be able to climb. Some cats are “tree dwellers,” which means they like to observe the world from high places. Mama got us a really cool, 7-foot-tall cat tower, and we love it!
Thomas: On the other hand, special hiding places like cat houses or cave-type beds will also give your kitty more opportunities for playing and nesting. You can also make your own “kitty cave” with a cardboard box, a pillow and some fleece blankets.
Bella: Another important part of boredom-busting is interactive play. An only cat needs a couple of 10- to 15-minute interactive play sessions each day. There are all kinds of interactive toys from feather-wands to wires with little flies on the end to “mousies” attached to sticks by long lines of durable plastic.
Siouxsie: We’d recommend that you get at the very least a mouse-type toy and a bird-type toy. This will allow you to find out your cat’s hunting preferences. If he likes to jump for “birds,” for example, use the feather toy more often. On the other hand, if he’s more of a “mighty mouser,” then use the mouse toy.
Thomas: For extra fun, make your toy act like the animal it’s supposed to represent. A bird, for example, sits on the ground and moves around quickly while it eats, and then it flies off at the slightest hint of trouble. Mice tend to scurry around walls and in covered areas and move in fits and starts. Get him going and be sure to let him “catch” his prey from time to time.
Bella: It’s best to have play sessions just before meals because a meal after a a rousing round of chase-the-toy makes your cat’s “hunt, kill, eat” cycle complete.
Siouxsie: For those times when you’re away, get him some stimulating motorized toys like this one. Mama’s best friend’s cats have a similar one, and they love it.
Thomas: Mouse toys that squeak when you bat them are a big hit, as are treat balls. Mama brought home a couple of these from a cat bloggers’ conference, and we loved them. We can’t use them anymore, though, because Bella can’t eat kibble-type stuff. *sniffle*
Bella: Aww, don’t be sad, Thomas. Maybe Mama can try putting some freeze-dried chicken treats in them.
Siouxsie: Treat balls also help cats work for their food — a big plus if you have a cat that eats out of boredom.
Thomas: Cat entertainment DVDs may also be helpful.
Bella: There are lots of ways to help an outdoor cat learn to enjoy the indoors, and we hope these tips will help both of you! Please let us know how things go!