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!
you could also get a laser pen to play with him :) my 2 kittens LOVE playing the ‘red dot game’ and even my 11(ish) yr old has started playing with it too -he has arthritis and a number of other problems but occasionally gets a burst of ‘playfulness’ so i immediately start playing with him :)
-be careful not to shine it in his eyes tho as it could damage them…
its a fab toy to use if you arent physically able to play with the ‘stick toys’ for long periods as they get to ‘hunt’ and chase it all over :)
My cats like pet grass. You can get for $5 at Petsupermarket. It grows in the container. The one in the white plastic container is the best. Also, I had a little cat porch built on my bedroom window where I can just open the window and they have a safe screened in area w plants, ect. Use your imagination and the cat should be fine. This pertains to the 8 yr old rescue . Thanks!
Cat lady here again, with 11 cats, 9 that were rescues/abandoned. Twenty-five years ago I had an outside husky (live in AK) as well as 4 cats. When my dog died I had a 8’x16’x6′ covered dog kennel. One of my rescued males wanted to go out all the time too. My husband made platforms inside this kennel, opened sides of the kennel for screened windows and I out a litter box as well as tall cat tree inside it. It was a perfect solution to my indoor cats wanting out. My husband even built another for us not all my 11 are best buds. I carry them out 6′ outside my back door to the kennel where they hang out all day while I’m at work. It’s a great solution.
Depending on where you live, there are many outdoor enclosures for cats to get the fresh air, sunlight (good for their coat). Cats can even be trained to walk with a harness (I wouldn’t recommend a collar but a harness for this). If you have a porch, a portion could be screened off?
I agree, play is crucial. Catnip helps, cardboard boxes, paper bags, wadded up paper. Leaving a radio on while you’re gone, even a CD of bird sounds (Cornell has great ones) on repeat on a CD player.. A tall tree stand for window viewing. And a playmate is a good suggestion if that’s possible. I think it’ll take time, ESP an 8-yr old who’s used to being out. If you can provide an outdoor enclosure or run, even a window box, and play time, those might help.
Cats are carnivores and hunters so its not unusual that they instinctually want to go out ESP if they’ve been able to. I don’t like cats killing birds (I feed song birds too) so thus was my solution to helping my rescues. Patience and good luck!
Great solutions I have a stray I just rescued and he’s now trained and living in w me and my 13yr old Stormy. That’s fun getting her used to it! But Austyn wants out all the time! He is very high strung! And I have the porch . I guess once a wild cat, he’ll always have a part of that w him. His wild cat mom was hit too, so it scares me to let him out. He was an only survivor too.Thanks for the knowledge! Peace
I have 5 strictly indoor kitties and altho they were born inside, they still get bored. I have a big picture window where I have set up a huge multi level cat tree- levels are crucial! Outside I’ve set up a few bird feeding stations, which are a hit for peeps and catz alike. Of course, the squirrels and chippers come as well and are practically on a first-name basis with us. Also, a birdbath is set up in the middle of the yard. My house is close to the road, a quiet residential street where people walk their dogs and strollers, pointing and waving to the catz in the window- really cute! I think playing with your big guy is a great idea, as well. Best of luck!
Is it possible for you to build or have built a cat run? That way your cat can still go outside but be sheltered. I live in Australia and possibly you don’t but I can recommend two websites that sell cat enclosures in case you would like to check them out for ideas. They are http://www.catmax.com.au and http://www.catnip.com.au.
Good idea, Catherine. Mama actually wrote an article for Catster with some other ideas about outdoor enclosures for cats — including links to information on how to build one yourself!
Could I please ask, why your kitty needs to be an indoor cat? I dont know where you live, so need to know why, if thats okay.
I live in NZ and my Kitties are outdoor/indoor cats – I have a cat door they can come in and out of. However, once night falls, the cat door is locked and my kitties are kept inside.
My Parents always did this with their cat and dog, mind you cat wouldn’t go anywhere, without dog, and I have grown up this way… my Kitties, are not allowed out once it gets dark and during the day they can come and go.
I do live in a reasonably comfortable city (except for earthquakes), but can understand people who live in other extremely busy cities, with a lot of apartments, not being able to take to their kitties out. I actually have a friend who lives in New York, who has trained her cat to use a lead and she takes him for a walk that way in central park…
Believe me, I am in no way putting you down…I would do anything to keep my furbabies safe and if that meant keeping them indoors.. I would so be doing it. I really am just trying to understand.
Here in the US, the predominant belief is that cats should be kept inside for safety concerns. Wildlife is a big concern: there are plenty of animals, even in urban areas, that can grievously injure or even kill cats. Rabies is another concern — we don’ t know if rabies is found in New Zealand, but we do know that domestic animals can and do get bitten by rabid animals here.
Some people also keep their cats indoors because they don’t want them killing birds. But honestly, birds are hard to catch unless they’re weak, and we’ve always had plenty of mice and rats and voles and moles and shrews and squirrels and chipmunks and … *licks lips*
Anyway, we do understand the concern about killing birds.
We think it’s mostly a cultural thing, though. We’re not sure exactly how it happened, but as for the when, we think it might have been the late ’80s and early ’90s, when animal welfare agencies began to raise awareness about the importance of keeping cats indoors for safety. There was a huge increase in awareness of the importance of spay/neuter about the same time.
Mama keeps us inside because we live in a city near a busy street, and she doesn’t want us getting run over by cars. She knows we’re smart, but even Siouxsie and Thomas, back when they lived in the country and used to go outside, didn’t live as close to a big road as we do now. But if we had a balcony, Mama would totally make us a “catio” so we could go outside and enjoy the fresh air in a safe way.