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How to Transition Your Outdoor Cat to Life Inside

Although your cat might enjoy outdoor life, being outside could expose it to a variety of dangers. Outdoor cats are more likely to catch diseases and parasites from other animals. They could also become ill from eating questionable items or poisons. They’re more apt to be stolen by strangers, hit by cars, or killed by predators. There’s heat exhaustion and frostbite to worry about.

In short, your cat is just much safer inside. In fact, the average lifespan of a free-roaming cat is estimated to be less than three years. Indoor cats live about 12 to 15 years.

Luckily, there are some simple ways to help coax your kitty into indoor life, even if she’s a little bit stubborn. It may not be as hard as you expected after all.

1. Transition Gradually

Particularly if your cat has been exclusively outdoors for most or all of its life, it might be a good idea to take your time with this change. Think about what will be different once your cat is inside, and try to bring those changes to her ahead of time. Will you be buying a litter box your cat’s never used? A scratching post? See how your kitty does with these items outside before moving inside. Try feeding your cat inside and keeping her there for a bit before letting her back out. Keep her inside longer each day.

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2. Or Transition Abruptly

There are two schools of thought on this one. You just read why transitioning slowly might be a good option. Now consider that adding this restriction to your cat’s life will be stressful no matter how you do it. So why not just get it over with? Your cat may thank you for not prolonging the aggravation and confusion. In the end, it’s up to you to decide which approach will work best. Pay attention to your cat’s behavior so you’ll know when she’s ready to come inside for good.

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3. Make Inside More Appealing

If the food, the warm bed (especially in the winter), and all your cat’s other favorite things are inside, she may be more likely to want to stay. Buy your cat some treats and toys to entice her into sticking around of her own free will before your resort to force. Having a place for her to perch and a box for her to play in are easy ways to liven up her life and create a distraction from what’s on the other side of the door.

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4. Play with Your Cat More

Part of your cat’s problem with being inside is that there’s not enough to stimulate her active mind and energetic body. Making time each day (preferably a few times a day) to play with her will make a huge difference. Getting another pet as a playmate for your cat could help as well. We suggest another cat, but if you know your cat gets along well with dogs or other animals, that could be an option too.

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?