Can outdoor cats learn to live happily indoors? You bet! My daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, and I teamed up to share these tips with a reader who is making the switch for her feline family members.
Q: We hope to move in a couple of years. Are there any steps to prepare our four outdoor farm cats to become permanent indoor house cats? They do come inside the house in the wintertime.
A: If your cats are already used to spending some time indoors, it’s possible that they could adjust to living indoors full time. Planning and indoor enrichment beforehand will help, especially if you have a couple of years to prepare. These tips from Fear Free can help.
Since it’s winter now and your cats are spending more time indoors anyway, start making your home a more interesting and exciting place for them. Cats like to survey their living area from on high, so place a cat tree or two in areas that give them a view, either of the outdoors or of areas where you and your family enjoy spending time.
Turn mealtime into hunting time. Using commercial or homemade puzzle toys (see foodpuzzlesforcats.com for ideas), hide meals around the house to give your cats the opportunity to use their keen sense of smell and feline hunting techniques to find their food.
Institute regular playtime. Using fishing-pole toys, large peacock feathers and other interactive toys, spend a few minutes a couple of times daily to give your cats some fun activity combined with attention from you.
Use feline pheromone sprays or diffusers, catnip and silver vine to give your cats a sense of calm and comfort inside the home.
Continue these activities throughout the year, not just in winter, to encourage your cats to spend more time indoors. When you move, make sure you have the new home set up with their familiar-smelling cat trees, beds and toys before bringing them in. Finally, if possible, build a “catio” so they can still enjoy the sights, scents and sounds of the outdoors in a safe way.
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.