As anyone who follows this blog knows, outdoor cats are a veritable holocaust for wild birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and even insects.  Almost every single outdoor pet cat, feral cat, or stray kills other animals, no matter how well fed the cat is through other sources.  Trap-neuter-release programs sound nice and let folks think that they are doing good but they actually often add to the problem, and never reach the goal of zero feral cats in an area.  But this blog post is not meant to focus on all of those issues, no, this blog post is meant to convince you to make your cat an indoor cat and provide access to resources that will assist in converting your cat from an outdoor cat to an indoor cat, a step which will save innumerable small creatures that would otherwise end up stalked, killed, and eaten by your fluffy bundle of love and may just save the life of your pet as well.

I can remember when I was a kid we always had a bunch of cats that had the freedom to go in and out as they pleased and I can remember the dead things they brought home, everything from mice to snakes to baby bunnies to birds.  I can also remember the fleas they brought home to share with us and the wounds they would get from unknown sources.  We were fortunate enough to live on what was essentially a dead end back road so our cats did not have much traffic to contend with, and, so far as I know, none of our cats were ever lost to predation, but, nonetheless, I think we and our cats would have been better off had our cats been indoor cats.  Certainly we would not have had to occasionally “flea bomb” our home with chemicals to kill the bugs. (My mom will probably kill me for acknowledging to the world that sometimes our cats brought fleas home!)

But, one might ask, isn’t it virtually impossible to take a pet cat that is used to wandering freely out-of-doors and make it an indoor cat?  I won’t lie and say it is a piece of cake but I will say that it can be done and that there are a host of resources available to help you make the adjustment.  For those who live in the northern hemisphere we are coming up on the ideal time to have your pet make the transition because once the weather turns cold your cat won’t want to be outside as much anyway, making it far more simple to cut back the short, infrequent, winter visits outside to no out door time at all.  And giving your cat a much longer life expectancy is well worth a little bit of effort!

From what I have read there are several basic things that every indoor cat needs, and the list below is adapted from the excellent one on the website of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.  Their Indoor Cat Initiative has a ton of great information and even a DVD you can order!  If all of your cat’s needs are met there should be no long-term problem keeping the cat indoors.

  1. Litter Boxes:  At least one litter box per cat, cleaned out daily.
  2. Something to Scratch: If you don’t provide a scratching post your furniture will be sacrificed.
  3. Somewhere to Sleep: Quiet, out-of-the-way spots that a cat can feel secure in are key.
  4. Somewhere to Perch: Cats like to know what is around them.  If they aren’t given something to climb on your kitchen table will work nicely too.
  5. Toys:  Wouldn’t you be bored if you were inside all day with nothing to do?  Well, your cat is no different!
  6. Attention:  They are your pets so pet them!  Play with them! Appreciate them!  If you don’t they will find some way to get entertainment that you will not like one bit!

So how does one make an outdoor cat an indoor cat?  Below is a list of resources that will help you and your pet make the transition.  The first two are especially helpful in making the transition.

American Bird Conservancy – The Cats Indoors! Campaign

The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine – Indoor Cat Initiative

Indoor Cat Facts

Community Animal Welfare Society: Indoor Cats Live Longer

And if you still can’t manage to make the transition but want to keep your cat and wildlife safe you can always try something like this!

So keep your cat indoors because both you and your pet will be happier, healthier, and enjoy more time together!

(This post was first published in September 2009, but a message this important should be shared often!)

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.