BARKS from the Guild March 2015

Page 30


A Change of Lifestyle

Marilyn Krieger presents the case for converting an outdoor cat to an indoor cat and

ccording to a study by the HuMany cats adapt quite mane Society of the United happily to States, based on data collected life indoors from 600 veterinarians, two out of three veterinarians recommend keeping cats indoors, citing vehicles and transmittable diseases as the two greatest potential dangers (HSUS Veterinarian Study, June 2001). Many cats enjoy napping in the yard or chasing insects. Many more are “street cats” who patrol the neighborhood, coming home only when it is time for dinner. Cats who are allowed to go outside face risks of being stolen, contracting parasites and diseases, engaging in fights with other animals and being poisoned. There are other hazards to add to this lengthy list. These include natural and man-made disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and fires. Additionally, the emergence of new diseases, such as bird flu and resistant forms of panleukopenia, are another threat to outdoor cats. In my opinion it is time for a feline lifestyle change. For the sake of the cats, owners need to start bringing them indoors permanently where they can live longer, healthier lives. Here is the dilemma: How does one convince the outdoorloving cat that she should undergo a major lifestyle change and stay indoors where it is warm and safe? Every cat is unique with his or her own personality. Some cats welcome the opportunity to live permanently indoors. Others take a little more work and patience to transition them to indoor living. The first step is spaying/neutering. This helps keep the cat population down and reduces the risks of diseases such as pyometra and testicular cancer. It also helps eliminate frustration, stress and typical behaviors such as spraying, howling and fighting. The easiest time to transition an outdoor cat to the comforts of home is winter, when the weather is cold and miserable. Most cats will choose a warm spot on a couch over trying to keep dry under a bush. The transition will also go more smoothly by making the cat’s home more appealing.

Food as a Motivator

Owners making this transition should begin by feeding their cat exclusively indoors. She should not have access to food or treats outside—ever. The chosen location should be safe from other resident animals and children. The food should not be left lying around for her to munch on whenever she is hungry. Instead, 30

BARKS from the Guild/March 2015

© Can Stock Photo/okssi68


outlines the various steps to make the transition easier for all concerned

kitty needs a consistent feeding schedule. She should be fed at the same time every day, two-three times a day. If the cat enjoys attention, owners should play with her and pet her before and after meals. In order to avoid the eat-and-run mentality, the time the cat stays inside after feasting can be extended gradually. Owners can further coerce cats to come inside between meals by playing with them and providing deal-breaking treats— but only when the cat is indoors. They can also brush and cuddle their cat while she is indoors—if she enjoys that type of attention.


As part of the lifestyle change from street cat to house cat, owners have to convince their felines that relocating permanently inside is much more interesting and fun than outdoors. There is a plethora of fascinating activities for cats outside, including a diversity of objects to climb on, lots of space to explore, places to hide and critters to chase. Owners need to be creative and “bring the outdoors in.” Many of these activities can be done inside the safety of the home. Playing with cats in a way that helps satisfy their hunting instincts is an excellent start. Owners can use a pole-type toy and pull it away from the cat to encourage her to chase it. Of course, she must be allowed to “catch” her prey sometimes to avoid the possibility of frustration. After the last catch, owners should immediately feed their cats. She will most likely eat, then groom and fall asleep. Other activities that will influence her to stay inside include treasure hunts and treat rolls. Hiding treats