If you share your home with a cat who is allowed to roam

Most cats will transition successfully to contained life indoors, as long as you provide them with everything they need and transition them gradually to being contained, so that they can get used to the idea.

They will still require places to rest, play and toilet, and opportunities to perform normal behaviours such as climbing, scratching and exploring. It’s important that the spaces you provide meet your cat’s needs and encourage them to undertake activities that they enjoy and that will promote their well-being.

Here are some steps that may help you keep your current cat safe at home more often.

*This transition guide was created with help from RSPCA Australia, Zoos Victoria, and RSPCA Victoria. For more information, read RSPCA’s Australia guide to Keeping your cat safe and happy at Home.

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1) Health and safety

Inspect fly screens, windows, balconies, and chimneys to ensure they won’t be able to slip out unnoticed. Check for other potential hazards like poisonous plants, exposed wires/cables, and sharp or loose objects that may harm your cat if it falls over or if the cat scratches it. If you have created a secure outdoor space, make sure to inspect it so that it keeps your cat at home. Try distracting your cat with treats, a toy, or puzzle feeder when exiting through a door so they’re less likely to sneak away.

2) Go slowly

Cats thrive on routine, so it’s best to go about any changes gradually. Start out by keeping them inside at night and gradually increase the time they’re indoors during the day. If things don’t work out every time, be patient and don’t lose hope. Your cat may need time to learn that being safe at home can be fun.

3) Timing is everything

There will be times in your life when it will be easier for you and your cat to make a change to routine. These include:

When it’s cold outside

When it’s chilly outdoors, your cat is more likely to prefer to be snuggled up with you than out in the cold. Use this as an opportunity to get your cat used to how sweet and safe a life at home can be.

Feeding time

This a good opportunity to extend time safe at home. Instead of letting your cat out straight after eating, extend the time they are spending indoors.

When moving house

Moving house can also be an optimal time to transition your cat indoors because new behaviours can be associated with the new environment. This will also help protect your cat from the dangers of roaming outside in unfamiliar territory.

4) Fulfill their natural needs

If your cat is used to drinking water outside, gradually move their water bowl indoors so they know where it is. Cats love choice so providing more than one indoor source of water is a good idea. Cats enjoy vertical as well as horizontal space so introducing high places they can perch or walk along is ideal particularly if they are able to sunbake through a window. Scratching posts, places to hide and rest, and toys will also allow them to express natural behaviours while safe at home. If you have a balcony or veranda that can be cat-proofed through the use of netting, or if you have the space for a cat-proof enclosure, or “catio,” in your backyard, these are great options to provide outdoor spaces for your cat.

5) Litter tray

Cats can take some time to get used to using a litter tray, so it may be a case of trial and error. You may need to try a few different litters, litter trays, and locations in your home to find the one that works best for you and your cat.

Try placing the litter tray in an obvious location away from your cat’s food and water where they will have some privacy and quiet. Often, cats who are used to toileting outside prefer litter that  resembles soil. To begin with, try sandy or clay-based litters that they can dig in easily. The litter tray should be large enough for your cat to comfortably dig, turn around and squat – that means at least 1.5 times the length of your cat.

6) Playtime

Play is an important time to exercise a cat’s mind and body. Every cat is different, so offer yours a variety of toys, ample opportunities, and time to play. Join our cat community to receive free tips and tricks on how to create an indoor space that your cat feels safe, comfortable, and happy in.

7) Companionship

One of the most important enrichments in a cat’s life is interaction with humans – time spent playing, grooming, sitting, sleeping with, and even training your cat will create a very special bond, and help fulfill its emotional needs (as well as your own). Having two compatible cats together is also very rewarding as it allows for play and companionship when their human is not present. Although some cats prefer not to have other cats in their home, this very much depends on the individual.

There is lots more to learn about keeping your cats safe and happy at home and more information can be found by reading RSPCA’s Australia guide to Keeping your cat safe and happy at home.