Making the transition from outdoor life to indoor life can be a relatively easy one for a cat if you set up the indoor environment to be as interesting as the one she’s about to leave behind. It will also be much safer.
What if the Cat Has Never Been Indoors?
First on the list is to take the cat to the veterinarian to make sure she’s healthy, get her vaccinated if she hasn’t already had that done and to start her on flea control. The only newcomer you want to bring into the house is the cat herself, and not an army of fleas of ticks.
While you’re at the veterinarian, talk to him/her about having the cat microchipped. That way, if she does escape out the door you’ll stand a much better chance of having her returned to you.
If you’re bringing in a stray cat or if you’ve decided your exclusively-outdoor cat should now live indoors, you can’t just bring her in and let her have the run of the house right away. She’ll need to get her bearings and you may need to do a little training before she goes exploring in the every room. Even though you may think after having access to the whole outdoors she should handle your 1800 sq. ft. house without a hitch, it won’t necessarily be a seamless transition. First of all, in the great outdoors, the cat could pee and poop wherever she pleased. I don’t think you’ll want that to be the case in your house. So confining her to one area while she adjusts to the litter box will be an important step. The same applies to scratching. Outside she had every tree and fence post at her disposal. Inside, you’ll want her using a designated scratching post and not your living room furniture.
In the outdoor environment, the cat also had her own hiding places, favorite perches and other locations. The indoor environment will be totally unfamiliar to her and it can be overwhelming if you offer too much too soon.
If you’re bringing in a stray or a cat who hasn’t had much contact with you, confine her to a smaller area to allow you to start getting to know each other.
The Cat’s Sanctuary Room
I’ve talked and written so much about how to set up a sanctuary room, especially as it applies to introducing a second cat to a resident cat. For a cat who has never set foot inside your home, setting up a sanctuary room will also be needed to help speed up the acclimation process.
The sanctuary room is just a room you can close off – such as a bedroom. This is where all of kitty’s necessities will be located – her food and water bowls, litter box, scratching post and toys. There are also some extras to put in there as well that will be very helpful: hideaways and a cat tree or some kind of perch.
Hideaways for the Cat
The first thing the former outdoor cat may do when inside is to immediately seek out a hiding place. This is important because once she feels securely hidden, she can use that hiding place as her home base as she begins to get to know the environment. The hideaways can as simple as open paper bags placed on their sides, boxes on their sides, boxes turned upside down with an entrance hole cut in one side, soft-sided pet tunnels, etc. The more hideaways you spread around the room, the less likely kitty will hunker down under the bed.