Last week was all about why cats should be indoor animals only. This week it’s how to make that happen. This applies to bringing that outdoor cat indoors and also to shutting the door to cats used to coming and going. In self-help manual style, let’s introduce the Five Ps: Protect, Pee, Play, Parasites, Patience.
Protect: provide a space where your cat feels safe and protected. Outdoor cats know their safe spots and have lots of options from which to select. Both for this P and for the next, start by giving Fluffy access to one room only. Provide hidey-holes. Boxes, stuff to get beneath, shelves up high, etc., and of course food and water.
P-two is Pee, specifically where to pee. Simpler than one might fear, cats naturally gravitate to litterboxes, even cats who previously had the run of several yards for that purpose. Start with unscented sand/clay cat litter in a large uncovered box. Once that proves successful, you can transition to a fancier litter over time, if you’d like.
Play. The out-of-doors is dangerous but also lots of fun. Stuff to chase, things to leap over, smells, sounds … it’s an amusement park! Four walls and a box are not going to compete. Add toys, climbing structures, paper bags and things to scratch (perhaps a natural log along with the store-bought). And if Fluffy seems willing, add yourself. Cats are social animals but you’re the one to determine if/when the cat wants a lap, wants a playmate or wants (at least initially) to be left alone. Remember that love requires courtship and can’t be rushed.
Parasites. Brace yourself, outdoor cats are likely coming inside with additional guests. Fleas, ticks, intestinal worms. Eww. Work with your veterinarian to make sure that initial exams are timed in a way to create a healthy but not overly stressed-out cat.
Patience. I’ve run out of space, so simply Patience. Have it.
Ken White is the president of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.