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Photo by Tom Grey

Linda Beth Gray's Story

We have three indoor cats. No, they don't drive us nuts. At least no more than before, when they went outside. Since we've successfully turned them all into indoor cats, I would like to share some of what I've learned with other cat owners who want to try keeping their cats indoors.

 

Of the three cats that we have, one was very devoted to going outside. Black Bunbuns was on her own when we found her, and had only gradually become used to staying inside for extended periods of time. We had cut all the cats back to only a few hours of outside time each evening after dark, mostly because of Sta-Puft or Black Bunbuns bringing home an occasional bird. After Sta-Puft had been in his two big fights (see part 1), the last straw came when he began coming home with finches - at night!! That was it, all the cats were grounded.

 

Yes, they drove us nuts!! Luckily, Sta-Puft and our third cat, Uncle Chuck, only pestered us for a week or two. They were fairly easily diverted with games of superballs, string and catnip mice. And after all, Sta-Puft's favorite thing is eating. The main problem with him is to keep him from getting too heavy. Black Bunbuns was another story, though. She was periodically insistent for weeks. It did lessen fairly steadily, yet gradually, until she gave up altogether after about 6 or 8 weeks. It wasn't as if she was continually in torture from not going outside. She seemed fairly satisfied when she wasn't meowing to go out, consequently giving us a break. She did finally take more of an interest in playing with string and romping with Uncle Chuck.

 

Following are a number of things which I think have made it easier for our cats to become established as indoor cats. When I say "easier," I mean both for them and for us.

 

  • • Have your cat spayed or neutered!!! As well as helping to address a cat overpopulation problem that results in thousands of unclaimed cats every year in our county, spaying and neutering cause cats to be more sociable, and less inclined to roam.
  • • Having toys around for them to entertain themselves. Catnip mice are a favorite in our household. I grow catnip outside, and to keep the "ratty mice" alluring, every once in a while I rub catnip leaves on the corduroy hides of the ratty-mice. This very successfully renews the cats' interest in playing with the mice (and entertains us greatly).
  • • Making places available for them to sit by the window. Cats love to bask in the morning sun, as well as watch wildlife and human activities outside. Sta-Puft is beside himself with excitement every time the squirrels run down the window sill in front of his favorite spot.
  • • Isolate the cat box(es) so that periodic odors are not disruptive to the human inhabitants of the household. Many people choose the bathroom. I chose the garage and installed a cat door in the door between the house and the garage, to minimize odors even further. We rent, so we actually bought a new door so we could leave the landlord's door intact.
  • • Offset increased cat box use (and litter purchases) with litter conservation techniques. There are ways to reduce cat litter usage, but (sorry!!) they all involve "sieving". I haven't yet reached a decision as to which method is more efficient. Recently I've started using the "clumping" cat litter, and find that it reduces cat litter usage. Before that I developed a cat box setup that involved a section of newspaper and a larger-than-cat box sized piece of some fine mesh flexible screen (like that used for screen doors) The newspaper was placed in the bottom of the cat box and the screen was placed over the newspaper, fitted to the inside of the box, and clipped to the sides of the cat box with clothespins. The litter was then poured on to the screen. One could then periodically change the newspaper by lifting the cat litter out by gathering up the screen. Sieving cat litter and changing out the newspaper every few days extended the life of the litter considerably, as the urine would mostly soak into the newspaper instead of fouling the cat litter.
  • • Find a way to allow each cat to have a favorite (and secure!) place to which it can retreat. For Black Bunbuns it is a little cat bed with washable cover. For Sta-Puft it is numerous throw-rugs of which he is king, plus a number of other places that he alternately claims for extended periods. For Uncle Chuck, it is the loft in the garage, to which he is the only cat athletic enough to leap.
  • • Same number of cat boxes as cats. I don't know if this keeps them from fighting over the boxes, but it is a reasonable formula for not having to maintain the boxes overly frequently.
  • • Have carpeted posts, or some other place for them to scratch. These must be made of materials that the cats prefer to your furniture. Our cats all love the carpeted posts, and I find that I can use carpet scraps to recover them when they wear out. The scratching issue can be a tough one, and can make or break the whole effort. If you have furniture or rugs, etc., that are precious to you, by all means protect them until the cat settles into an acceptable routine and it is safe to allow them access.
  • • Make the bedrooms of allergy sufferers off limits to cats. This will go a long way toward reducing allergy irritations, especially if they tend to be cumulative. Bare, uncarpeted floors with washable throw-rugs are also easier to keep clean.
  • • Some cats pose a serious challenge to any attempts to keep them indoors. It may just not be possible in some cases without really going crazy. In cases like these one might consider a caged run for the cat, connected to the house with a cat door.
  • • Don't give up too easily, though. It seems to be a matter of negotiating a workable agreement with your cat. We figure that our cats think they've relegated all the hunting to us, that we are the servants that go out and capture all the food, and they just lie around like kings and queens and play as much as they want. Now that I think of it, maybe they're right!!