It is certainly possible for your cat to live happily contained to your property. Contained cats are less likely to become lost or injured (hit by a car, attacked by a dog or hurt by angry neighbours). Cats contained to the owner's property are also less likely to get into cat fights and therefore less likely to have cat fight-related injuries or catch diseases such as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency virus). Containment to the owner's property also increases the opportunity for owner-animal interaction and reduces the impact of hunting by cats and disturbance caused to neighbours.
Where cats are contained, steps must be taken by owners to ensure that adequate exercise and environmental enrichment are available. Cats that are confined to the owner's property do not have to live totally indoors - access to an outdoor escape-proof enclosure is recommended as this can greatly increase the opportunity for activity and stimulation for confined cats. There are also specialised fences that rotate inwardly thereby keeping cats confined within the owners property boundaries and these can be a great way to enable confined cats to still have access to the backyard and the outdoors without being able to go beyond the owner's property.
A kitten/cat that has only ever been confined to the owner's property is likely to cope better with living in this way as they have never known any other lifestyle. Start training kittens to be confined to the owner's property early!
For those cats that have access beyond the owner's property, one management strategy is to keep the cat confined to the property at a minimum from dusk until dawn as cats tend to fight and wander more at night.
Is it possible to make an outdoor cat learn to live indoors?
A cat that has experienced living outdoors may become distressed if suddenly kept totally indoors. In these cases cats may begin to display behavioural problems due to the stress of confinement and their health and welfare may be compromised. For these cats extending their access to the outdoors (via an escape-proof enclosure, specialised backyard fencing) but still within the owner's property boundaries is highly recommended.
Cats that are used to access beyond the owner's property may also be kept indoors from dusk until dawn as a way to minimise risks (as cats are nocturnal and tend to fight/ wander more at night). A gradual reduction in the amount of time that the cat spends beyond the property will allow them to adjust to confinement on the owner's property over time.
Indoor living tips
Here are some measures you can take to ensure that your home is a feline-friendly, stimulating environment where your cat is unlikely to get bored.
- Make your home a feline-friendly, stimulating environment where your cat is unlikely to get bored. Provide plenty of vertical climbing space, horizontal space and hiding spots. Cat ladders/trees, window hammocks, cat condos and cat castles are just some of the products available to help provide an enriched environment.
- Provide plenty of toys to keep your cat amused - it is a good idea to have a variety of toys hidden away so you can give your cat different toys to play with on different days (ensure all toys are safe for cats, avoid string toys as these can cause an intestinal obstruction).
- Cardboard boxes with holes cut into them are great for hide and seek games. Your cat's favourite games will be the ones that involve you as she will be able to use her instinctive pouncing behaviour and release pent up energy by chasing.
- Make sure your cat has several scratching post as cats love to scratch to keep their nails in good condition (this also helps to prevent any unwanted scratching of furniture). If you have any plants make sure they are safe for cats (check with your vet first if you're unsure) and be aware that certain common plants, such as lillies, are fatally toxic to cats so make sure these are not present in your house.
- Play with your cat daily and give them plenty of attention and company
- Cats love to bask in the sun; make sure your cat has a nice sunny spot to lie in and window sills to sit on so she can keep an eye on the outside world and watch scenes outside which provides entertainment for them.
- Access to an enclosed outdoor escape-proof enclosure or run (non-electrified) is highly recommended so your cat has safe access to the outdoors but is still confined within your property boundaries.
- There are also specialised fences that rotate inwardly which can keep your cat confined to the backyard - this is another great way of providing access to the outdoors whilst still confined to the owner's property.
- Cats are often social animals so we recommend considering having two compatible cats that get along with each other - they keep each other company while their human owners are out and help to prevent loneliness and boredom.The RSPCA recommends considering purchasing two cats together, e.g. a sibling kitten pair, two kittens of similar age, or any two cats that are known to get along well.
- Confined cats can also enjoy regular walks outside on a harness and lead with their owners.This gives them new scenery and scents for mental stimulation and exercise. Train early and use reward-based training. Reward the cat for walking forward with a tasty food treat (positive reinforcement).
- Make sure that your cat always has access to clean litter and fresh water. Confined cats should have a few litter trays available per cat and these should be kept away from eating and sleeping areas (also provide food, and water bowls and sleeping areas per cat).
We also advise that you have your cat desexed as this will reduce territorial behaviours, such as fighting and spraying.
Despite keeping your cat confined to your property you will still need to have her microchipped and registered with council so that if she does slip out and become lost she can be returned to you.
This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person’s unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.