Making the Move: Winter is the Perfect Time to Transition Your Cat to a Safe-at-Home Lifestyle

Now that winter is settling in, there’s no better time to introduce your cat to the comforts of living a safe-at-home lifestyle. As cats are naturally drawn to warm places to take shelter from the cold, inviting your cat inside during the cooler months can be a great opportunity to learn how to live safely and happily at home.

Allow your cat to spend short periods of time indoors at first and gradually increase the time they spend at home until they feel comfortable. Keeping your cat inside overnight is often a great place to start. Cats roam further from home at night, increasing their risk of being hit by cars and encountering unfriendly cats and dogs. Many wildlife species that are most vulnerable to predation by cats such as ringtail possums, feather gliders, and bandicoots are also most active overnight.

While some cats may enjoy moving indoors, others may take longer to adjust. You can find more information about transitioning your cat to a safe-at-home lifestyle here


Try following these steps at home to make the transition smoother:

Create a positive association with your home by feeding your cat inside:
Plan your cat’s tastiest food to be delivered each evening and keep your cat inside or lock the cat flap. You can open the cat flap each morning one hour later week by week. Once your cat spends 70% of the daytime indoors you can try keeping the cat flap closed.


Establish an evening routine of play and cuddle time that you can commit to.
Select a specific time in the evening that you can dedicate to your cat. This routine should ideally be consistent every day to help your cat feel secure and develop a sense of predictability. Begin the routine with an engaging play session. Use interactive toys, such as feather wands, to encourage your cat’s natural instincts to hunt and chase. This physical activity helps to burn off excess energy and stimulates their mind. After playtime, create a cosy and comfortable environment for cuddling. Find a quiet spot where you and your cat can relax together. Use gentle strokes and petting to help them feel loved and secure. Pay attention to their body language and allow them to set the pace for affection. Consistency is Key: Stick to the established routine every evening.


Give your cat a warm, cosy bed to curl up in indoors.
Try putting cosy beds or blankets throughout your home. Cats like elevated locations in warm spots, so place beds off the floor and out of drafty areas. If you want to make their relaxing spots even more comfortable, you can add a heating pad. There are microwavable versions that can last a few hours, and electric ones, which should always be supervised. If you have a space heater or fireplace, you can place some cosy bedding at a safe distance to keep your curious furry-friend from getting too close. Remember that sometimes simple is better, a box with a towel or blanket might be your cat’s favourite place to keep warm.


Make sure they have somewhere to go to the toilet if they need to.
Most healthy cats can comfortably hold on overnight, especially if they are used to doing their business outside. But it’s still a good idea to provide your cat with at least two litter trays in case they need them, especially if you hope to bring them inside full-time.


Provide a stimulating and healthy environment for your cat to be comfortable at home. it’s important to cater to their natural behaviours indoors.

Have you heard about the Five Pillars of a Healthy Environment for Cats? Dr Liz Arnott explains how to create a welcoming home for our feline friends.

You can also incorporate these simple ways to make home a great place to be:

  • Sunny Spots: You can start by allowing your cat to catch the winter sun in a window, so they can bask in the sun and watch the great outdoors. Open the curtains during the day and rearrange furniture if necessary to provide your cat with a suitable perch for watching the world go by or acquire a cat hammock that can be attached to the windows. You can even add a cat-friendly scent to the hammock or perch like pheromone sprays that are available in the market, to make your kitty feel safe and happy.


  • Climbing and jumping: Cats love to be up high and have “vantage” points. Provide opportunities for your kitty to climb and jump by arranging your home furniture or adding cat shelves or scratchers around the house.


  •  Scratching: Cats need to scratch to keep their claws clean and healthy and remove old layers, at the same time is a way to stretch their joints and muscles and leave their scent on their territory. You can provide different materials and textures, including sisal posts, corrugated cardboard scratching blocks, logs and tree stumps, which can be sprinkled with herbs like catnip or valerian to enhance their appeal. Cats also have their own preferences when it comes to using vertical or horizontal scratchers. If in doubt provide a combination. Horizontal scratchers can be pieces of carpets or cardboard.


  • Hiding places: cats enjoy having their relaxing time and being concealed. For this purpose, you can create a winter blanket fort or igloo for them. Warm a few blankets in the dryer and create a cosy nook for your cat. While the blankets won’t stay warm for long, they’ll be able to burrow down in her blanket fort for warmth. Place the blankets near a sunny window, where the sun’s rays will provide extra warmth.


  • Tunnels: Tunnels provide a comfortable and enclosed space that can make cats feel secure and safe. In addition, they can be a great way for indoor cats to simulate the experience of being outside, as they can be designed to mimic the look and feel of natural burrows and hiding spots that cats would encounter in the wild, adding a fun and interactive activity to your cat’s playtime routine. There are plenty of materials or textures to choose from, or you can make one yourself by putting together some cardboard boxes.


  • Toys: Cats enjoy playing because it provides both mental and physical stimulation. There are cats who prefer to play with people, cats who prefer to play with toys alone, and cats who like both. Some of the best cat toys are long fishing rods with feathers, ribbons, or prey-sized furry objects on the end. It is especially effective if your cat is given toys that mimic the size, shape, and texture of prey (e.g., furry mouse-sized toys). You can provide them with scented toys such as catnip-filled toys or toys with Silvervine sticks. That would give your cat even more fun and stimulation and may enjoy playing with these toys on their own.


  • Cat-friendly Plants: Cats are curious creatures and adding cat-friendly plants to their environment can provide them with a new source of mental stimulation. They can explore the plants, smell them, and even rub against them. Many cats like to chew on plants and providing them with safe plants to chew on (such as cat grass, catnip, or the spider plant) can help to satisfy this instinct. It can also help to prevent them from chewing on potentially harmful items like cords or plastic. However, it’s important to ensure that the plants you choose are safe for cats and that they cannot cause harm if ingested. You can add a large cardboard box with leaves, a large cat tunnel again with leaves, or you can easily grow them in small pots and placed them around the house for your cat to sniff and chew on.

You can learn more about how to keep your cat happy and stimulated at home by following our Enrichment guide

Remember, patience and understanding are essential during this transition. Cats may take time to adjust to changes, so be consistent, provide a loving and safe environment, and allow them to settle into their new at-home lifestyle gradually.

Finally, considering transitioning your cat indoors over winter can be a good opportunity for a health check-up with your veterinarian. When cats have only lived outside, it is important to ensure they don’t carry parasites such as fleas and worms inside. Arthritic cats can also suffer more pain during winter, so speak to your vet about ways to keep your cat warm at home.

More than 60% of cats in NSW already live a safe-at-home life, meaning you’re never far away from someone who can assist you on your journey. Sign up for our email newsletter for more motivation and support.