Transitioning your cat to an at-home lifestyle

Transitioning your cat to the safe-at-home lifestyle

“Did you know less than 1 in 10 cats who go missing in NSW are reunited with their family? And almost 1 in 4 cat lovers have at some point had a cat who just never came home?”

Even if your cat currently roams, you can help them make the change to staying safe at home – old cats can learn new tricks! Follow these simple pointers to give your cat the best chance at success as you make the change to the safe-at-home life. It’s worth the effort to build an even stronger bond with your cat and keep them safe from accidents, injuries, and diseases.

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Make a plan

Cats are creatures of habit, they don’t love change of any kind. Your chances of success will be much greater with some planning and patience. Go slowly. Give you and your cat time to establish a new routine. Step-by-step your cat will learn that an at-home lifestyle can be fun.

First, ensure you can meet all your cat’s needs at home. This includes food, water, toilets, comfy places to sleep, and opportunities to express all their natural behaviours like hiding, scratching, climbing, and stalking, chasing and pouncing (on toys and treats).

Download our handouts What your cat needs at home and Enrichment for more information.

Staying safe at home doesn’t have to mean your cat misses out on any of the things they enjoy about being outdoors. You can plan to keep your cat exclusively indoors, or a combination of indoors and outdoors in an enclosure or escape-proof backyard. While not suitable for every cat, you could even consider training your cat to walk on a harness so you can enjoy exploring outdoors together. Whatever option you choose, life at home can be happy, fun and fulfilling for your cat. Learn more here.

Timing is everything

You can gradually transition your cat to an at-home lifestyle at any time but there are times of day (e.g., feeding time), times of year (e.g., when it’s cold outside), times in your cat’s life (e.g., at an early age), and times you share (e.g., moving house), that you can use as opportunities to transition to staying safe at home.
Take it slow – the process might take 3-4 weeks or longer. Allowing your cat plenty of time to get used to the new routine can help to minimise frustration and increase your chances of success.
It can help to start by keeping your cat inside at night initially then gradually increasing the time they spend at home during the day. Taking advantage of times when your cat will naturally prefer to be inside can also make the transition easier:

When you bring home a kitten – Your kitten can easily settle into an at-home lifestyle if you start early. Setting up these routines and habits early in life gives your kitten the best opportunity to grow comfortable with life safe at home.

When you bring home an adopted cat or when you’re moving house – A cat arriving in a new place may not want to venture far so this is the ideal time to get them used to the safe-at-home lifestyle. A new start represents the perfect opportunity to establish a new happy home routine. Cats coming into a new environment should be kept at home as they may run away or become lost if allowed to roam in an unfamiliar place. Set your cat up in their own safe place (i.e., a secluded hide-out). Once your cat has settled in (it may take a few days or longer), you can gently allow them to explore the rest of the home. Always leave access to their safe place open so they can retreat if they want to.

Download our handout Settling your new cat into the family for more information.


When it’s feeding time – After feeding, you can gradually extend the time your cat spends indoors until they become accustomed to being contained.

When it’s cold outside – At times of the year when it’s cold outside, your cat may prefer to be cosy indoors. This is an ideal time to get them used to staying at home. Creating a warm, inviting, fun environment during this time will help your cat enjoy the benefits of safe at home life.

You’re not alone…

More than 50% of cats in NSW already enjoy a safe-at-home lifestyle. That might include some of your friends, relatives and neighbours, which means you’re never far away from another cat lover who can help you on this journey.

Join the Cat-ch up!

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Keeping Cats Safe at home Project FAQs

  • Keeping Cats Safe at Home a ground-breaking RSPCA NSW project running over four years
  • It will work with 11 councils across NSW to provide cat lovers with the inspiration, motivation and information needed to help their cats live long, healthy and enriched lives
  • Keeping Cats Safe at Home aims to encourage and support cat owners to prevent their cats from roaming away from their properties both to keep cats safe and to protect native wildlife.
  • The project will create tailored toolkits for 11 partner council areas across NSW as well as resources to equip cat lovers everywhere with the knowledge and skills to help their cats live their best life at home
  • Social science and ecology research will be undertaken to monitor the effectiveness of the campaign so we can apply what we learn in other locations in NSW and further afield
  1. Blue Mountains City Council
  2. Byron Shire Council
  3. Campbelltown City Council
  4. City of Parramatta
  5. Hornsby Shire Council
  6. Kyogle Council
  7. Northern Beaches Council
  8. Shoalhaven City Council
  9. Tweed Shire Council
  10. Walgett Shire Council
  11. Weddin Shire Council