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Healthy Cats

Bringing Your Outdoor Cat Inside

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ASPCA logoAutumn is slowly making way for Old Man Winter, and your concern is steadily growing for the stray cat who settled into your backyard last summer. Homeless Hildegarde has been enjoying your fresh-air hospitality under the deck all season, but with cold weather approaching, there's no better time to introduce her to the pleasures of indoor living. Luckily, bringing a friendly stray in from the cold or keeping an indoor/outdoor feline entirely inside is not as difficult as one might think. All it takes is some environmental enrichment and a bit of training.

Litter box training is the biggest concern for most people. If the cat was ever box trained, she will likely fall right back into the habit. For the former indoor/outdoor cat, a two-box system filled with fine-grain, clumping litter works best. Place one where you want the litter box to permanently reside, and put the transitional box at the door the cat once used to exit the house. When she finds that she can't get outside to the topsoil, she will use the box by the door. After that habit is established, slowly move the transitional box closer to the permanent setup. Once the boxes are side by side, you can remove one of them.

For the cat who has never been litter box trained, a confinement method is usually necessary. Set the cat up in a cattery cage or a large dog crate complete with litter box, resting space, food, water and toys. When the cat is consistently using her litter box, she can be moved to a small room, like a bathroom or galley kitchen. After she gets the hang of that, you can increase her space yet again. If she has a lapse, return to the last space the cat kept clean. Don't forget to visit her often and release her for supervised exercise, grooming and affection during the confinement period. Also, once she has earned the free run of your home, make sure she isn't tempted to use your potted plants as a litter box. Cover soil with aluminum foil, or pack glass pebbles or marbles around the plant.

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