How To Train A Cat To Stay Indoors – Home Sweet Home!

Because you’ve probably already decided to keep your cat indoors, away from potential dangers outside and other cats, let’s get right to the meat and potatoes of how to train a cat to stay indoors.

Turning your outdoor cat or your new kitten into an indoor cat.

Effective Techniques For Training A Cat To Stay Inside

Before you begin training, make sure that the basics are covered and that you have treats, toys, etc. ready to go. Is your house cat secure? Begin when you feel fully prepared and have an action plan.

You may also find this article helpful, for different ways to stop the cat slipping out the door.

Gradual Exposure

Acclimate the cat to being indoors gradually for longer periods of time. During the transition period, gradually increase the duration of time spent indoors. This is an easy and gentle way to begin the transition.

Positive Reinforcement

Use treats, toys, and praise to reinforce desired behaviors.

  1. Practice with the door open first. This will help the cat become comfortable with being close to the opening and also give them a sense of safety so that they feel like they can escape if needed.
  2. Start by having your cat sit near the open door while you give treats or have them come to you for a toy or treat.
  3. Gradually move the rewards closer and closer to the door, slowly building their comfort level with the opening.
  4. Once they are comfortable being near the door, start having them stay put while you close it partway. Give lots of praise and treats when they remain in position and then open it back up so that they can move away if they need to.
  5. Slowly build up their comfort level with staying inside while the door is closed and eventually you will be able to open it without issue.
Two cats standing inside an open door looking outdoors

Clicker Training

Use a clicker to signal to the cat when it is exhibiting the desired behavior, such as staying inside.

There is more information about clicker training here if you think you might want to try this method in transitioning your cat. I have not personally used this method and would prefer to refer you to an expert on the subject.

Create A Desirable Environment

Provide plenty of scratching posts, hiding spots, and toys to keep the cat entertained and comfortable, while indoors. Toys do not need to be expensive.

We have all seen how much fun a cat can have with a plain old paper bag. Cats can have a very happy life indoors.

Cat playing in paper bags inside the house

Address Boredom

Bored cats are more likely to want to escape, so provide plenty of stimulation, including interactive toys and playtime with you.

Doors And Windows

Make sure doors and windows are secure and keep them closed when you are not supervising the cat.

Limit Access

Restrict the cat’s access to areas where it may want to escape, such as balconies or open windows.

a cat stretching indoors in front of a window
This is a great DIY idea to create a corner window ledge for the cat. Would something similar work at your place?

A screened porch or catio is a great idea for allowing access to the outdoors and fresh air without any of the other associated problems.

Be Observant

Watch the cat and intervene if it seems to be getting restless or looking for a way out.

How Long Does It Take To Train A Cat To Stay Inside?

The length of time it takes to train a cat to stay inside can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as the cat’s age, personality, and previous experiences.

Some may take just a few weeks to adjust to life staying inside, while others have trouble slowly transitioning and may take several months or longer.

Is It important To Start Training A Cat To Stay Inside From A Young Age?

Yes, it is generally easier to start training a cat for a life inside when they are a kitten or at a young age. This is because a younger cat is more adaptable and less set in their ways, making it easier to establish good habits.

You can help the cat develop a strong association between being inside and positive experiences by starting the training process early. 

Treats, playtime, interactive games, puzzle feeders, and attention reduce the likelihood of the cat developing a strong desire to escape in the future.

Starting training at a young age, can help prevent potential behavioral problems associated with keeping a cat inside, such as boredom, destructive behavior, and elimination issues.

That being said, it is still possible to train an older cat to stay inside. It may just take more time, patience, and persistence.

Are There Commands Or signals Used In The Training?

Specific commands or signals can be used to teach a cat to stay inside. Some common commands and signals that can be used in training include:

Verbal Cues

Simple commands such as “stay” or “inside” can be used to reinforce the desired behavior.

Body Language

Certain body language cues, such as pointing or holding up a treat, can be used to signal to the cat that it should stay inside.

Choose cues that are consistent and clear, and to use positive reinforcement to reinforce the desired behavior.

Reinforce The Training Ensures That The Cat Remembers To Stay Inside

Reinforcing the training can be done through several methods, including:

  • Reinforce desired behavior with treats, toys, praise, or attention.

  • Consistently enforce the rules and reward the desired behavior to strengthen the cat’s association between staying inside and positive experiences.

  • Establish a consistent routine for bringing the cat inside, such as at mealtime or bedtime.

  • Provide plenty of toys, scratching posts, hiding spots, and other forms of stimulation to keep the cat entertained and comfortable inside.

  • Avoid using punishment or negative reinforcement, as this can make the cat more likely to associate being inside with negative experiences and make it more difficult to train.

  • Gradually increase the amount of time the cat spends inside. Make sure he is given plenty of positive reinforcement during that time.

  • Regular training sessions can help reinforce the desired behavior and prevent the cat from forgetting what it has learned.

Can The Same Training Methods Be Used For Both Indoor Cats And Cats That Have Access To The Outdoors?

The same basic training methods can be used for both indoor cats and cats that have access to the outdoors, but there may be some differences in how the training is applied.

The focus of training an indoor cat is often on controlling behavior inside the home, such as scratching, jumping on counters, or using the litter box properly.

Is your cat outdoors occasionally?

Is your cat allowed to go outside on occasion? The emphasis of training may be on teaching him to respect boundaries or to respond when called.

Positive reinforcement is the most effective training method, whether a cat is an indoor-only or an outdoor cat.

how to train a cat to stay indoors
This cat is lucky to have such a wide window sill

Any Specific Considerations For Training A Timid Or Anxious Cat To Stay Inside?

Training a timid or anxious cat to stay inside can be a challenge, as these cats may be more sensitive to changes in their environment. They may be easily scared by new experiences. Here are some considerations for training a timid or anxious cat to stay inside:

train an anxious cat to stay indoors

  • Begin slowly. Start with short training sessions and gradually increase the length of time the cat spends inside. Provide plenty of positive reinforcement and allow the cat to retreat to a safe place if it becomes overwhelmed.

  • Provide a secure, quiet area where the cat can retreat to if it feels scared or overwhelmed. This could be a cozy bed or a hiding spot, such as a cardboard box with a soft blanket.

  • Try using pheromones. Feliway, a synthetic pheromone, can be sprayed in the cat’s designated safe haven to help it feel calm and relaxed. Feliway mimics the natural facial pheromone and helps the cat to feel secure in its environment. When sprayed around their safe haven, cats will feel more comfortable and relaxed, reducing stress and anxiety. Feliway can also help reduce destructive behaviors such as scratching or urine marking by helping cats to feel calmer and less stressed in their environment. It’s important to note that while Feliway may be helpful for some, it may not work on all cats.

  • Homeopathic Therapy may be recommended if your cat is anxious. Homeopathic remedies are safe, gentle and have no side effects. Some of the more common ones include chamomile, catnip, lavender, and valerian root.

  • Provide plenty of toys, scratching posts, hiding spots, and other forms of stimulation to help the cat feel more comfortable and less anxious.

  • If the cat’s anxiety is severe, consider seeking help from a professional animal behaviorist. This can be particularly helpful in addressing specific behavior problems or phobias that may be contributing to the cat’s anxiety.

  • Timid or anxious cats may take longer to adjust to new experiences and may need more time and patience during the training process.

Make Sure Your Cat Does Not Feel Trapped Or Caged When You Are training them To Stay Inside

It is important to ensure that the cat does not feel trapped or caged when you are in the process of training the cat to be an indoor cat.

Here are some tips to make sure your cat feels comfortable and secure:

Ensure that the cat has enough room to move around freely, play, and explore.

Allowing more access to windows so that cats can relax in their designated safe havens, look outside and see what is happening in the great outdoors.

Providing access to a window can help the cat feel less trapped and more connected to its environment and even the yard.

This article describes cat window perches, the different types, the pros and cons of window perches for cats etc. They are available online or at pet supply stores. You may be lucky enough to have a window frame with a wide sill or ledge, that is a natural sitting place for a cat.

Cats love to climb and explore, so providing shelves on the wall that are just for the cat, scratching posts, or other climbing opportunities can help keep the cat entertained and active.

If possible, provide the cat with occasional opportunities to explore the outdoors, even if it is supervised or in a cat-proofed area.


What If You Have Multiple Cats In The House?

Training multiple cats in the house can be a challenge. Here are some tips for handling the process:

Train each cat separately, especially if they have different personalities or temperaments. This allows you to focus on each cat’s individual needs and behaviors.

Provide each cat with its own litter box, food bowls, water dishes, toys, and other resources to reduce competition and conflict between the cats.

Give each cat its own designated safe haven, such as a cozy bed or hiding spot, where it can go when it feels scared or overwhelmed. If the weather is cold, a cozy, warm, dry bed will be especially appealing to a cat.

Reinforce positive behaviors in all of your cats, such as staying inside, using the litter box, and playing with toys, to encourage these behaviors.

It goes without saying that you should clean the litter box regularly. A dirty litter box can become its own problem to deal with.

two cats
We can vouch for a life inside! We are very comfortable!

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