Nine ways to keep your cat indoors and prevent the escape

How to keep a cat indoors
Photo britta heise, CC BY 2.0

Keeping your cat indoors may seem an impossible task if you are like most cat owners.

When you go out, when you come home, or when you try to let fresh air in, your cat is already there and scoots right out at the first possibility. In some cases, you may not even notice him.

In this article, you are going to learn nine techniques to keep your cat indoors and prevent him running out the door, window, or chimney!

It’s likely you’ll be able to use one or two of these techniques but not all of them – it’s not even possible to do that!

  1. Make it more appealing to be indoors. Basically, this is about adding more vertical territory by introducing cat trees, window perches, or simply by letting your cat climb on top of furniture. You should also provide lots of possibilities for self-play. You can read more about improving your cat’s indoor territory here.
  2. Introduce more playtime. Unfortunately, this does not mean you should just toss some cat toys around. Nope – it means you must play with your cat using different interactive toys. How often? It depends, but try to schedule one or several play sessions of at least 15 minutes each every day. Cats are born to hunt and they have a large amount of energy available. If you learn to expend this energy through the use of indoor activities, your cat will have no reason to seek activities outdoors. Besides, many other behavior problems could disappear in a flash if you play with your cat more regularly. You can read about the other benefits of playing with your cat here.
  3. Keep your cat’s favorite toy near the door. This way, as you come home, you can redirect his energy towards the toy instead of the outside world. You can even keep the toy outside the door and grab it on the way in, and, if your cat is extremely focused on going outside, open the door just a little bit, so that you get your cat’s attention before he has chance to get out. The way you use this technique all depends on your cat’s level of activity and his desire to get out.
  4. Switch your cat to scheduled feeding, if you haven’t already. How can this help? It’s simple: if you feed your cat every time you arrive home, he will have no desire to go out. Even if he does escape, it will be easy to call him back indoors if he’s hungry. Also, if you feed your cat moments before you leave the house, he will be busy when you open the door. This technique is not possible if your cat’s food is always accessible – and there are also plenty of other reasons why scheduled feeding is better for cats.

    Playing is a good way to keep your cat indoors.
    A short playing session before each meal will help to keep your cat indoors.
    Photo swanksalot, CC BY-SA 2.0
  5. Train your cat to walk on a leash. It’s not as dumb as it may sound first, as long as you understand how a cat should be walked on a leash. You can read how to train and walk your cat on a leash properly here. Providing some outdoor exposure will no doubt help to keep your cat indoors at other times.
  6. Build a safe outdoor enclosure where you can place your cat, granting some outdoor access to your cat but preventing him from escaping. This suggestion is great if you you have good DIY skills as you can build any form, shape and size of enclosure you want – but there are also plenty of ready-made solutions on the market. You could also consider approaching a craftsman with a custom order. Aside from leash walking and enclosures, you can read about other ways to let your cat outside safely here.
  7. Block access to the entrance. If you have a passage toward the outdoor or a mud room, keep the doors closed. Most cats who crave outdoor access are reported to literally “guard” the front door by their owners, and they escape at every opportunity. When you’re going out, do feed your cat or play with him before you leave, but it’s also a good idea not to let your cat get near to the entrance as you return.
  8. Make the entrance less appealing. Spray-on deterrents, double sticky tape or motion-activated pet deterrents are the best ways to achieve this. Don’t employ the technique where YOU scare the cat away, though, because it won’t make him avoid the dangerous area but it may have an impact on your relationship with him. Additionally, we do not promote the use of electricity mats and shock collars to keep your pets out of unwanted areas.
  9. Ventilate your rooms one by one, closing the door to them and checking whether your cat is outside of that room before you leave. This is a must to prevent the cat from getting out of the window. Don’t rely on the fact that you haven’t seen the cat in that particular room as he may be hiding; check exactly where your cat is. An alternative option is to play with your cat or keep an eye on him as you open the windows. You can play, pet, brush, or hold you cat in your arms while the windows are open. Of course, if you have the funds to invest, you can install mechanical ventilation at your home – it has more benefits, of course, than just allowing you to keep your cat indoors. Alternatively, you can install window screens, but make sure they are stronger than insect screens as they won’t keep your cat inside otherwise.
Cat with an ID tag kept indoors...
An ID tag won’t keep your cat indoors, but it will help you be reunited if he escapes… Photo Amanda Niekamp, CC BY 2.0

We hope the above gives enough for you to think about in terms of how to keep your cat indoors. Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed method to achieve this – no matter how hard you try, your cat may escape at some point.

So, our final piece of advice is: get an identification tag for your cat. Many people believe indoor cats don’t need one. We say that, in fact, they need two types. Many, many indoor cats escape and get lost due to their lack of outdoor skills, so get an ID tag you can attach to a collar, showing your phone number and the statement “indoor cat”, as well as a microchip, in case the collar and tag come off.

Identification will not keep your cat indoors, but if he gets away, your chances of being reunited again will rise significantly.