Pet Q&A: Outdoor cats can be trained to stay inside

10/23/2012 12:00 AM

10/22/2012 7:40 PM

After losing a couple of cats (they disappeared and were never found), we decided to turn our remaining cat into an indoor pet, with the idea of adding another cat or kitten after we move after the school year ends. So far, turning Bodega into an indoor cat has not gone well. He is so determined to get out that we eventually give in and open the door. Should we keep trying or just wait until we move?

The best time to convert a free-roaming cat to life indoors is when you move into a new home. A cat can't miss territory he has never explored, after all. But even if you're not planning to move, you can still convert your cat.

The change requires resolve on your part and a determination to provide your cat with everything it needs to be happy indoors – good food and fresh water, a clean litter box, a scratching post, toys and, most important, your companionship.

Does such a change come easily? Probably not.

Cats are highly territorial, and the day you reduce your cat's territory by cutting him off from the outdoors is the day you're going to start hearing about it – lots.

Don't give in, no matter what. If you allow the insistent meows and pointed stares to wear you down to the point of opening the door, you've taught your cat a lesson you'd rather he didn't know: "All I need to do is put up a fuss, and I get what I want." If you try to keep him inside again, he's going to be even more obnoxious about getting out.

Be patient, but firm. Dissuade him from the door with a shot from a spray bottle, and keep him occupied with games and attention. If he likes catnip, get a fresh supply to rub on his toys and scratching post. If you do not open the door, the noisy demands will decrease and eventually end.

Within a couple weeks, your cat will start to settle into his new routines, and you'll no longer need to worry about the dangers he faces outdoors.

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Little budgies have big personalities

The birds commonly known as parakeets in the United States are more properly called budgerigars, or just budgies. Budgies are by far the most popular parakeets and perhaps the most taken for granted. Because of their small price tag and easy availability, they are often treated as throwaway birds – easily purchased, easily disposed of, easily replaced. This attitude keeps people from valuing these birds for their affectionate personalities and appreciating them as lovely little pets. If worked with, some budgies even become very good talkers, albeit with tiny little voices.

An aging population and competitive real estate market have helped to put an end to "no pet" policies in many older apartment complexes, along with an easing of restrictions limiting the size of dogs. The Wall Street Journal reports that new rental complexes are being developed to be not just tolerant of dogs, but welcoming. The recent story cites an architect who said 75 percent of the apartment complexes he designs for construction nationwide will be built with dog parks.

Few beliefs are as widespread and commonly held as the one that incorrectly suggests pets be tranquilized for an airline flight. That might be because many of us would prefer spending our time in the air asleep, and we figure our pets would prefer the same. But the fact is that tranquilizers increase the risk of flying for pets because the medication impairs the efficient functioning of an animal's body at a time when such efficiency can be essential to keeping it alive. Tranquilizers are not routinely recommended for most flight-bound pets. If you think your animal is the exception, discuss the issue with your veterinarian.

– Dr. Marty Becker

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