Ask the Behaviorist: Bringing an Outside Kitty Indoors
Please note: It is important to seek professional help for any problems that may be tricky to resolve, or that may be multifaceted. Quick fix, band-aid approaches seldom work long term. Many behaviors do not develop over night and may have more than one component to them.
How do I bring an outside kitty I have been feeding indoors?
Q: “I need help, I have a question. I have been feeding three kitties and their mama for almost two years. I trapped them and all of them were neutered and vaccinated. Three days ago I found one of them dead, I have not seen the mother and one kitty for two days. I am worried about the one left outside. I have three indoors cats and one dog, I want to bring her inside , how should approach her? She already let me pet her and she eats next to me but, I don’t want to force her into the house. Any ideas? I am sick worried thinking is someone out there trying to hurt them.” – Ana
A: Ana, I would do one of two things, or a mixture of both. At times when she is around, enclose your other animals in an area so they cannot get out, and leave the door open for her. Begin to feed her special food inside (as well as leaving dry food and water outside as she needs it). Do this at various times until she feels more comfortable. You may see that she wants to come in, especially as weather gets colder or rainier. Leave really delicious food in a sanctuary room if there is one near the door she might enter. She can then adjust to being welcome in your home.
Your other option is a humane trap (This would be my recommendation based on the situation). I like the Tru-Catch box traps, and have used them numerous times with a 98% catch rate on first entry and 100% catch rate on numerous kitties (most becoming members of my family). Tru-Catch traps are for relocation, transport, and rescue. I dislike the Hav-A-Hart traps because they are more cumbersome, and some traditionally collapse around the animal. They also tend to be louder and much scarier. More importantly, the company that manufactures Hav-A-Hart, Woodstream Corp., is the company that manufactures all the traps for the fur industry, including the notorious leghold and conibear snares.
Cover the bottom of the trap with a cut paper bag to conceal the wire. Tape it to the trap so it doesn’t blow in the wind. This provides a flat surface for the kitty to enter. You can then cover the bottom of the trap with some leaves or grass if it’s summer time. Put food such as tuna or mackerel, balancing on the lever/ledge, so the kitty can see it and smell it, and sprinkle some juice on the bottom of the bag leaving a trail. When kitties are trapped, they do panic. Be calm and bring her into a sanctuary room, with the litter, food, water and warm bed all set up for her. Make sure to keep food and water away from litter boxes. Make the room very inviting and cozy. Let her adapt and de-stress. Then go into the room and sit and read, or spend time on the computer, while talking to her softly, so she can become familiar with you and so you do not frighten her. Pair your presence with extra yummy food (She may not eat when you are there). When she feels a bit more comfortable, gradually acclimate her to your furry family, at her pace.