Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My name is Shadow, and I’m a 1-year-old male cat. My parents recently moved to an apartment in a new neighborhood. When we were at the old house, I was allowed to go outside, but the new apartment is in an area where it’s not safe for kitties, so I have to stay inside now.
I’ve been meowing at the windows a lot and it’s making my parents very upset. Their apartment gets really warm, but they’re afraid to leave the windows open to cool it off. We live on the second floor and the landlord doesn’t have screens in the windows, so they’re worried that if the windows are open, I may jump out and hurt myself. I used to sleep in their bedroom, but now I cry at their window and keep them awake so I can’t go in there at night.
What can my parents do to help me calm down and stop meowing at the windows? I’d like to sleep in their bedroom again, but I can’t until I settle down. Would getting me neutered help at all? And even if I do eventually stop meowing at the windows, will they ever be able to trust leaving them open — or will they have to try either getting the landlord to get screens or buying them themselves? I know Mommy and Daddy don’t have a lot of money to spend on my problem, but they love me very much and just want to have a calm and happy kitty again.
Siouxsie: There are a lot of cats in your situation, Shadow. Even we had an indoor-outdoor life for a few years. Thankfully, it didn’t bother us when we moved to a new home where we had to stay inside. But we think we can help you.
Thomas: First of all, your people really must have you neutered. A lot of the reason why you cry at the windows is because you’re smelling female cats in heat and you want to go make kittens. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if you were to jump out the window — even through a screen — in search of a ladycat looking for a lover!
Siouxsie: Of course, neutering will also eliminate spraying and greatly reduce the risk of fighting with other male cats if you do get outside.
Thomas: If money is an issue, there are low-cost spay/neuter clinics just about everywhere in the U.S. The ASPCA and neuterspay.org provide searchable databases of organizations that provide low-cost spay/neuter services.
Siouxsie: These lists may not be up to date, so we’d recommend that you call your local animal services or animal shelter to double-check what options are available in your area.
Thomas: It’ll take about three weeks for all the testosterone to leave your system after you’ve been neutered, so your crying and meowing behavior might continue for a while after the surgery.
Siouxsie: Mama’s shocked that your landlord hasn’t put screens in your windows. She says you should ask your landlord if he or she would be willing to do that. If not, it’s fairly easy to get screens that you can use in double-hung windows and secure by lowering the window until it hits the top of the screen. Some of those screens even have fans in them, which can help with air circulation. You should be able to find them at home supply stores or maybe large warehouse stores as well.
Thomas: Your people can help you adapt to life indoors by making sure you have plenty of fun things to do. Scratching posts and scratching pads are crucial, so that you don’t start destroying furniture if you’re bored.
Siouxsie: They can make sure you have plenty of vertical territory as well as horizontal territory. If one of your humans is handy, they could even build little shelf-stairs on the walls so you could climb up really high. Tall cat trees and cat condos are great, too, but they can be quite expensive. However, there are some great DIY cat tree instructions available on the web, including this how-to from dadand.com.
Thomas: They should play with you a lot, especially with fun interactive toys like Da Bird (one of our favorites) or a home-made “cat fishing pole” — a few rags attached to a dowel or a small but sturdy tree twig by about four feet of heavy twine.
Siouxsie: Here’s a special secret for your people: if they play with you for about 10 minutes and then feed you your evening meal, you’ll probably go to sleep pretty soon after that. It’s a natural cat activity cycle: Hunt, eat, sleep. So if they do that just before they’re ready to go to bed, you might have a quiet night together.
Thomas: PAWS has some other good tips on transitioning cats to an indoor lifestyle. Check them out here.
Siouxsie: We’re willing to bet good catnip that neutering will go a very long way toward helping you become a happy indoor kitty.
Thomas: And if your humans help you by enriching your indoor environment, then before you know it you’ll be wondering why you ever pined for the outdoors!