Outdoor cat

Bringing a Wild Cat Indoors – A cat tale

This is a story about bringing a wild cat indoors. This is the story of Gus, a cat who was wild in a previous life.

Gus’s story starts in a neighborhood in Colorado Springs, CO. He is a young, intact male who wanders around hunting, fighting with other cats, and seeking mates. He is what we call a “community” cat – an outdoor, free-roaming cat who does not have a guardian.  He hunts mice and rabbits but also will eat food that some of the neighbors leave out for community cats.

Gus’s Timeline

  • Early March 2019: Gus is trapped with a live trap
  • March 5, 2019: Gus is neutered. He has a weak positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and needs to have an indoor home.
  • March 25, 2019: Gus starts taking fluoxetine, for anxiety and aggression due to anxiety.
  • Clicker and leash training begin in early June, 2019.
  • Gus is adopted on August 2, 2019. Owner continues clicker training and outdoor walks.
  • Gus is weaned off fluoxetine by late November, 2019.

Gus’s Caretaker at the vet clinic says…

“At first he was absolutely untouchable. I couldn’t enter his room without using a flattened cardboard carrier as a shield to protect my legs from his vicious attacks. As I moved through the doorway, Gus would try his hardest to escape by lunging, striking, and biting at me. Once I was inside, he would rapidly alternate between seeking affection and getting over stimulated. He would often rub up against my leg, become overwhelmed at the sensation, and then hiss, yowl or bite me in response.”


Medication and Behavior Modification

At first, fluoxetine just makes Gus sleepy and dopey.

Cat on behavior med

In a few weeks, he is allowed to roam freely around the veterinary clinic.  He is exposed to people coming in and out of the vet clinic.

Gus takes well to clicker training.  He begins to enjoy lunchtime walks several times a week.

Cat with Harness outdoors

Gus Today…

Gus is a member of a 4 cat household. He has been weaned off fluoxetine – his final dose was in late October, 2019. He is a little grumpier now that he is off fluoxetine. However, he is not aggressive toward his owners and visitors to the house.  He goes for once to twice daily walks on a harness with or without a leash.

Gus is different from his three house raised feline roommates – he does not sleep on the bed; he does not greet his owners with a face rub; he does not sit with his owners but prefers to nap in a back room.

Bringing a wild cat indoors is not always successful. What went right for Gus?



  1. Gus tolerated the behavior drug well. It reduced his fear and anxiety and made accepting his new surroundings easier. He got used to a variety of people at the vet clinic.
  2. Clicker training gave him a way of knowing what people would do. Leash training helped him grow accustomed to indoor life with some exposure to the outdoors he grew up in.
  3. Finally, Gus was a still a young cat when trapped. This gave him flexibility (social learning in cats continues up to 3-4 years of age). He also has a practical and unflappable nature which helps him with new experiences.


I got my first cat when I was 8 yrs old. Marty was a Siamese kitten that came from a litter owned by one of my father’s co-workers. Marty was an indoor-outdoor cat. We did keep up on his vaccines at his yearly veterinary appointment. There were cat fights and he went to the vet frequently to be patched up. My sister got a female Siamese cat and Marty mated with Mischi and a number of cats resulted from this pairing. Marty was neutered when he was 7 years old.

I took him to college with very little thought as to how the outdoor cat would adapt to being the indoor-only cat; he did all right although my college roommates were not taken with his scruffy, tomcat appearance. I adopted two of Marty’s grand kittens with little thought as to whether all the cats would get along. Luckily, the old cat and the two younger male cats (they were neutered) got along famously. Marty lived to be 15 years old.

Changes in Cat Care – Things Are Different Today

  • In America, many pet cats are indoor cats now. In Europe, the cat flap is still a thing and cats tend to have more outdoor access.
  • Medical care for your cat has advanced – dental care and treatment for kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are more common now.
  • The dietary needs of cats are much better understood now. Not only are there commercial diets formulated to meet basic nutritional needs, there are also diets for treatment of medical conditions.
  • There are not many studies on the longevity of domestic cats but the general consensus is that the indoor cat lives longer than the outdoor cat, being protected from hazards such as cars and disease.

The Indoor-Only Cat



  1. The indoor-only cat has less risk of diseases spread through interactions with other cats, such as Feline Leukemia, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
  2. The indoor-only cat has less exposure to parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, ticks, and heartworms.
  3. The indoor-only cat has little risk of a road traffic accident as long as she does not escape outdoors.
  4. Potentially stressful and injurious interactions with neighboring cats are reduced for the indoor cat – but…indoor cats in multi-cat households can get into fights.
  5. Living indoors reduces the risk of your cat being attacked by larger animals such as dogs and coyotes.
  6. Keeping cats indoors can protect wildlife species that are potentially prey for the domestic cat.


  1. Indoor cats are have a greater incidence of obesity and associated risk of diabetes. Your cat, designed to be a hunter, can become bored from lack of activity, and soothe himself by eating.
  2. An indoor only cat has less opportunities to engage in predatory behavior than the outdoor cat. Cat guardians must provide these opportunities through interactive and object play.
  3. Urine spraying, scratching and facial rubbing are normal behaviors for a cat.  Cat guardians need to provide outlets for these behaviors with scratching posts and areas for facial rubbing and be prepared to address house-soiling behaviors.
  4. Outdoors, a cat has control over its actions; the indoor cat can become frustrated since she is confined.
  5. Indoor cats in multi-cat households may not always get along.  Access to the outdoors increases the size of the home territory and allows cats to “space” themselves.

Making the Life of the Indoor-only Cat Fun


  • Play with your indoor-only cat every day.  Laser pointers and wand toys can simulate hunting.  Make sure that your cat has a successful hunt by getting a treat at the end or being able to have the toy itself at the end of play.
  • Keep your kitty on the prowl by feeding multiple small meals a day. Use food puzzles if you like or move feeding stations around.
  • Be sure to provide elevated places for your cat if she is a climber or boxes and play tunnels if he tends to stay low.





The Compromise

  • Your cat may enjoy supervised walks in the backyard on a leash. If you venture further, have your cat trained to a backpack or stroller for safety.


  • A catio can allow your cat fresh air and sunshine in a safe place.
Breakway Cat Toy
This cat toy can be “captured” by kitty. It is attached with velcro.
Feeder with Food Puzzles
Food puzzles are tucked into this automatic feeder. It can be moved to different places making kitty hunt for it.
Cat on Leash
This cat is enjoying a stroll on a leash.

My Cat Household Today

My current household has 4 cats. My two older cats, are 14 and 16 years old and have access to an outdoor yard if someone is home. The younger cats are 4 and 5 years old – their access to the outdoors is by once to twice daily supervised walks.  All cats have access to a small catio in the backyard and another on the second story porch.





Cat Accepts pet piller



The easiest way to avoid the drama of giving your cat pills is to train your cat to accept medication. Establishing a daily “treat time” can be fun and rewarding for your cat. The idea here is to get your cat accustomed to accepting “fake pills” – treats that are wrapped in pill pockets, cheese, or liverwurst. When your cat needs medication, she is already used to accepting treat-wrapped things.

Getting Ready

  • choose the place and the time – try to go to the same place every day around the same time.
  • cats don’t tell time, so pay attention the household routine – maybe treat time should be after dinner time or before bed time.
  • Have everything ready when giving the “pill”. Have a chair or stool nearby to park treats and “prepared” pills on.  If you are giving a capsule, have some butter to lubricate the capsule.
You may want to train your cat to a particular mat or blanket that is used just for treat time!

Method 1 – Starting from Scratch

  • Lure your cat onto the mat or blanket using treats or a toy.
  • Once on the mat, reward with several treats and head rubs.
  • Work up to having your cat accept a “blank” pill in the stream of treats.
  • The next step is make a “fake” pill – break a treat into small pieces. Wrap one of these pieces in the pill treat, cheese, or liverwurst.
  • Put the doctored treat in the stream of the treats.

   Method 2 – Using Previously Trained Behaviors




If you have trained your cat to target and sit, it is easier to train your cat to accept medication.

  • Using your target stick (or chopstick or laser pointer), direct your cat to the “pilling” spot and reward her with a treat.
  • Ask your cat to sit and again offer a treat.
  • Offer your cat the “blank” pill followed by a treat
  • Work up to offering the fake pill.
  • End session with the all done signal and another treat.

Method 3 – Train Your cat to Accept Medication Using a Pet Piller

I find the piller particularly useful when you are faced with giving a capsule.

  • Start by offering a treat on the piller – you can start with having your cat lick some baby food or pureed treat off the piller.  This will get him used to having the piller in and around his mouth.
  • Offer hard treats using the piller; work up to using the plunger to put the treat in your cat’s mouth.
  • Accustom your cat to getting the treats off the piller with you behind him.
  • Give a stream of treats with the “fake” pill in it.
  • End the session with a reward and the all done signal.

Something to consider: If the medication you need to give is bitter, putting it in a capsule lubricated with some butter or petroleum jelly avoids risking your cat biting into a bitter pill.

It is a good idea to have your cat get used to you being behind him when offering the treat on the piller. This gives you more control when offering the pill and kitty will be more focused on the treat than on you giving the pill.


Where the Pills goes


Giving your cat a pill is not difficult if she will readily eat the pill in a treat. However, she may refuse to eat her medication in a treat if the medication is bitter or she does not feel well. Regardless, she needs her medication.

Other Techniques for Giving Your Cat a Pill

What about giving the tablet or contents of a capsule in his favorite food?


  • Not very stressful for your cat
  • Some medications, for example, the antibiotic doxycycline, are associated with inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus when given directly
  • It is often recommended to open the doxycycline capsule and mix the powder in tuna fish (or other strongly flavored food)


  • Many pills are bitter and may result in your cat refusing to eat his food
  • If you mix the crushed pill in his food, he may not get the full dose if he does not eat the entire portion
  • If your cat is on a restricted diet for, say, food allergies, avoid putting crushed pills in his food – you don’t want him to develop an aversion to the one kind of food he can eat
  • If you need to give medication in food, choose a different food than the one your cat usually eats.
  • Limit the amount of this “doctored” food to about a teaspoon, so that you can be sure your cat gets his full dose of medication

  • Make sure your cat is hungry when he is offered the medication in food – you may need to pick food up several hours before giving medication.

Giving Your Cat a Pill “by Hand”

Often, you will get a demonstration of how to pill your cat at your vet. The accepted technique is to hold your cat’s head like a baseball with your non-dominant hand, tilt his head back, gently open the lower jaw with your third finger, then pop the pill in as far back in the throat as possible with your index finger. Often, the vet team will recommend “massaging” your cat’s throat to help him swallow the pill.  IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO FOLLOW THE PILL WITH SOME FOOD, WATER OR TUNA JUICE.

This technique takes practice to master and a wily cat can still manage to gag and spit the pill back up! At the veterinary hospital giving a pill may seem to go smoothly – Please remember, the veterinary team pills cats frequently AND your cat is not in the comfort of his home.

Using a towel wrap when pilling

Does your cat like to snuggle? She may appreciate a towel wrap or a ThunderShirt when being medicated to make her feel more secure.  A towel wrap is also helpful if your cat paws at your hands when you are giving the pill.

Test your cat’s acceptance to these when NOT giving a pill. Your cat may struggle initially with towels or pressure wraps but should calm and STOP struggling. Count slowly to 5 – if she is still struggling at that time, these are not for her.

Giving Your Cat a Pill using a “Pet Piller”

A Pet Piller to give medication

Another technique to aid in giving oral medication to your cat is using a pill gun. A pill gun is a plastic tube with a plunger. The tip should be soft so that it does not cause any trauma to the throat when pilling.

Introduce your cat to the pill gun by letting her examine it and lick some baby food or other treat off the end. If she likes hard treats, see if she will take a treat from the pill gun.

  1. Lubricate the tablet or capsule with petroleum jelly or butter.
  2. Load the lubricated tablet into the pill gun.
  3. Have some snacks ready for rewarding your cat after the pill is given.
  4. Kneel down on the floor and gently snug your cat between your legs – this will keep him from backing up, away from the pill gun
  5. Hold kitty’s head gently and
    gently guide the piller into the side of Kitty’s mouth.
  6. Depress the plunger to release the pill.
  7. REWARD!

Contercondition Pet Piller

Offer Treats with the Pet Piller

Guiding the Piller into Kittys mouthGuide the Piller into the side of Kitty’s mouth


Pilling a Cat with Pet Piller

Work the Piller toward the back of the mouth and depress the plunger


Giving My Cat a Pill is Impossible!

If you are running into difficulties…Take a break and come back to giving the pill in 15 minutes or so.
Are there other treats you have not tried – “lickable treats” in tubes? Chicken baby food? Catnip or playtime?
Talk to your veterinary team – are there other forms of the medication?  Some medications are effective as transdermal gels that can be applied to the inside of your cat’s ear; other medications can compounded into flavored tablets or liquids or given by subcutaneous injection.

Make giving the pill a positive experience – have something good happen!