Reducing Outdoor Stressors for Indoor Cats

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Seeing the outdoors can be entertaining and engaging for an indoor cat, or it may cause stress. Stress signs may include symptoms such as not eating, not using the litter box appropriately, hiding or over grooming, hiding and aggression. If you notice these signs in your indoor cat, first seek veterinary advice to rule out any medical conditions. If your cat is healthy otherwise, outdoor cats may be the stressor causing the symptoms mentioned. Because even the sight of another cat, when not properly addressed, can evolve into serious problems, it is important to assess and tackle any change in your cat's behavior right away.

Pay attention to your cat's body language when they see an outdoor cat. Stress signs can occur in any breed, size, age, or gender, and can stem from many different types of stressors. The most common include fear, defense, territorial, redirected, status, play, pain, and discomfort. A fearful cat may exhibit dilated pupils, ears turning back, or a twitching tail. In this situation, your cat may growl or hiss when they see an outdoor cat. Your cat may appear nervous or frightened and startle easily, trying to run and hide. A more offensive aggressive cat may have their ears back, constricted pupils, and their tail may be up or down with fur standing on end.

To address aggression, work with a professional who looks at the context in which it happens. Never use punishment as a training technique. It will not work and will only hurt your relationship with your cats.

To reduce the stressors, visual access can be blocked. Manage the outdoor cat so they are not to be able to approach the home. Additionally, the indoor cat needs to options for enrichment in order to stay engaged with the indoors.

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®.

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