How To Stop Your Young Cat From Running Away

Lessen your cat's desire to escape with plenty of indoor playtime and personal space.

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Cat looking outside
Keep your cat happy and safe inside your home. narapornm/istock/Thinkstock
Joanne McGonagle

Our cats Annie and Eddie are now adolescents. They are full of energy and entertaining to watch, and they bring so much joy and love into our home. They have grown out of the timid kitten stage — to be honest, I’m not sure Annie went through it, but Eddie sure did. Now both cats are confident and happy.

In order to keep them that way in the great indoors, we provide them with an enriched environment as well as opportunities to spend some quality time alone. We also added security measures to certain areas of our home. Here’s how you can do the same for your cats, reducing their desire and ability to run away:

1. Encourage Them To Play Indoors

We make sure both have cat toys that entice them to engage in natural behaviors. Hunting, stalking and pouncing are all part of a cat’s natural play. Eddie will entertain himself for hours with a wand toy we attached to the door frame, which allows him to play without us. Eddie also loves small furry toys, and his favorite is a little stuffed lion he carries around and protects every day.

Annie prefers to hide and seek, and we play with her every day. She is such a delight to interact with, from her little wiggly behind as she prepares to pounce to her big eyes as she sneaks around the corner. Annie and Eddie also play tag at night. We love to hear their little paws scampering down the stairs, and back up, skidding around corners until they finally settle down to sleep.

2. Set Spaces Where Your Cats Can Be Alone

We also help them feel at ease by creating alone spaces. Even though Annie and Eddie bonded in their cage at the humane society, just like us, cats have a need for their own space and time alone. Territorial needs are hard-wired, and though territories will overlap in the outdoors, cats use their pheromones as social signals to let others know they are time-sharing the area. These signals let the other cats know approximately where and when the cat was last in the area and might even let the cats know when they may return.

We dedicate several places throughout the house for the cats to perch alone. We cleared off a desk and a dresser to provide them separate high spaces for seeking refuge. We also added a couple of cave-style beds for the cats to snuggle inside.

Cat trees with individual perches allow for alone time.Sirintra_Pumsopa/iStock/Thinkstock

We added two more litter boxes to allow each cat to have privacy and avoid feeling trapped when nature calls. We provide three different dining locations for the cats, even though most of the time they eat meals together.

Annie and Eddie love to spend time on the cat tower in the sunroom, as well. We have several bird feeders and a squirrel feeder placed strategically outside the windows for maximum viewing. All of our cats can bird-watch without being on top of each other.

3. Increase Security

Because Annie gets a bit excited when bird-watching, we secured the sunroom windows with C-clamps to keep them from opening wide enough for her to slip out. All of our windows have screens, too, but won’t take the chance she could bust through one.

We use the side garage door to enter and exit our home 95 percent of the time, and began using a “double-gate barrier” system on that door. We will not open the side door to our home until the garage doors are completely down so that if the cats were to slip out, they would still be contained in the safety of our garage.

4. Train Your Cats To Enter A Humane Trap

If after doing all of the above your cat still exhibits runaway behavior, consider training him to enter a humane trap. You can do this by placing food inside the trap and propping the door open so the trip mechanism will not close when your cat steps on the trigger plate. By placing food inside the trap, a cat will associate it with food and safety. If your cat should slip out, he will be more likely to enter the trap and you will be able to bring him back inside. Your cat should wear a collar with contact information and be micro-chipped to help make returning him easier. Spaying and neutering your cat will also help deter a desire to run.

5. Keep Training And Interactions Positive

It is important not to punish your cats by yelling, swatting or scaring him. Cats when frightened go into total defensive mode and will seek out a hiding space where they might remain for a long time. Your cat most likely won’t even meow or come to you when called if he is afraid. This defensive mode is hardwired into cats as protection from predators. People assume cats don’t care or like them when they won’t come when called, but this is absolutely not true. Your cat is doing what he instinctively knows to do: hide in silence until there is no perceived threat.

For this reason, calm and reassuring training is the best solution for your cat. Providing an enriched environment with private spaces, food and love will go a long way to deter your young cat from ever wanting to run.

Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Cats