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Context

My fiancée and bought a new house and moved in at the beginning of the month (just over two weeks ago now). The previous owners were leaving the country and we opted to adopt their cat; a 5 year old male, ginger, DSH. While his territory wasn't altered the change in "ownership" - as well as the general activity of people moving in and out - was obviously a little jarring for him. After a few days he seemed to be settling in nicely; he's quite affectionate and seems very comfortable with us. He is primarily an indoor cat but he does like to roam around outside for a few hours everyday (the previous owners also used to make him sleep outside however we keep him inside at night now). About 3 days ago (June 14th) he went out in the afternoon and didn't return, which was unusual. We're in contact with the previous owners and they say that he has never done anything like this before. We were extremely worried and assumed something had happened. We sent out alerts to our neighbourhood (including vets and shelters), put up fliers, walked around several times a day calling his name. This morning (June 17th) however he strolled back into the house as though nothing had happened. He has no injuries, doesn't seem to be hungry, dehydrated or distressed at all (I'm assuming he just decided to spend some time at another house?). He is microchipped (EDIT: he is also neutered) but lacks a collar (growing up, my cats never had collars primarily for fear of them getting caught on something). Since his return we have fit him with a breakaway collar with a name tag and contact number. The previous owners tried to give him a collar but apparently he hurt himself trying to remove it. While he definitely wasn't happy with us putting the collar on him he seems to have accepted it relatively quickly although I'm worried about distressing him at all.

Questions

  1. What do we do to prevent this happening again? I'm assuming this happened because he still isn't fully settled with us? If so, is it something that should get better with time?
  2. Is the collar a good idea? I've heard multiple conflicting arguments about it. What about GPS collars, are those worth the cost and are they safe/practical?
  3. I've read that you can't really turn an outdoor cat into an indoor cat but I know that my fiancée and I are going to be extremely anxious next time he leaves, in fear that he disappears again. How do we handle this? Can we teach/train/encourage him to spend more time indoors?

Any advice would be massively appreciated - Two very relieved (but now also very anxious) cat owners.

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    please relax the cat came back,it means you are accepted as the new caretakers. Jun 17, 2022 at 15:01
  • Outdoor cats can absolutely become indoor cats. My previous cat was indoor/outdoor at my parents' home (rural location so fewer human-related dangers), but easily became a full indoor cat when I moved away and took him with me. One of my current cats was a stray (therefore outdoors) and loves being an indoor-only cat now.
    – Allison C
    Jun 20, 2022 at 14:18

1 Answer 1

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Someone probably took him in thinking he was lost or a stray, but his I-like-the-outdoors habits probably allowed him to either escape or make it firmly known that he had other places to go and they finally let him out. My indoor-outdoor cat has always returned every night for the last six years... except for about 2 days she was "missing". I'm certain someone tried to confine her, and yes I was very, very worried and upset until she returned home.

  1. Whoever had the cat probably learned he lives nearby and is not homeless.

  2. In my experience collars are tolerated by cats and also easily lost. Either buy a bundle of cheap breakaways (and make sure they really are breakaways, easy to breakaway) and write your phone number in Sharpie on the inside. Anything you hang on the collar will be lost when the collar is lost... again... as will happen.

  3. In my experience, most indoor-outdoor cats are not happy being confined inside 24/7. I finally drew a line at "nightfall" when I got tired of hearing cat fight sounds outside only at night, and when a particular fox started visiting my property nightly in search of the bunny that was living under my shed. (Bunny and fox eventually 'met' and the fox quit coming, but I still keep my small cat inside after nightfall.) The cat fusses and meows to go outside at night, and I either ignore her or hiss at her (hiss is her 'no' sound). There's a kitty litter pan in the house which she can use, or she can 'hold it' until morning. The cat is fine; she just thinks she should be in charge and is insistent about going out.

You didn't mention if he was neutered or not. I presume so, since he's microchipped. But if he isn't, then roaming at night and potentially not returning for days would be normal Tom cat behavior (and neutering would help reduce that behavior).

Cats are opportunistic and will happily accept food from anyone. A cat that has lived in the neighborhood for a long time, such as this cat you mention, likely has a few friendly houses he visits for nibbles and treats. (You mentioned he didn't seem hungry when he returned.)

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  • Ah yes, I forgot to mention, he is indeed neutered. Thank you for the answer, it definitely helps give some perspective! Jun 18, 2022 at 6:12

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