SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Ask a behaviourist
How can I keep my cat happy when inside at night?

I read that it is safest to keep cats inside at night, and I’d like to keep my kitten Moby in. But every time I try he gets really upset and keeps us up all night scratching and yowling at the door. Do you have any tips for me?

You’re right – I encourage keeping your cat indoors at night for their safety. There’s less chance of Moby fighting, roaming far distances and keeps him safe from the road.

The good news is that you’re starting this routine with Moby while he’s young. It can be much harder to change the habits of a senior cat who is used to going outside whenever he likes.

The first thing to do is ensure you have an appropriate cat door that you can lock at night. One that allows you to adjust the locks so Moby can come in, but not out again, is best.

The next step is to increase his activity pattern and give him a small meal at night to reward Moby for being inside. I suggest keeping him active during the day, so he sleeps at night. You could do this by playing with him and giving him enrichment activities in the morning and then again as soon as you get home from work.

Most importantly, don’t respond to Moby’s scratching or yowling. If you reward this behaviour by letting him outside, it will be even harder to keep him inside! You could keep Moby on another side of the house with puzzle feeders to keep him occupied. Or try a timed feeder that opens and releases food when Moby is usually active during the night (or very early morning!).

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