Will my senior cat cope with becoming an indoor cat?


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Are you worried about your cat being outside as he gets older, but nervous about the prospect of making him an indoor cat so late in life? Our expert shares her advice.

Q) I am concerned about my cat. A few new cats have moved into our area and our cat has already had an altercation. My cat was kind of growling at another cat who was on the boundary of our garden. Fortunately, the other cat relented and headed off. My cat Bobby is getting on a bit now too as he’s 11.

Previously, I have not shut the cat flap at night and Bobby can come and go as he pleases. Now, I do shut the cat flap at night. He seemed to be OK with that, but I am nervous about the prospect of making him an indoor cat so late in life. Is there any advice you can offer? - Michelle Ward


When new cats move into an area it can be a very difficult time for all felines. The cats already living there will be unsettled by the new threat and may want to spend more time outside defending their territory, while the new feline residents may be working equally hard to take it over! It can be a cat-eat-cat world out there. 

The good news is that Bobby seems willing and still able to defend his territory and it’s important that he be allowed to continue to do this, should he want to. Closing the cat flap at night means he’s unable to patrol his territory and see off any feline intruders at a time when cats are naturally at their most active.

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Take your senior cat for an annual health check to keep on top of any potential health problems.

However, it’s easy to see why owners worry about their cats during the hours of darkness when we’re generally not around to see what’s going on, nor be able to intervene. And this concern becomes even more prevalent when cats are getting on in years. I’ve found myself in the same position with my 14-year-old cat Billy, a very small and skinny Siamese. About a year ago, our neighbours acquired two ginger kittens who are now big and strong, with a reputation for bullying other cats in the neighbourhood. I had to have a long, hard think about whether what I wanted for Billy (to keep him in at night) was just me projecting human emotions on to a cat when what Billy wanted may have been completely different. I ended up deciding to keep the cat flap unlocked 24/7 and let him choose, and this is what I’d suggest for Bobby.

That being said, I would make sure that your cat flap is a microchip version so that only Bobby can come and go through it. It might also be a good idea to have your vet give Bobby a senior cat check. That way, you’ll be in a better position to make decisions about Bobby’s lifestyle based on his health.

At age 11, Bobby is now classed as a senior cat but there will come a time in his super-senior years (age 15 upwards) when he may feel less safe outdoors. At that time, you might want to consider covering or removing the cat flap and escorting him on his trips into the garden.