Contrary to popular belief, our feline companions don't need to be let out at night in order to be happy. Many people still cling to the myth that cats need to be let outside at night to roam the neighborhood, hunt mice, harass other cats, and do everything else your typical alley cat does. Some would even go as far to say it's cruel to keep your kitty inside all the time.
Sadly, the opposite is often true. Cats allowed outside live significantly shorter lives than indoor-only cats. They catch diseases like Feline Leukemia, and are injured by wild animals, dogs, other cats, and even cars. They eat things that can be harmful. They pester your neighbors and their pets. Perhaps worst of all, they reproduce if not spayed or neutered, creating another litter of homeless kittens, many of whom could end up being euthanized by animal control.
So, you've now learned that keeping kitty inside is best for his or her health as well as for your neighbor's sanity (our neighbor's cat loved to leave presents on the hood of my mom's car when I was growing up―I'll never forget that!), but there's one problem―kitty wants OUT! You've tried simply not letting your cat out at its usual time, but it doesn't understand, so it sits at the door and meows, whines, and howls until you give in. Maybe it's too late, you might be thinking. Maybe there's no bringing this cat inside after experiencing life on the outside. Wrong again! There are plenty of ways to help your kitty and the entire family adjust.
Make sure everyone's on-board!
Sure, you might be committed to not letting him out, but is everyone else in your household? Make sure everyone knows why you've decided he needs to stay in at night.
Show him how it's gonna be from now on!
When you would usually let your cat out, step up to the door with him. Stop. Don't open it. I repeat: DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. He'll whine, cry, and throw a kitty temper-tantrum, but you must not give in. Tell him "No!", and show him who's boss. If he's really acting up, grab your cat by the scruff of his neck and gently push his head to the floor, telling him "no" in the process. This is how a mother cat disciplines her kittens. It shows that you are dominant, and that Kitty has to do what you say.
Make the inside as fun as the outside!
If your cat is bored, he's going to want out. Make sure he has plenty of toys, and spend time every evening playing with him. One of my favorite cat toys is a simple laser pointer―they go nuts chasing that little red dot.
Optional supervised outside time!
If you don't want your kitty getting cabin fever, invest in a harness and leash. It might take him awhile to get used to the feel of the harness, but once your cat is accustomed to it, you can attach a leash and take him out in your yard like you would a dog. Sure, he probably won't go jogging with you, but this gives him time to play in the grass and sniff around in a safe way. Before you take him out on a backyard adventure, though, make sure you've invested in some form of flea and tick repellant and heartworm preventive. Talk to your vet to make sure kitty is properly protected.
It's not impossible to bring your cat inside and keep him there, but it can be a challenge. Still, when you know that keeping your cat inside could nearly double his lifespan and prevent unnecessary (and expensive) trips to the vet, you will realize how important it can be that you stay firm and vigilant. Giving in and letting him out when he whines is no different than giving in to a child who wants to eat candy all day―they might seem happier at first, but when they have to go to the vet or dentist, they won't be too happy at all!