We have had our two cats, Maddy and Wally which were adopted from the RSPCA, for a little over six months. It took a while but now they have settled into a routine of coming inside just as the sun is setting. We do this because we have a cat curfew in our area that states that all cats must be kept indoors between sunset and sunrise.
We struggled at first, spending time most evenings trying to coax the cats inside after dark. Wally was probably the worst because he just loves being outside and really rebelled against the idea of being locked in at night. That said they have both had their moments when they seem to change from wanting to be near us to running away from us once the sun goes down. It’s like they turn feral once the sun has set and nothing we do will make them want to come in!
Most times, when they were out after dark, we had to trick them into thinking that we didn’t really care so that they would let us near them. Then there was lots of wriggling and squirming when they realised that they were being taken inside! We were a bit worried that we would have to spend the years ahead struggling to get the cats to come inside at night!
Regardless of whether there is an official cat curfew in our area we wanted to have our cats inside at night. This is because, when we had cats in the past they were allowed outside at night and would want to be let inside or outside at all times of day and night. It was frustrating having to let the cats in or out during the night! We also wanted them inside so that they (and the local wildlife) would be safe at night.
So when we adopted Wally and Maddy we were determined to make the night curfew work.
How We Enforce our Cat Curfew
I have heard people say that you can stop feeding your cat in the morning so that it is hungry by night time. We didn’t really want to starve the cats during the day so we decided to try the next best thing – which is to withhold wet food!
Our two cats just love their wet food; they come running when they know it is on offer. So we decided to only feed wet food to our cats at night. They have access to dry food during the day but they don’t get any wet food until after sunset.
It took them a while to make the connection between sunset and getting wet food but now that they have they are so easy to call inside at night. These days as soon as they see me getting the wet food out they are quick to run inside and wait patiently in the laundry. I don’t think they realize there is a cat curfew. They just think it is wet food time!
If you want this technique to work it is important to keep to a strict routine and cut out all wet food during the day. Like us, you will probably find that your cats are not too happy about it at first but they will quickly adjust and be much easier to control.
Don’t Give Up if Your Cat Still Won’t Come in at Night!
Here’s another suggestion if you are still having trouble getting your cat to come inside at night. A while after writing this post we started having some trouble getting Maddy to come inside at night. We were still withholding her wet food until night time but she kept trying to stay out longer and longer.
We decided to try another brand of wet food and that made a huge difference! Maddy absolutely loves her current wet food brand and she will happily come inside at night to get it. Actually she now knows what time of night she gets her wet food and she will come inside and wait for it.
So make sure to keep trying different brands of wet food until you get the one they can’t resist. There are so many cat food brands out there, so I’m sure that you can find one that you kitty can’t resist. Just try to make sure that it is a fairly good quality food.
Did you keep your new cats inside for a period before letting them outside during the day? I have an indoor cat and just adopted a second cat yesterday that I’d like to be indoor/outdoor. Right now he stays in our 4 car garage. I was told to wait at least a month before letting him out to make sure he is attached to his home base. Thanks!
Hi Matt, yes we were told to keep our cats inside for 2-3 weeks after we bought them home. We started letting them out after 2 weeks just for small periods of time and we made sure we kept an eye on them. We found that they were a bit scared initially so they stayed close to the house. Two weeks seemed to be long enough for them to bond with us and realise that our house was home base! I hope that helps!
Thanks! My biggest concern is that it will be difficult to get him to come in at night. I live on 4 acres, 3 of which are heavily wooded. Leaving him out at night isn’t an option given all the critters out there. I’ll do what you suggest..let him out for small amounts of time during the day. We’ll see how it goes! He’s pretty timid so I don’t think he will venture off that far anyway 🙂
One of our cats is also very timid and we struggled to get her to go outside at first! As long as your cat knows that he has somewhere safe to come back to I’m sure he will be fine.
It’s been 2 weeks since we brought our new cat home. I’ve been letting him out for small periods while watching him closely. Today I had him out and my 10 yo came running out of the house which scared the cat causing him to run into the woods. We lost site of him pretty as the woods are very dense right now. Any idea how to lure him home? I set wet food out and left the door open to the work shed where I’ve been keeping him. I’m afraid he won’t know his way back so soon. He was “homeless” before we adopted him which makes me worry he’s gotten out before and isn’t good at coming back.
Oh no, what a shame that he got a fright. I have found with our cats that it is best not to chase them if they get startled because they seem to just run further away. Maybe you could leave a light on outside if he hasn’t come back to the house before dark. Before we got our cats used to coming in at night they would sometimes hide outside until after dark. We just had to leave the back light on and keep going outside and calling them every now and again and they eventually came home. You could also try doing something outside that the cat can hear but doesn’t sound like you are looking for him. This worked for me once. I turned the lights on in the shed and had the door open, I started hammering and making general working noises with the radio on and our cat just walked into the shed to see what I was doing. I hope that you get your cat back safely!
Great news! After searching for 24 hours, I found him about 20 feet up in a tree hiding deep in the woods behind our house. A neighbors dog often gets loose and must have chased him up the tree. I heard a lot of barking shortly after he left but assumed the kitty ran away…not up! I think our outdoor kitty may have become an indoor one… Thanks for all your help!
Wow that is wonderful news Matt, I was wondering how you were getting on! Our cats are petrified of the neighbours dog as well, I think that helps to keep them in our yard most of the time! We have bought a cat enclosure since I first wrote this post and we put our cats in the enclosure when we are not home to keep an eye on them. An enclosure attached to the house might be an option for you if you want to let your kitty spend some time outside. Ours have a pet door into the bathroom and they love that they are allowed to sleep outside in the enclosure in the summer time! All the best Matt!
We have always had the night curfew for our cats
We don’t feed them their evening meal till they are locked in at dusk
That’s all they have ever known
We lock the cat door at night
At dawn we get up and let them out
They are free to come and go all day but are locked inside when it’s dark
They are quite happy with the situation and enjoy their evening meal and play inside till they burn off excess energy then curl up in a favorite spot
They have access to food and water all day
They sleep in their own room with sleeping baskets water and an emergency litter tray they use once in a blue moon
Yes Natasha I think that it is routine that helps the cats get used to coming in at night. We have had our rescue cats for just over 2 years and they are used to coming in at night now. They love their wet food so having that inside at dusk gets them to come in quite easily. Our cats can come in and out all day too. They seem to be happy to have outside time during the day and inside time at night! Thanks for commenting!