How to Stop a Cat From Running Outside: Top 4 Expert Tips

Key takeaways

When you own an indoor cat, their constant escape attempts can be frustrating and stressful.

Indoor cats often haven't developed the street smarts to navigate the outside world, meaning they can put themselves in danger if they go exploring.

In this article, we're exploring why cats run away, whether it's cruel to keep them indoors, the top 4 ways to prevent them from running outside, and how to keep them safe.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. Why do cats try to run away?
  3. 4 Ways to stop a cat from running outside
  4. How to keep your cat safe
  5. FAQs
  6. Final thoughts

Why do cats try to run away?

We may question our cat's escape attempts and begin to worry that they aren't happy in the house. While this could be a potential indication of stress, it's much more likely that your kitty is just a little curious.
If you have kept your cat indoors their whole life, they will inevitably want to see what the great outdoors can offer them. And if they don't have regular access to the outdoors, then their only option will be to escape through the front door when people come and go.
Some common reasons for your kitty trying to run away from the door include:

A scent has intrigued them

They are in heat

They are scared

They are curious

A cat exploring the outdoors

Is it cruel to keep cats indoors?

When we see our cats so desperate to escape, we may start to think that they aren't happy indoors. Preventing our cats from exploring the outdoors can sometimes feel cruel, but is it?
Well, the answer is that it depends on the situation. If your cat has previously had access to the outside, then keeping them strictly indoors may cause them some stress. However, if you live in a busy city, then the safest and most responsible thing to do is to keep them inside. This will protect them from:


Traffic incidents

Getting lost

Being vulnerable to predators

It also depends on your house. If you have a small apartment with little space, then your cat may lack the mental and physical stimulation they need to be happy and would benefit from having access to the outdoors.
If you choose to keep your cat inside, make sure they get enough mental and physical stimulation. Try investing in:

Cat shelves

A cat tree

A cat bed

A litter box

Scratching posts

If you have a small apartment with little space, then your cat may lack the mental and physical stimulation they need to be happy and would benefit from having access to the outdoors.

A cat sleeping by a window

4 Ways to stop a cat from running outside

Our kitties are incredibly agile and fast, so it can feel impossible to stop them from running out the front door, especially if you have a particularly sneaky escape artist kitty. But don't fret. There are some tried and tested ways for cat owners to take control!

1. Allow them access to the outdoors

We understand this may not be possible for every situation, but allowing them access to the outdoors can prevent them from running away. This will encourage them to develop street smarts and create a territory they feel safe in around the house.
To help do this safely, you can install a cat door or cat flap so they can come and go as they please. This will curb their curiosity and improve their behavior.
A cat looking out of an open window

2. Train them

Many people don't believe that cats can be trained. However, these intelligent fluff balls can learn commands and tricks, just like their canine counterparts. So, if your indoor cat is constantly trying to escape, teach them a new command to prevent this from happening.
Positive reinforcement for your cat's behavior is essential. By teaching a command like 'stay,' you'll be able to get control over the situation. Practice this command in your home and reward your kitty with a treat every time they stay still.
You can then practice this as you come through a bedroom door so your furry friend becomes accustomed to the action in a safe environment.
A cat owner learning about training on their phone

3. Distract them

Distracting your cat as the door opens can be a good option. You can distract them with:

A toy: A toy they can chase, like a wind-up mouse or laser pointer, can make a great distraction. Simply keep the toy near the door so you can reach for it as soon as your cat tries to escape. As their hunting instincts kick in, they'll soon forget about the outside world.

Treats: Shaking a treat bag will likely be very effective for our hungry kitties. This multisensory stimulation of the sound of the bag and the sight of it will mean your cat will stay close by in the hopes of a tasty treat.

Call their name: Calling their name and calling 'treats!' or 'Dinner' will have a similar effect. You can be sure your little fluffball is staying close by if they hear a potential promise of food!

Top Tip: If there's a specific toy your cat loves, then having this on hand can help, too!
Two people coming in through a front door and a cat standing in their way

4. Create a barrier

The most effective method is to create a barrier. This can act as a pet door before the actual open door. This will keep the doorway area safe and clear so you can come in without worrying and take your time.
A baby gate can also be very helpful. While you are out of the house, you can confine your furry friend to one room or area by installing a baby gate. This kind of pet-proofing barrier will stop your kitty from bolting to the front door whenever they get the chance.
Alternatively, keeping your cat in a cat enclosure when you're out and about will make it impossible for them to misbehave when you're out or as you come home. However, we'd only ever recommend this for very short periods of time. Prolonged time in an enclosure will cause stress and anxiety and could make the behavior worse.
A cat confined to a bedroom

How to keep your cat safe

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can't stop our cats from escaping. They have a mind of their own and are very intelligent, so don't beat yourself up! Instead, take precautions to make sure they stay safe even if they do escape.

Get your cat microchipped

Getting your kitty microchipped is an important element of being a responsible cat owner. Even if you own indoor cats, microchipping is essential. This is because it will help keep your pet accountable.
If they do escape and get lost, when they are found and handed into a shelter, they'll be able to contact you straight away after scanning the chip. This increases your chances of being reunited and will prevent them from being treated like a stray.
A cat being microchipped by a vet

Use a GPS tracker

Believe it or not, GPS trackers for pets now exist. They can be a great option if you're worried about keeping outdoor cats but feel like it's the right thing to do. These simply clip onto your cat's collar. They come with an app so you can see where your cat is in real time.
This puts many cat owners' minds at rest and may make you feel more comfortable to let your cat explore the great outdoors.
Outdoor cat exploring a garden

Make your cat wear a collar

Another important measure to take is to ensure your cat wears a collar at all times. This will indicate that they are a pet, so they won't be taken. You can also add your contact details on the collar to make sure you are contactable if someone finds your little kitty far from home.
Top Tip: If you're worried about your cat hunting other wild animals like birds and mice, then add a little bell on their collar to prevent this from happening!
Outdoor cat sleeping in garden


Why does my inside cat keep running outside?

Your inside cat may keep running outside if they aren't getting the mental and physical stimulation they need inside the home. It may also be simply curiosity.

Can you train a cat not to go outside?

Yes, you can train a cat not to go outside using positive reinforcement. Use certain commands or sounds and reward good behavior with treats.

How do I make sure my outdoor cat doesn't run away?

You can make sure your outdoor cat doesn't run away by ensuring they are used to their surroundings before you let them out. Make sure they are microchipped and are wearing a collar.

How can I get my cat to stop running outside?

You can stop your cat from running outside by distracting them, training them, or using a barrier so they can't access the door.

How do you train a cat to stay indoors?

You can train a cat to stay indoors by using positive reinforcement when they respond to a command. This could be 'stay' or 'stop', as you lead them away from the door.

What happens if my cat runs outside?

If your cat runs outside and they are usually an indoor only cat, they'll normally find a safe place to wait and hide.

Final thoughts

While male cats and female cats can both have a strong desire to escape to the outdoors, male cats are more likely to want to roam. Neutering your cats will help suppress the urge to escape. A female cat in heat will do anything they can to run away and find a good mate!
We all like a bit of fresh air, but it's not always the best option for our cat's safety. We hope these tips will help you gain some control over the situation!

Written by

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Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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