5 Easy Tips For Indoor Cat Happiness
Written especially for Paws-Here by Allison Cruise, blogger on AllisonUnbridled.com
Good friend and all round expert on indoor cats!
Is your cat an indoor or an outdoor cat? This is one of the major decisions facing new cat owners.
For the most part, if you’ve owned a cat before you already know which camp you’re in. It can be a highly contentious issue, but there are pros and cons to both choices. The decision is entirely up to you and what feels best for you and your pet. We’ve got the tips for indoor cat happiness to hand.
Key considerations include where you live (are you in the countryside? on a busy road?), breed type (some breeds are hardier than others), and the desired relationship with your cat –– which may or may not end up being what you bargained for!
Although the choice is a personal one, there are some important things you should consider when opting to have an indoors cat. By missing out on any of these essential points, you could end up with a cat that potentially becomes bored, frustrated, who acts out, or exhibits stress related and behavioural issues. This is not the ideal type of relationship you want in an animal companion! But help is at hand to avoid these pitfalls.
A STIMULATING ENVIRONMENT
Cats are predators by nature and the impulse to hunt and prowl around their territory goes hand in hand, (or paw in paw). An indoor cat has a limitation to their exploration of their territory, namely, your home. If your home is an unchanging environment, with little new fare for your cat to discover or explore, it becomes stagnant.
Ideally, make use of empty cardboard boxes, newspapers or things that are crinkly and make noise when batted or stepped on. Toilet and kitchen roll cardboard inners can also be entertaining, and better they chew these things than your furniture!
Ensure you have some safe climbing spaces whether that’s in the form of a cat tree, a scratching post with a plinth on top, or easy access to secure window ledges for basking in the sun and bird watching. Cats like to be up high to survey their domains, and it’s an instinct for them to seek heights for security. Refrigerator tops are also popular! If you need to leave a chair nearby for them to access high spots then do so if you can when possible.
Toys like kickers and balls that can’t be chewed up and eaten are also ideal to have lying around for them to stalk when they wish. Hiding cat treats can stimulate their sense of smell and encourage exploring (Check out our snuffle mats!). It’s important to remember not all cat toys should be left unsupervised so ensure you have mix of toys safe to leave out, and those that are very much a part of your interactive playtime.
Cat wheels are also amazing if you have the space for one, that’s a workout many active cats love to use, just like a hamster!
It’s important to think like your cat, and ask yourself if you were home all day (something more of us can relate to now more than ever) would you be bored seeing the same old all the time? Or would something as simple as a newspaper ball in a box with a cutout be something to discover and entertain them? Cats do sleep a huge percentage of their day, but when they are awake we need to ensure they get some variety in their life.
I cannot stress enough how important interactive play is, not just for your cat, but for you and your bonding. The process nature intended for wild felines was a ‘hunt/eat/sleep’ cycle. If you’ve ever had sleepless nights due to an overactive nocturnal kitty, chances are you haven’t been exhausting their energy reserves in a way that would benefit you both.
By using fishing rod style toys and a variety of attachments (many or which are made of real hides and fur that are byproducts of natural culls etc.) you can bring out your inner wildcat from your house cat! These toys should NEVER be left unattended as your cat may well eat the attachment, such is the frenzy these toys cans inspire. You would be amazed at how athletic your cat is leaping and flying through the air chasing the wand.
Laser pointers, automated toys, plain old fabric belts with a knot at one end, catnip infused mice –– the list is endless. But do ensure you make time for at least 15-20 minutes of play with your cat each day in the evening, before you feed them. They will then feel like they have ‘killed’ their prey, will eat with gusto, and not long after be rather tuckered out.
If you can encourage play in the morning also if you have the time, even better. The more time you can allocate to enriching your cat’s day, the better for everyone.
HARNESS THE OUTDOORS!
Depending on your climate or the time of year, I think it’s essential to get your cat accustomed to a harness with a lead so your cat can enjoy the outdoors. Not only is it great if you can walk them in your garden (more likely, you’ll follow them) but it is useful for trips to the vet to keep them secure. Note a harness, not a collar. If you do try to let your cat explore in your garden on a lead, I would not recommend a collar, cats can easily wiggle out of those, and a harness is far more secure if they get spooked and try to run for the hills against your lead.
Short walks outside when the weather permits allows your cat to experience the sights and sounds of the great outdoors, and this too is excellent stimulation for you pet. Just be prepared for the first bird or squirrel sighing!
If you have the opportunity, another great addition for indoor cats is access to a cat run or catio enclosure. These can be made relatively easily, and another option can also be for windows with a window box.
SECURITY AND SAFE SPACES
It’s imperative that your cat has it’s own safe spaces and secure spots in the home. They should have some dedicated turf on your square footage they can call their own. Cat beds are essential, a consistent feeding area, and a desirable location for their litter box.
A point to note: never place their water bowl near their food bowl, cats are biologically programmed not to drink water which is near their food or near their toileting area. This is thought to be their instinctive avoidance of contaminating their water with potential sources of bacteria, which is a very good instinct!
If you have a multi-cat indoor household, and understanding of these needs is even more imperative as each cat will want it’s own turf. You definitely need more than one litter box if you have more than one cat in the home. Allow them to have their own feeding areas as it can otherwise lead to bullying by one to eat more of the others food and/or intimidation by your dominant cat, and there is always a dominant cat in the house!
ROUTINE IS IMPORTANT
It’s vital that your create and ideally stick to a routine with your cat. Cats don’t need an alarm clock, they are a virtual alarm clock in our house! They know exactly when feeding time is, they know your work schedule and often sleep around that, and they know your bedtime. If you can stick to a schedule for feeding and play, they know what to expect and when and this can be another source of security for your indoor cat.
It’s vital to do regular grooming so you can check them over physically. Routine will also help identify is something is wrong with your cat. Cats are notorious for hiding illness and being unwell or injured. I know if at 5am my cats aren’t howling for food something is off! If they aren’t interested in play when they are normally ready to pounce, again that may highlight that something isn’t quite right so routine can help you monitor their health and wellbeing.
Whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat, we hope these tips to ‘indoor’ cat happiness has helped you think about what you are providing for your cat in your home. As guardians of our felines, it’s important to remember their wild predecessors, how we can adopt some of those little nuances into their everyday life.
Because there’s still a little wildcat in all of our domestic fur balls, and we just need to help them let it out in a positive way.