Our pets are such an important part of the family and more and more cats are living the indoor life It gives me peace of mind to know that my own beautiful cat, King Leo is safe indoors and not exposed to the dangers of infectious diseases, predators or motor vehicles. Plus, he does not have the opportunity to harm precious wildlife.
Confining a cat is not cruel, cats can be very happy and content living indoors but you do need to put in a little effort to create an environment that allows them to perform their normal cat behaviours. A cat with access to outdoor areas can climb trees, chase leaves or go on safari through the garden, so it is important they have opportunities to be equally active when indoors.
Here are my top tips to creating an enriched environment for your feline friend.
Use of Space – the more space your can give your cat, the better. Sometimes it is possible to fully enclose an area like a courtyard or atrium. Some balconies can be easily modified with a screen or netting to enclose them, enabling cats to have free access in your absence.
Cats love to use ‘vertical space’ as they love to climb and they feel secure when they can perch in high places. I recommend that all indoor cats have a tall climbing tree to provide a high, safe place for them to sleep or watch the world go by- Leo loves his climbing tree and chooses to doze there during the day.
Exercise – Although cats sleep for up to 18 hours a day, it is important that cats still have an opportunity to exercise their mind and body. Just like humans, if a cat does not exercise then it will probably put on excess weight. An overweight cat is more likely to suffer from conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, cardiac disease and arthritis. Plus, cats get bored if they don’t have physical activity and as a result, they can become destructive around the house.
Allocate some time every day for dedicated play time with your cat. Ten minutes, twice a day, is a good start. Play games that encourage movement such as tossing a toy so that your cat chases it or use wand type toys that encourage chasing but will also protect your hands. Rotate your cat’s toys regularly to prevent boredom.
Provide hiding places
Cats need quiet and safe places to retreat to and to help them feel secure and happy. They love hiding and you will be surprised at some of the spots they choose – shelves, cupboards, a bed or box on top of a chest of drawers or wardrobe, inside a wardrobe, or underneath a bed. Offering some elevated spots to encourage jumping and climbing will help keep joints and muscles healthy.
Offer Pet Greens – most outdoor cats regularly nibble on grass, so bring the great outdoors indoors by providing safe potted plants to give your cat to the opportunity to engage in natural behaviour. Offering fresh pet grass and catnip that has been grown without chemicals is a much healthier and safer alternative to nibbling on house plants or flowers as many are toxic to cats. Pet grass is high in fibre and full of vitamins and minerals making it a great, fresh supplement for an indoor only cat.
Scratching post – Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats and it’s important to understand that all cats need to scratch something. Scratching is a way for them to mark their territory, it provides them with exercise and it is how they remove the outer sheath of their claws. If your cat does not have a suitable option, they will choose your furniture or carpet to scratch so must offer appropriate alternatives and then teach your cat how to use them.
Make sure the scratching post is stable so it can’t rock or tip over, has a rough surface, and is tall enough for your cat to stretch out when using it. Encourage your cat to use the scratching post by playing games on and around it.
Teach your cat to walk on a harness - it is not easy to teach an adult cat to walk on a harness but if you train from a kitten, you will usually have success. Don’t expect to be able to walk around the block but you can use it as a safe way to spend some time with your cat enjoying the outdoors.
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