How to keep your indoor cat happy and healthy
If you choose to keep your cat indoors, or you need to because of a health issue, you will need to make sure your cat can exhibit their natural behaviours inside. These include:
Cats are natural predators and although in our modern world they rely on us for food, their need to do all the things that makes them cats remains ingrained. Hunting behaviours include staring, stalking, hiding, pouncing and catching. All of these activities are brilliant mental stimulation for cats, and many keep their bodies in shape too.
A selection of toys and games will help keep your cat’s brain active. Fishing rod toys are great for stalking and pouncing. Toys needn’t be expensive. Cats love boxes and will happily play inside structures made from newspaper and cardboard. Why not make them a tent, or even their own castle? Putting some treats inside a used toilet roll and getting your cat to find them is another good brain workout.
Sharpening their claws
Scratching posts give your cat something to scratch that isn’t your furniture. Scratching trees are even better for indoor cats as they have different levels for your cat to explore, and encourage climbing. Scratching also helps to strengthen your cat’s muscles. The post needs to be high enough for your cat to reach up fully. Indoor cats ideally need more than one scratching post in different locations in the home. A good place to keep them is near their bed/a favourite sleeping spot.
Climbing and resting
Climbing is brilliant physical exercise for cats and getting up high means they can find a quiet spot to watch the world go by, and relax. It’s especially important for indoor cats to have a number of safe spaces high up that they can access without the risk of falling. You could clear a top shelf, put a cosy bed or blanket on top of your wardrobes, or put up new shelves for your cat to climb. Radiator beds are ideal, particularly for cats who are getting on a bit and for whom the days of reaching a spot close to the ceiling are in the past.
Going to the toilet
Litter trays should be kept clean for all cats and in a quiet part of the home, but this is particularly important for indoor cats as they don’t have an alternative place to go. Cats can become stressed if they don’t have a clean and quiet place to go to the loo.
Puzzle feeders are a brilliant way of keeping your cat mentally stimulated. They are more complex than giving a cat their food in a simple bowl. They may be bowls with grooves or raised areas so the cat needs to use their paws or tongue to get to the food, or a ball or box with holes in. You can feed all your cat’s meals in a puzzle feeder. Feeding dry food is best for puzzle feeders that are enclosed, as these can be more difficult to clean, but wet food can be given in feeders with open tops.
Treat balls are a good idea as you can fill them with some of the normal daily food allowance and then let the cat work for its food by chasing the ball until the treats fall out – this fulfils the natural hunting instinct as well as making the cat exercise and work off some calories.
Could you let your cat outside?
There are many reasons why owners make the decision to keep their cats indoors, perhaps a previous pet was heartbreakingly killed on the road, or maybe the home is a high rise flat in a city centre and it just isn’t possible to let them out. You know your cat best and you will make your decisions based on their quality of life, but even if you can’t let your cat roam the neighbourhood, there are alternatives to consider.
Garden access: there are many fences available that claim to ensure your cat will stay in your garden (of course, this isn’t an option if you don’t have a garden). If your cat is not a master of escape, consider installing fencing that is positioned inwards into the garden to prevent cats from climbing out. Fencing that gives electric shocks causes cats harm and should not be used.
Catios: an alternative option to fencing is to install an enclosure in part of your garden or on your patio – a cat patio, or ‘catio’. These wooden and wire structures have the option of different levels for your cat to enjoy climbing and relaxing and a space of their own in your garden, while giving you peace of mind that you will always know where they are.
If your cat is unhappy living inside and you have made the decision to introduce them to your neighbourhood environment, our guide to letting your cat out for the first time will help.