How to Keep Your Indoor Cat Happy

Is it true that indoor cat health is better than outdoor cat health?

Cat watching cat
Cat watching cat.
Yes in most cases. Indoor cats are at lower risk for injuries associated with the outdoors (cars, trains, dogs, predators, humans, etc.) and for contracting parasites and infectious diseases. Urban cats that go outdoors often have far shorter life spans (averaging 2 years or less), while most indoor cats live over 15 years. Keeping cats indoors also prevents killing of wildlife, fouling of neighborhood yards, and fighting with other cats.

How can I keep my indoor cat happy?

Besides making sure you’ve taken care of your cat’s needs for food, water, elimination, and warmth, create a daily routine that satisfies your cat's need to hunt, play, and explore, plus retreat, hide and feel in control by following the tips below.

Why does the indoor cat need to hunt?

A cat’s desire to hunt is a naturally reaction to sights and sounds of “prey” of any kind. Therefore, play is essential for indoor cats. Try toys that mimic real prey in terms of size, texture and color so your cat can play "chase the bird, mouse or bug.” Give your cat at least three daily play sessions with different toys. Don’t let your cat play with “human prey,” such as hands and feet under the covers.

How do I ensure that my cat has enough to occupy its time?

A cat chews on a predatory toy.
A cat chews on a predatory toy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You can keep your indoor cat happy with a variety of toys and games for climbing, hiding and chasing. Cats need to climb and explore. Provide “cat aerobic centers” that offer climbing, hiding and playing opportunities. Scratching posts are also essential, since there’s no opportunity for your cat to condition its claws outdoors. Make sure the post is tall enough to allow your cat to get a good stretching position along the scratching surface.

If my cat hides on top of the furniture or spends its time behind the sofa, should I be concerned?

Not at all. Hiding serves a purpose for the solitary hunter who needs to assess potential danger from a safe haven; simply denying the chance to hide will make things harder for the cat. If hiding persists and is accompanied by lack of appetite, call your veterinarian for advice. You can also try FeliwayTM (a synthetic feline pheromone) for anxiety.

Should I give my indoor cat food at specific times or leave it in the bowl all of the time?

Set meal times are not of any inherent benefit to them. You can allow your cat to eat when it wants to and consume small amounts frequently, as long as it doesn’t lead to obesity.

I’d like to give my indoor cat some fresh air, but I’m not sure if it will walk on a lead. Is there any alternative?

If you introduce a harness when your cat is a kitten, she’ll be used to it as an adult. An outdoor pen in another option, as long as it has a roof to prevent escape. There are a number of commercial cat containment products for both indoor and outdoor use. Ideally the pen will be accessible from the house via a cat door flap, offering your cat access to outdoors while offering you complete peace of mind.
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