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The Essential Guide to Keeping Your Indoor Cat Happy

If you live in an apartment block or close to a busy road, it’s often safer to keep your cat inside your home at all times. By providing a stimulating and safe environment for them to relax and explore in, your cat will soon adjust to their new life indoors.

How will this benefit my cat?

Indoor cats are exposed to fewer threats, such as vehicles, environmental hazards and attacks from other animals. As a result, statistics have shown that indoor cats tend to live longer lives than those who spend most of their time outdoors.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia (FeLV) are common contagious diseases spread between cats which can sometimes prove fatal. By keeping your cat indoors, they won’t be exposed to cats who carry these often deadly diseases.

Similarly, the risk of being infected with ticks, worms and fleas is significantly reduced for house cats.

Are there any downsides?

Cats will often become bored and frustrated when left indoors. Therefore, it’s essential to provide them with numerous toys and treats to keep them both physically and mentally stimulated.

If your cat has previously roamed the outdoors, it can take some time for them to become used to their new lifestyle - especially if they were once a prolific hunter. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep your cat entertained while inside the home.

How can I keep my indoor cat happy?

Engage their inner hunter

indoor cat play toys

If you are concerned that your cat will not be not getting enough exercise indoors, offering a variety of toys will keep them engaged throughout the day. Indoor cats often have a greater risk of obesity, although this can be prevented by regular play and activity.

Toy mice, laser pointers and feather wands are all perfect for engaging your cat’s inner hunter, although you may find that something as simple as a paper bag will soon capture their interest!

Take time to have regular play sessions with your cat - it’s a good way to keep them active while also helping you to bond closer together.

The amount of daily activity your cat requires will depend on their age. Older cats generally require less exercise, although it is still important to engage in play time at least a few times a day.

Cats naturally like to keep their claws sharpened. To prevent your furniture from becoming the target of their scratching, provide them with a scratching post or box. Scratching posts should be tall enough to allow your cat to stretch up or placed in an elevated position; this will give them an extra bit of exercise.

By adding a little catnip around the post, your cat won’t be able to resist having a good stretch and scratch - while also saving your chairs in process!

Give them a room with a view

cats looking outside

Whether it’s keeping a watchful eye on the birds in the nearby trees or listening to the sounds of nature around them, cats love nothing more than relaxing and watching the world go by. Keep your curtains open to allow plenty of sunlight into your home, so your cat can bask in the warm sunshine.

Window hammocks and perches are a great way for indoor cats to safely observe the outdoors while offering a comfortable space to nap. These hammocks are attached directly onto your window, so your cat can have a completely unobstructed view of the world outside.

Alternatively, cat trees offer an elevated and comfortable space to relax and observe. They are also useful for keeping cats active, with various levels for them to climb, scratch and explore.

If you can, adding a protective screen to your window or balcony will provide your cat with fresh air and allow them to safely enjoy the sounds of the outdoors.

Create a secluded space

Cats sleep an average of around 15-16 hours a day, so you’ll want to give them a cozy bed to relax in. They also like to find private spaces to hide, especially during times when there are unfamiliar guests or loud noises occurring in your home.

Cat igloos and caves are enclosed beds that offer a warm and secluded place for your cat to relax and feel safe. Although, you may find that your cat is happy enough to have a cozy cardboard box to curl up in!

Make mealtimes fun

You can even provide mental stimulation during mealtimes using cat treat toys. Puzzle feeders are uniquely shaped and require your cat to use their paws (and brains) in order to retrieve their wet or dry food.

Research has shown that food puzzles can be used to improve issues such as obesity and behavioural problems, providing both physical and cognitive benefits. You can even make your own cost-effective puzzle feeders by placing various treats in cardboard tubes around the house.

Outdoor cats often eat grass to aid their digestion and naturally prevent hairballs. To give your cat the same benefit, try growing cat grass indoors. Your cat can safely nibble on this grass, without the risk of pesticides that are frequently used on outdoor grasses.

Similarly, catnip can be grown indoors, with very little horticulture knowledge required. Simply pot the plants and leave in a sunny area on your windowsill. Water regularly and remove and flowers to encourage growth - your cat will soon appreciate the scent and taste of fresh catnip!

Water fountains provide a constant flow of fresh water for your cat, with a larger storage capacity than traditional water bowls. If your cat tends to dislike drinking from standard bowls, a fountain may encourage them to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Identify potential hazards

flowers safe for cats

Before leaving your cat on their own in the house for the first time, check for any potential hazards that may cause them harm.

Toxic plants

There are several plants and flowers that are toxic to cats. It’s important to identify these potential toxins in your home and remove them immediately, as some pose a deadly threat if ingested.

Here is a short list of common plants that are poisonous to cats:

  • Lilies
  • Poinsettia
  • Daffodils
  • Hyacinth
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Tulips

This is not an exhaustive list - before adding a new plant into your home, always check to see if it is safe for pets.

Other hazards

Cats love to explore and climb into small spaces, although sometimes this can lead to them becoming trapped or distressed. If you’ll be leaving your cat on their own in the house, it’s safer to close any toilet lids, washing machine doors and windows.

We recommend having your cat microchipped despite them being kept indoors, just in case they ever escape and become lost.

Keep the litter box fresh

Some cats will avoid using dirty litter boxes, therefore it’s important to ensure that your cat’s litter tray is checked and cleaned out every day. It’s beneficial to completely disinfect the box once or twice a week in order to avoid any unpleasant smells or bacteria.

Explore the outdoors together

Taking cats on supervised walks would have at one time seemed like an absurd idea - however, cat leashes are now increasing in popularity. It’s a nice way for indoor cats to safely experience the outdoor world, with the supervision of their owners.

Going outside for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for house cats, especially if they’re new to wearing a harness. Prepare them for their first time outside by regularly putting on their harness and leash while indoors. Doing this will help them get used to the experience without the stress of an outdoor environment.

Choose a quiet and peaceful place for their first supervised walks, ideally away from traffic and other animals. It may take a few visits for them to feel at ease in their new environment, but it’s likely that over time your cat will love interacting with their surroundings.

What if I have more than one cat?

Having more than one indoor cat can often be beneficial, as they’ll be able to play together and burn off energy while you’re at work or away from home. Although, this will depend on whether your cats enjoy spending time in each other’s company!

If you have a multi-cat household, you may have to provide separate sleeping spaces so that your cats feel like they have their own private place to relax or hide. Some cats prefer to avoid sharing the same litter tray - so it may also be useful to place individual trays in your home.

Summary

Choosing to keep your cat indoors can be a beneficial decision, especially if you live in a busy area. It’s important to provide your cat with various toys and treats to keep them stimulated while they adjust to indoor life.

Indoor cats require plenty of physical activity to avoid becoming overweight, therefore it is essential to regularly play with your cat to ensure they are getting enough exercise. If possible, create a cozy space next to a window for them to safely enjoy the sights and sounds of the outdoors.

Sources

Dantas, L. M., Delgado, M. M., Johnson, I., & Buffington, C. T. (2016). Food puzzles for cats: Feeding for physical and emotional wellbeing. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery18(9), 723–732. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098612X16643753

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