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Tips to have a happy indoor cat

Indoor or Outdoor? That is the big question all cat owners face when introducing a cat into their lives.

Although exploring the outdoors may be fun for some felines, it can also be very dangerous. Working in the veterinary industry, we see a number of cats present with preventable illnesses and injuries relating to an outdoor lifestyle. These issues can range from annoying flea infestations to cat fight wounds or more severe injuries sustained from being hit by cars. Cats can also become stuck on objects via their collar. Break away collars are a must! We see too many injuries from cats wearing buckle collars who get themselves stuck on objects or worse, around the mouth or body and cannot break the collar to free themselves.

Indoor cats are not exposed to these risks and tend to live longer, happier lives. Living indoors also makes picking up on illness much easier for cat owners as you can better monitor your cat’s demeanour, appetite and toileting behaviours.

Below we have put together some of our top tips along with some great advice from our partners at the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) to help keep your cat enriched in their indoor environment and to make living indoors fun!

Provide opportunities for your cat to ‘forage’ by hiding small amounts of food or treats in different places.

  • You can use feeding puzzles and balls to make feeding more interesting and challenging!
  • You could provide their meals this way rather than sticking to a standard feeding bowl.

Have a variety of water receptacles around the house for your cat to drink from.

  • Cats like clean, running water and will often drink from taps so why not look at getting a water drinking fountain! These are easy to clean and keep cats happy and occupied.
  • As a basic instinct, cats prefer their food and water to be separate from one another so be sure to keep your cat’s food and drinking bowls separate and very importantly, keep these away from litter trays! No one likes to eat where you poop!

Have at least one litter tray per cat in the house plus one extra!

  • Litter trays should be placed in various, quiet locations and kept clean.
  • For multiple cat households, you may find an automatic litter tray is the way to go! These clean up after your cat each time they toilet meaning the tray is ready for the next cat right away.

Set aside regular times every day to play with your cat (using a variety of toys) or groom them.

  • This is also a great way to monitor your cat’s weight, any behaviour changes, lumps or bumps etc that may arise

Ensure your cat has their own space and area to retreat to if they’re feeling overwhelmed.

  • Cardboard boxes make great hidey holes and are a cheap alternative to scratchy posts.
  • Every indoor cat should feel safe in their home so if you’re expecting visitors you may like to invest in a calming, pheromone spray called ‘Feliway’. This comes as a spray and a plug-in wall diffuser and helps to keep cats calm during stressful situations.

Allow your cat access to as much space in the home as possible.

  • Cats love to climb up onto high objects where they can rest and observe their surroundings in safety.
  • Make sure your cat is able to do this safely in the home by providing safe spaces such as scratchy posts.
  • We often get told ‘My cat doesn’t use their scratchy post’ and this can often be due to the location! Cats like to look out windows and feel secure. They don’t like to be in open, busy spaces so if your cat falls under this category, try moving their scratchy posts into different locations.

Provide your cat with toys

  • Check these regularly for any damage and swap them around to keep them stimulated and occupied.
  • You may find your cat is more interested in the simple things in life such as cardboard boxes and paper bags! Cheap and simple!
  • To help encourage your cat to play or use a scratchy post or new area, you could also introduce catnip into the equation! Most cats love this stuff and will roll around and smother themselves in it! It’s amusing for both you and them!

Where possible, consider building an enclosed, outside run to allow your cat(s) some safe outside time.

  • If this isn’t possible, don’t worry! It isn’t essential! A lot of cats are quite happy just sitting on a windowsill looking out at the world and watching the birds go by.
  • Maybe you could provide ‘outdoor TV’ for your cats by planting flowers that attract butterflies or hanging a bird feeder or bath to attract birds to your yard and provide your cat with plenty of entertaining things to watch from the comfort of inside!