“Even cats grow lonely and anxious.” —Mason Cooley
Does your cat crave the great outdoors? Does she spend her days looking longingly out the window, wishing she were out there doing what comes naturally to her: seeking, hunting, and pouncing? While many owners of indoor cats feel guilty depriving their feline friends of all that Mother Nature has to offer, there are plenty of reasons to keep your cat inside:
· Diseases and parasites — Cats that go outside are more likely to come into contact with other cats, many of which are feral and/or haven’t received regular vaccinations. These cats might be carrying diseases and parasites that could spell trouble for your kitty, including:
- Feline leukemia (FeLV)
- Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
- Feline AIDS (FIV)
- Feline distemper (panleukopenia)
- Upper respiratory infections (URI)
- Ear Mites
- Intestinal Worms
· Safety issues — Outdoor cats are at significantly greater risk of:
- Being hit by cars
- Being attacked by other animals or humans
- Coming into contact with potentially toxic plants or substances (like rodenticides or antifreeze)
But, the life of an indoor cat isn’t always ideal, either. Without enriched environments, indoor cats are more likely to become increasingly bored, anxious, and stressed, which can lead to behavior and health problems, and many are susceptible to weight gain because of their inactive lifestyle. A 2016 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention clinical survey revealed that nearly 60 percent of U.S. cats are overweight or obese.
It doesn’t have to be that way. By enriching an indoor cat’s environment, you can provide the stimulation and activity level she needs to lead a full and happy life. Here are 6 ways to give your cat the purrfect indoor environment:
1. Use food puzzles and alternative feeding methods to encourage the natural hunter in your cat. Many outdoor cats spend 60 to 80 percent of their waking hours seeking prey. This not only keeps them active, it also occupies their minds. Bowl-fed indoor cats miss out on this opportunity and will often “train” their humans to fill their food bowls more often than is actually necessary. There are many products that will help your indoor cat “hunt.” Here are a few:
- Indoor Hunting Feeder — A complete bowl replacement for a cat that includes five “mice” that can be filled with kibble and hidden around the house for your cat to find.
- Trixie 5-in-1 Activity Center — Aptly named, this product includes five games and gives your cat the opportunity to scoop out treats with her paw, see treats from a distance and map out a hunting strategy, find treats and toys in the “mouse hole,” and more.
- Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree — Providing three difficulty levels, this product encourages cats to work for their food (and have fun while doing it).
2. Provide interactive toys and rotate them regularly. Whether your cat prefers a laser pointer or a simple cardboard box, it’s important to provide toys and activities to keep her physically and mentally stimulated. Here are a couple of ideas:
- Hex Bug Mouse Cat Toy — This “mouse” moves around on hard surfaces (no carpet) with random starting and stopping. It can even navigate around objects and flip back to its feet if it ends up on its back.
- SnugglyCat Ripple Rug — Whether your cat wants to scratch, play, or nap, this large rug is made from non-fray, nontoxic carpet that is stain, mold, and mildew resistant. And, you can use the velcro touch points to reconfigure the tunnels and waves as often as you’d like.
3. Train your cat. Yes, cats can be trained! Use positive reinforcement (like clicker training) to teach your cat various cues and tricks, like “sit” or “come.” This will not only help to keep her more active, it will also grow the bond you have with her.
4. Give your cat a playmate. Some cats don’t mind being the only pet in the house, but others would love an animal companion—another cat or a dog—for playing, snuggling, and mutual grooming.
5. Create a “catio”—a secure outdoor space just for your feline friend—that will allow her to experience the great outdoors without the typical risks associated with going outside. Cats love soaking up the fresh air and observing the outside world around them. Here are some ideas for building a catio of your own.
6. Design a feline-friendly indoor space by incorporating scratching posts, perches, climbing opportunities, hiding places, and visual entertainment (like a bird feeder in the backyard that your cat can watch from a window). If you don’t provide something interesting for your cat to scratch and climb, she will find something for herself, which might end up being your furniture. For most cats, an ideal scratching post will be vertical and secure and at least 2-3 feet tall so she can really stretch and scratch.
Questions about enriching your indoor cat’s environment? Call our office at 512-696-3980.