While indoor cats are protected from dangers such as cars, weather, and predators (indoor cats live an average of 10 years longer than outdoor cats!), their instincts still tell them to play and hunt as they would do in the wild. Without proper enrichment, they are prone to displaying unwanted behaviors or becoming bored, depressed, or sick, but with the following tips, you can help keep them happy and healthy!
- Make sure to provide your cat with essentials such as food/water, medications, litter boxes, beds, and space.
- Bring them to the vet for regular exams to ensure they’re healthy and have no underlying conditions, which may also contribute to any unwanted behaviors. (If you have trouble getting your cat into their carrier, check out our article “I Can’t Get My Cat Into Their Carrier!”.)
Bring in the Outdoors
- Cat Grass/Catnip: Place a few pots of cat grass and/or cat nip around your home for your cat to enjoy. Just be sure to avoid any toxic plants.
- Cat T.V.: Most cats enjoy watching birds and other small animals so try mounting bird and/or squirrel feeders in a window to keep them entertained by the wildlife. If this isn’t an option, there are also DVDs made for cats and electronic toys that simulate a fish tank or butterflies.
- Perches: Provide perches by windows and on shelves (via cat furniture). Cats enjoy sitting in high places, not only because of their survival instincts but because they’re predators. Having the option to rest on top of a cat shelf (or cat furniture) makes them feel safe and allows them to survey their territory.
- Outdoor Enclosures: If your home allows for it, consider building a secure outdoor enclosure (or as we like to call them, “catios“). This can be done with existing structures, like a screened-in porch, or you can build one.
Create Solo Diversions
- Scratching Posts: Place scratching posts and/or scratching pads around your home for your cat to scratch. This is especially helpful if your cat has a current favorite, but inappropriate, spot to scratch (i.e. your sofa). Try placing a scratching post in the places she likes to scratch to retrain her to use them.
- Toys: Offer a variety of toys and rotate them every so often to keep your cat interested in them. Pet stores offer an array of great products, but if you like DIYs, you can make your own toys too.
- Exploration: Provide opportunities for exploration. Cats are very curious, and you can appeal to this trait by creating ways for them to explore around your home. Even simple items such as paper bags and cardboard boxes (as well as many types of cat furniture) can help keep her entertained.
Cats are predators, and living indoors shouldn’t prevent them from using their natural instincts. For example, rather than allowing your cat to graze on their food throughout the day (which can lead to overeating), let her “hunt” for a portion of it. To do this, you can buy food dispensing toys or hide food/treats in areas throughout your home for her to find.
- Water Fountains: Pet water fountains may help keep your cat from becoming dehydrated in addition to being a source of environmental enrichment, especially since cats tend to prefer running water. (Ever catch your cat drinking out of a facet or the bathtub?) Ensuring that your cat is hydrated also promotes kidney function, cushions and lubricates the joints, helps internal temperature regulation, and speeds recovery time.
Rest and Relaxation
- Resting Areas: Make sure your cat has a quiet, comfortable place to rest where she will feel safe (i.e. out of reach for small children, etc.).
- Feliway: Available as a diffuser and a spray, Feliway is an odorless vapor that mimics a natural calming pheromone. It helps reduce urine marking and scratching but also calms them during times of stress such as changes within the home, travel, or going to the vet/groomer. (Here at Cat Care Professionals, we use Feliway in all of our exam rooms!)
- Spend at least 20 minutes per day petting, playing, grooming, or training your cat. This not only stimulates them mentally and physically but strengthens your bond with them too.
If you have questions about your cat, we’d love to hear from you at our Portland area cat hospital and boarding facility. Give us a call at (503) 968-6000 or schedule an appointment online!