Cats with access to the great outdoors may have more fun, but the fun can come at a high price. The higher risk of serious falls, being hit by a car, fights with other cats, or becoming a predator’s victim leads many cat owners to choose an indoor life for their feline companion.
However, indoor cats need environmental enrichment to stay active, engaged, and entertained. Without daily physical and mental activity, cats are likely to be destructive, which every owner wants to avoid. After all, your cat is only one catnip mouse away from a lion.
Fortunately, the importance of indoor cat enrichment is now top of mind for pet owners, veterinary professionals, and especially cat lovers. Our Belmont Animal Hospital team definitely understands that indoor enrichment is vital for cats, and we offer ideas to give your cat the best of both worlds—their safety and their wellbeing.
Cater to your cat’s basic instincts
Cats in the wild have specific behaviors that make them cats. Replicating opportunities for your cat to express their natural instincts helps them maintain physical and mental health.
- Climbing — In the wild, cats like to climb to survey their territory from above, and your cat is the same. If you have the space, a cat tree is a great investment. The best trees provide flat spots where your cat can perch, and an enclosed space for them to hide. If you don’t have the floor space for a cat tree, you can create a vertical climbing wall for your cat by installing shelves on a wall at different heights, allowing your cat to climb, leap, and perch.
- Scratching — All wild cats scratch trees to release their scent and mark their territory. Domestic cats will scratch furniture because they need to scratch to satisfy their biological instincts. Save your furniture with a vertical post for your cat to scratch. The post should also allow your cat to stretch to their full length.
- Hunting — Cats are natural hunters, which provides mental and physical exercise. You can simulate “the hunt” indoors with games using a feather wand, laser pointer, or catnip mice. You can also hide high value—read “tasty”—treats around your home, and encourage your cat to “hunt” them.
Enrich your cat’s indoor environment
In addition to offering opportunities for your indoor cat to express their natural instincts, enriching their environment is important. Here are some ideas.
- A catnip garden — Cats love fresh greens, and what better way than to grow your own for them?
- A pet water fountain — Many cats love the sound, feel, and taste of running water, so give your cat their own fountain rather than leave your bathroom faucet running, and watch the fun.
- A window seat — Cats love a window perch where they can nap in the sunshine, enjoy nature, especially birds and squirrels, or watch the world go by.
- Interactive toys — Many interactive toys and feeders are available that will give your cat hours of mental and physical stimulation, and help keep them lean and fit.
Make the outdoors cat-safe
If your cat keeps telling you they want to go outdoors, it is possible for them to be outside and stay safe.
- Leash walks — It may seem counterintuitive, but cats can be leash-trained. First acclimate your cat to the leash and harness indoors, encourage them with praise and positivity, and move slowly to the outdoors when they are happy and relaxed. Always ensure the harness fits properly so your cat cannot wiggle out and possibly run away.
- A catio — If you haven’t heard of this invention, you have a world of Pinterest ideas coming your way. Catios allow cats to experience the outdoors while staying confined and safe. They are available as window boxes, tunnels, or self-contained structures in do-it-yourself kits or already constructed. Large catios can be attached to your house, with an entrance from inside your home to the catio.
- Pet strolls — Google “pet stroller,” and you will see the many stroller options you can purchase to take your cat outside with little risk of an accident or injury.
All these ideas will help keep your cat happy and healthy, but your attention is best of all. Contrary to popular belief, cats are social creatures who thrive on attention and social interaction, and spending lots of time petting and brushing, and simply being with your cat, will make them the happiest.
There are many ways to give your indoor cat the mental and physical enrichment they need. Whatever you choose, your cat will thank you. If you have questions, or need more information, give our Belmont Animal Hospital team a call. We are here to help.