Keeping your cat indoors protects them from many dangers, such as infectious diseases, parasites, animal attacks, and being hit by a car, but cats need environmental enrichment to enjoy an optimal quality of life. Our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team wants to help by providing tips to ensure your indoor cat remains happy.
#1: Spay or neuter your cat
Cats reach maturity around 6 months of age, and from about March until September, a female cat experiences multiple estrus cycles. During this time, she is receptive to a mate and will attempt to escape to find a male cat. In addition, she produces pheromones a male cat can detect from up to two miles away. If you have a male cat, they will be eager to roam when they recognize a female cat is in heat. Spaying or neutering your indoor cat prevents them from feeling compelled to search for a mate.
#2: Make your cat hunt for their meal
Hunting is a natural instinct for cats. In the wild, feral cats can spend up to 12 hours a day hunting for food, so providing food for your cat prevents them from satisfying this instinct. Tips to keep your indoor cat entertained during mealtime include:
- Making mealtime a scavenger hunt — Hide your cat’s food in several locations around your home and make them search for the food. Initially, make the hiding spots easy to find, and as they become accustomed to searching for their food, increase the difficulty level.
- Providing food puzzle toys — Several commercially available food puzzle toys are on the market, and you can use these devices to make your cat work for their meal.
- Making your own foraging toy — Cut holes in a shoebox and place your cat’s kibble inside as an easy, low-tech option to entertain them at mealtime.
#3: Provide vertical space for your cat
Cats feel safer when they can view their surroundings from an elevated position. In the wild, cats are prey animals as well as predators, and they feel vulnerable when they can’t survey their environment. Tips to provide vertical space include:
- Providing a cat condo — Purchase or make your own multi-level cat condo so your cat can lounge at an elevated position.
- Putting up shelving — Place shelving at various heights around your home so your cat can navigate the room, jumping from shelf to shelf.
- Providing steps — For older cats who may have joint pain, provide steps or ramps so they can access elevated areas easily.
#4: Grow cat-safe plants
Cats are carnivores, but they can benefit from vitamins and fiber found in plant material. Cultivate cat grass or catnip for your cat to eat. This also will deter them from digging in and eating other house plants.
#5: Ensure your cat has somewhere to scratch
Scratching is an important behavior for cats. They scratch to mark their environment physically, as well as leave their scent. Scratching also contributes to their nail health by removing dead tissue. Providing appropriate cat scratchers appeases your cat and keeps your furniture in one piece. Tips to ensure your cat is happy with their cat scratchers include:
- Providing enough cat scratchers — Every cat in your household should have at least one scratcher.
- Determining your cat’s scratching style — Cat scratchers come in different versions, and you should determine if your cat prefers a horizontal or vertical surface. In addition, the surface should be sturdy and not move when the cat scratches.
- Making the cat scratcher attractive — Place your cat’s favorite toys and sprinkle a little catnip on a new cat scratcher to attract their attention.
#6: Install a window seat for your cat
Your cat’s ancestors naturally preyed on birds and small mammals, and your cat is instinctively fascinated by these creatures. Install a cat window perch so your cat can indulge their interest easily. You also can place a bird feeder outside the window to attract more entertainment for your cat.
#7: Take your cat for a walk
You can train your cat to walk on a leash to allow them to spend time outside safely. Tips to help this process go smoothly include:
- Getting your cat used to the harness — Start by letting your cat wear a well-fitted harness inside for short periods.
- Attaching the leash — Once your cat seems comfortable wearing the harness, attach the leash, walking beside them and giving them treats. Never pull on the leash or try to force your cat in a particular direction.
- Going outside — When your cat has mastered leash walking inside, go outside for a short walk. You can increase their time outside gradually as they get more comfortable.
- Keeping your cat safe — All cats should receive year-round flea and tick protection, but these medications are especially important for cats who go outside. Also, check your cat for fleas and ticks after a walk.
#8: Play with your cat
Schedule time every day to play with your cat. Determine what toy is their favorite and spend at least 10 minutes twice a day letting them work off excess energy. Wand toys, laser pointers, and toys on strings are great to get your cat motivated to run, jump, and play. Switch out your cat’s toys frequently to prevent them from getting bored.
Keeping your indoor cat happy will prevent them from getting stressed, which can lead to significant health and behavior complications. If your stressed cat is experiencing an emergency health complication, contact our Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care so we can provide the care they need.