9 Ways to Enrich the Life of Your Indoor Cat
Most cat lovers agree that it is safest for cats to live indoors, but cats who go outdoors, while living a life that is rife with dangers, are also able to effortlessly access all of the activities that a feline in nature engages in, such as hunting, climbing trees and maintaining territories. These endeavors provide great mental and physical stimulation, and a cat whose life is devoid of similar stimulation may suffer from boredom.
While it may not seem that bad to have a bored cat (they just like to lay around and bask in the sun, anyway, right?), the truth is that a cat who is not being challenged with interesting activities may display unsavory behaviors, such as pestering you in the middle of night, aggressive play, litter box issues, and destructive scratching.
So how can we help our indoor cats enjoy the things outdoor cats experience, but in safety? Here are a few ideas:
Let Your Cat Hunt for FoodThis can be tricky, of course, since most of us don't have mice in our home for our cats to chase after (we hope not, anyway!), but having a bowl of kibble available
at all times is not a natural way for a cat to eat. Luckily, it is possible to emulate a hunting experience, even with kibble. One way is to portion out the food into small dishes and distribute it in different places around the house. There are also some really fun products on the market that allow you to hide food inside a toy (here is a fun one!) that your cat can actually hunt for, catch and enjoy the food reward after a good "attack". If hiding food for a kitty scavenger hunt sounds like too much, a compromise is to break your cat's meals into three or more smaller meals through the day.
Removing the free-feed bowl will likely result in improvement in many areas, including health, weight and even behavior problems. And remember, at least one meal of canned or fresh, meaty food per day is important - it's a more natural, enjoyable dining experience, and provides great nutrition.
An outside cat is on the lookout for moving water sources - with innate knowledge passed down through thousands of years of feline genetics and instinct, they recognize moving water to be a safer, cleaner source. A still water dish is not very appealing to most cats, and that's why you are always finding them trying to drink out of the faucet. A solution is to buy a cat fountain - there are many available out there, with all sorts of different aesthetics. Your cat will love this!
Okay, this may seem obvious, but we don't play with our cats enough. Really. You can help scratch the hunting itch by engaging with your cat in play using chase toys such as feather wands. And if you provide a food reward at the end of a successful hunt, it will be the icing on the cake!
Cats Really Need to Scratch
There are so many reasons cats need to scratch - it keeps their claws healthy, it helps them stretch out their bodies, and it is one way that they leave scent markings on their resources. It is vital to a cat's well-being to provide plenty of scratching surfaces (and it will help preserve your furniture, as well.) Your cat will enjoy different levels and textures - a cat tree with carpeted surfaces and rope-covered poles, a floor scratcher made of cardboard, a sisal mat hanging from a doorknob - to satisfy the desire for tactile variety and scratching position.
Provide Plenty of Climbing Opportunities
Many cats enjoy getting up high to survey the activity of the house from a safe vantage point. In a multi-cat house, it is a great idea to have more than one cat tree in different parts of the house so that the cats can choose whether they want to hang out together or be in their own zones. Your cat may also enjoy climbing and perching on the walls and near windows, to get a good view of the world outside.
Make Sure there are Places to Burrow
Cats in the wild also like to hide - burrowing provides a sense of safety and security (think of how much cats like to squeeze themselves into boxes!). Place cat beds, caves, cubes or even plain old boxes around that cats can claim as their own. Having resources that are covered in their own scent is very important for any feline.
Litter Box Variety
A cat who lives outside is unlikely to relieve themselves in the same place every time, and eliminations are a way to mark their territory. If multiple cats are using the same litter pan, there may be conflict or even simple dissatisfaction with not having options - this could lead to presents left outside the litter box. It is recommended that there be enough litter boxes in your home to equal the number of cats, plus one, and they should be placed in different parts of the house. You can go the extra mile and put different types of litter in each one, or even use different sizes of litter pans - this will allow your kitty to communicate their preference.
important ritual in any cat's life. Once your cat gets accustomed to being brushed, daily brushing can become a bonding experience for the two of you, as well as helping to keep her coat and skin healthy.
Build a Catio
Last but not least, if you want to go all out, you can build your cat a catio, or you can purchase one of the awesome catios that are available online. A catio gives your cat the freedom to go outside and watch the birds, hear the outside noises, feel the warmth of the sun, and smell the interesting smells without the dangers of being on their own in the outside world.