Cats are safer when kept indoors, because they are protected from outdoor dangers such as busy roads, predators, parasites, and infectious diseases, but they need appropriate mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom. Our Willow Wood Animal Hospital team asked a few of our feline friends for advice on keeping your indoor cat happy and content.
#1: Sara the Siamese says, “I enjoy climbing. My day is not complete unless I can climb to the top of my owner’s bookcase. An added benefit is getting to watch my owner trying to find me!”
Willow Wood Animal Hospital (WWAH): Cats have an instinctual need to climb. As predator and prey animals, they want a high vantage point to survey their environment for prey while remaining safe from predators. Access to vertical space also provides a place for a shy cat to escape from unwanted attention from other pets or people. Tips to provide vertical space include:
- Getting a cat tree — Purchase or build your own cat tree to provide your cat with climbing space. Cat trees are available in many shapes and sizes to fit your space and decor.
- Clearing space — Clear objects from bookcases and other high areas, so your cat can easily access the space.
- Installing shelves — You can mount floating shelves on your walls so your cat can navigate a room from an elevated position.
#2: Tango the tabby says, “My owner never provides free meals. I have to hunt for my food, and my excellent hunting skills ensure I never go hungry.”
WWAH: In the wild, cats spend many hours hunting for food, and a normal feeding regimen can be less than challenging for your cat. Make mealtimes more exciting by making your cat work for their food. Tips include:
- Hiding your cat’s food — Separate your cat’s meal into several small portions, and hide the food in locations throughout your home to make your cat hunt their food. Initially, hide the portions in plain sight until your cat understands the game, and then gradually make the hiding places more difficult to keep the game exciting.
- Feeding your cat in a food puzzle toy — Use a food puzzle toy that will make your cat work to extract their meal. Several types are commercially available, or you can easily make your own by poking holes in an empty soda bottle and placing your cat’s kibble inside.
#3: Patricia the Persian says, “I spend hours sitting in my special window seat. I love to watch the birds and squirrels go about their day, and I occasionally get to see a butterfly flit past.”
WWAH: Cats enjoy watching the world go by outside the window, especially birds and small mammals, which are cats’ natural prey in the wild. Tips to indulge your cat’s attraction include:
- Providing a comfortable perch — Install a comfortable, easily accessible window perch where your cat can watch their favorite show.
- Keeping your curtains open — Ensure your curtains or blinds are open, so your cat has an unobstructed view.
- Installing a bird feeder — Place a bird feeder outside the window to attract more birds for your cat to watch.
#4: Cassidy the calico says, “I look forward to playtime with my owner. We have so much fun together, and afterward I’m usually ready for a nap!”
WWAH: Indoor cats need to work off their excess energy so they don’t go stir crazy. Tips to keep your cat active include:
- Scheduling playtime — Schedule at least 10 to 15 minutes twice a day to play with your cat.
- Using appropriate toys — Every cat is unique and has their own play preferences. Determine the toys that most excite your cat. Wand style toys, toys with feathers, toys on strings, and laser pointers are good options.
- Switching out your cat’s toys — Switch out your cat’s toys every few days to ensure they don’t get bored.
#5: Henry the Himalayan says, “I learned how to walk on a leash so I can go outside. I encounter so many interesting sights, smells, and sounds when I’m outside. Exploring is so exciting!”
WWAH: You can teach your cat to accept a leash, so you can safely let them enjoy time outdoors. Tips include:
- Fitting the harness — Start by getting your cat used to wearing the harness for short periods indoors. Ensure the harness fits properly.
- Practicing inside — Once your cat accepts the harness, attach the leash, and use treats to reward them when they walk by your side. Never pull on the leash during these sessions.
- Going outside — Once your cat is comfortable with the harness and leash, take them outside, starting with a short trip and gradually increasing the time you spend on these outings.
#6: Monique the Maine Coon says, “I trained my owner to give me a treat when I give him a high five. He seems happy, and I find performing the trick strengthens our relationship.”
WWAH: Teaching your cat a trick can help keep them mentally engaged. Tips include:
- Finding a quiet area — Find a quiet area where your cat won’t be easily distracted.
- Using high quality treats — Use only high quality treats to motivate your cat.
- Keeping the sessions short — Practice for only 10 to 15 minutes at a time to ensure your cat doesn’t get frustrated.
Keeping your indoor cat happy is important to prevent unwanted behavioral issues. If your cat is misbehaving, contact our Willow Wood Animal Hospital, so we can determine if a medical issue is contributing to their problem.
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