Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.
What You'll Learn About Basic Cat Care
- Why keeping cats indoors can be better for their safety.
- Why confined cats develop behavioral problems.
- The advantages and drawbacks of adding a companion.
- How toys and games can help.
- How sterilization can improve your indoor cat's well-being.
- More tips for a happy pet.
Why Is It Safer for Cats to Only Live Indoors?
Any roaming pet faces problems that are potentially dangerous, but cats encounter more than their fair share. Unlike dogs, felines are agile enough to scale walls and take on the world. Unfortunately, the great outdoors is full of predators, busy roads, poison and heartbreaking diseases like 'feline AIDS', which can be transmitted through contact with an infected cat. Purebreds have another reason to stay indoors. Popular breeds like Siamese and Persians risk being stolen. Due to all of these reasons, some owners prefer to keep their pet inside permanently.
Other Reasons Why Cats Might Live Inside
- Recovering from surgery.
- Living in an apartment somewhere on the eighth floor.
- The weather threatens the cat's safety.
Behavioral Problems: The Cabin Fever Is Real
Kittens adapt to the indoor life like little troopers. The problems start when they grow up, or you obtain an adult as a pet that was previously allowed to roam free. Either way, when cats realize there's a world outside, or they grow bored with their environment—probably both—then, followed by frustration, aggression can also develop. Some cats, especially during breeding season, get so angry and neurotic, they bite their owners.
The Basics to a Happy Indoor Cat
You probably already have the basics covered, but let's review them again. Caring for a cat indoors begins with its physical needs—clean water and good food. Your cat probably sleeps on a variety of furniture, pillows and surfaces, but it still needs a comfy bed of its own. Change the litter box often, and it doesn't hurt to make or buy a scratch pole. Cats are glued to comfort, so make their environment a haven where its physical needs are fully met. Needless to say, that also includes lots of attention for His Highness—chin scratching, brushing and back stroking.
Are Indoor Cats Happier Solo or in Pairs?
Owners of single cats often get the idea that their pet's loneliness can be countered by animal friends. Not a bad insight! Some pets thrive among their own kind. However, choosing to get another cat can either solve things or make them worse. On the plus side, a feline friend can keep a cat occupied. They play together and groom each other.
Problems can arise when the original cat doesn't like the looks of the newcomer. For the safety of both, introductions need to be made before the adoption to gauge if there's any prizefighting behavior in the future. If you obtain a kitten, always supervise and never assume the adult won't bite. Luckily, most well-balanced and well-loved adults are more curious (from a height) about a new kitten than hatching any plans of decapitation. Even if the bonding goes swell, one could end up with two cats that are friends but also two cats that are bored and indoors.
Keep Plenty of Toys
A flourishing industry supplies cats with toys. Catnip mice, wound-up mice, swinging balls on strings, puppets, you name it. Cats are like children. Favorite toys can keep the cat occupied for months while other objects are played with once or receive no interaction at all. The best way to find fun toys is to remember the pet's personality and past pleasures, which could suggest what they might like in the future. The simplest things can provide entertainment, even home-made inventions. Commercial doesn't always mean safe. There are some really dangerous toys on sale for cats, with small parts, feathers, fabric and toxins that could get ingested.
When Cats Play
When a cat plays, it's a good sign that it's happy. Few cats will play when hungry or listless. Luckily, felines love inventing games. Every cat-owned person (yes, they own you), can testify that each animal has its own games. It's understandable that you cannot indulge a pet all day long, but make time to engage in your cat's favorite things.
If he or she enjoys hunting your fingers when you move them under a blanket, it can keep a cat occupied and happy for a few minutes. Nearly all cats love something trailing on a string. They paw at it, pounce and bite such delights that activate their hunting instincts. In the same vein as choosing toys, one must assess the cat's character to engage it in enjoyable games. Such games last only minutes but a great perk is that the activity is relaxing for both the cat and owner.
How Sterilization Helps
Cats are ruled by a strong instinct to mate. This can make indoor cats incredibly frustrated, especially when it's a male that smells roaming females in heat. They have an acute sense of smell and hearing. Queens, also, will not be happy inside when they are ready to mate and there's no available male. Both genders can develop aggression towards an owner or other pets during this time. Sterilization has great health benefits, especially for females, but has also been known to settle a cat's temperament and some become downright couch potatoes.
More Tips to Keep Your Cat Happy
- Indoor felines need exercise too. There are many options, such as structures designed for cats to climb, sleep on and scratch. Kind of like a kindergarten jungle with poles, platforms and toys.
- Use catnip treats. The plain leaves or a catnip spray works best. Remember that the herb doesn't work on all cats, and a percentage of affected cats also don't get happy, they become crabby.
- This may sound counter-intuitive, but don't hide the world from them. Leave windowsills clear for cats to sit on, especially where it's sunny. Every day, thousands of cats across the planet bake in windowsills and happily watch the rat race go by.
If you have a successful tip to make life easier for your pet inside the home, please share in the comment section below and help make a house-cat happy!
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit
But is denying cats ‘the outside’ also cruel?
The bottom line is most cats can be totally happy living indoors – but owners need to put in the effort to provide for their environmental and behavioural needs.
Cat trees provide opportunities for scratching, climbing and jumping up and down. Shutterstock
But a 2019 survey with more than 12,000 respondents found many Australian cat owners are not adequately providing for their indoor cats, especially when it comes to toileting and feeding.
This may lead to a range of health and welfare issues, such as obesity and related diseases, behavioural problems and urinary tract disorders.
For example, cats are very fastidious when it comes to toileting, so you need to give them nice clean litter trays (they don’t want to use a place they think another cat has soiled). Cats don’t like to eat near their toilet, so separate their litter trays and feeding area in different rooms. They also need choice, so more than one litter tray is required.
Raw chicken drumsticks promote good oral hygiene for cats. Author provided
Welfare problems can also arise if indoor cats cannot satiate specific natural desires and behaviours.
For example, cats love to climb and jump, and they like to sharpen their nails. You need to provide the opportunity to perform these activities indoors with a range of cat furniture.
Here’s a list of simple ways (taken from a larger study) you can make inside a happy place for your cat, even if you live in a small apartment.
Cleanliness and eating habits
have one litter tray per cat, plus one (for instance, three litter trays for two cats), in different locations, in quiet areas of the house. Clay litter is best. Scoop out faeces and urine soiled litter on at least a twice-daily basis and change the whole tray once a week. Have one litter tray covered (for privacy) and the other open – cats like variety
regular grooming with your cat’s favourite grooming brush is fun and feels like a massage. It’s good for the coat and prevents hairballs and matted fur
Regular grooming prevents mats in the coat and leads to fewer hairballs. Author provided
- consider providing some natural food such as raw chicken drum sticks. Raw meat requires chewing, massaging the gums and provides cats with a sense of possession. Some cats will even “kill” the drumstick by banging it on the ground a few times before eating. Nothing settles a cat more than knocking off a drumstick.
Setting up the space
- cats need vertical space more than horizontal space. So consider a ladder or other objects to let them climb to the top of a wardrobe or the fridge. Use cat furniture which expands vertical space
Cats like to curl up somewhere warm, such as near a heater or in a sunny spot. Shutterstock
cats like windows so they can check out what’s happening outside. Have stands located so they can look out
cats love multiple points of safety and seclusion. Set up several cat baskets lined with a soft blanket or igloos, and ideally at different heights (for example, a few at ground level and one nice and high – maybe on top of a wardrobe)
cats have a higher thermoneutral temperature than dogs and people, so they seek out warm places. Place some baskets in the sun, or a basket in front of the heater
have good border security. Windows need fly screens to keep cats inside. If not, the “high rise syndrome” – where cats drop from a height of two or more stories – can lead to severe injuries. Front doors need automatic closing mechanisms to stop cats getting outside
provide cat with scratching towers for exercise, and to satiate its desire to sharpen its claws. Vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces should be provided. Better here than on the good furniture
- consider installing a modular pet park (outdoor cat enclosures) or similar contained outdoor setup, which gives the cat an outdoor experience but without risks.
Keep them entertained
the ideal number of cats is usually one or two. Having two littermates is often ideal, as they are more likely get on and keep each other company when you’re not at home. A single cat will usually just sleep while you’re away and look forward to you coming home. Three or more cats are not recommended as they do not invariably get along which can cause more health and welfare issues
cat toys can provide fun and exercise, and they don’t need to be expensive. A ping pong ball is cheap. Scrunched up paper is very popular. Cat exercise wheels are costly, but can be a lot of fun and provide good exercise
puzzle feeders that hide food are also a fun toy for curious cats and can recreate the hunting behaviour of searching for food
give generously of your time a couple of times a day to pet and play with your cat
some cats like to watch TV. There are special videos on YouTube for a cat audience showing movements, such as of birds and fish, which cats can find mesmerising and entertaining.
More details can be found here, here and here, using resources developed by the RSPCA to help any cat owner optimise their indoor environment to maximise their pet’s health and welfare.
About The Author
Andrea Harvey, Veterinary Specialist, PhD scholar (wild horse ecology & welfare), University of Technology Sydney and Richard Malik, Veterinary Internist (Specialist), University of Sydney
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Can I Keep My Indoor/Outdoor Cat Inside Only?
By Jennifer Sellers, Petfinder contributor
Just as modern dogs are far removed from their wolf roots, cats have also evolved away from their safari-prowling ancestors. They’re now domesticated animals perfectly capable of thriving in safe, secure environments. Your instincts as a pet parent have likely told you that, and every evening when you call your cat in for the night, you probably have a momentary twinge of worry: “Where is he? What if something happened to him?”
The Benefits of Having Your Cat Indoors Full Time
Once you ensure your kitty is safe inside your home all night and day, you will start to feel more secure. Your cat will likely benefit from the change, too. Cats who stay indoors have longer lifespans than those who are left to roam outdoors. In her article, Should You Let Your Cat Go Outdoors? Jacque Lynn Shultz from the ASPCA notes that indoor-only cats live an average of 10-12 years, while outdoor-only cats survive only an average of 2 years. This is because outdoor cats are more prone to being hit by a car attacked by other animals mistreated by humans picking up parasites like fleas, ticks and worms and contracting dangerous diseases like feline leukemia (FELV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and upper respiratory infections.
So, for the health and safety of your cat, we recommend that you keep him inside all the time. Here are some strategies for making the transition as seamless as possible:
- Be aware of where your cat is when you’re coming in and out of the house so that she doesn’t dart out an open door.
- If your cat has already spent some time indoors, he is likely litter box trained and should easily adapt to using the litter box fulltime. If however, you have any problems with this, place his litter box near the door he used to enter and exit the house and another one where he is soiling. As he starts using that litter box, gradually move it to its permanent location.
- Initially cover the soil of houseplants with aluminum foil or marbles so that your cat will not try to use the bathroom in those areas.
- Give him things to do so that he’s not bored inside. You can add window perches, an indoor catnip garden, kitty condo and toys. You should also rotate his toys every few weeks to keep him interested. (Check out Jackson Galaxy’s tips for “Catifying” your house.)
- Provide scratching posts and cardboard scratching boards to keep your cat from scratching furniture. (Learn more about getting your cat to use a scratching post.)
- If you’ve already considered bringing another pet into your home, doing so now may be a comfort to your cat and make his days busier. Of course, introducing a new pet into a household with an existing cat can be a delicate matter, so be sure to give it a lot of thought and consideration beforehand. (Learn more about why to adopt a second cat and get tips for introducing cats.)
- Allow your cat time outdoors only if he’s on a leash or in an enclosed area.
- Make time each day to play with your cat and give him special attention.
- Give your cat a place of his own inside the house. This should include soft bedding that is frequently cleaned.
- Don’t neglect flea and tick prevention. Just because your kitty is now an indoor cat, he’ll still need to be protected from parasites and receive regular preventive care. Check with your vet to see what is recommended for your cat’s specific lifestyle.
- Don’t expect your cat to adapt to his new lifestyle right away. It might take a few weeks for progress to occur.
So, yes, you can keep your indoor/outdoor cat inside only. It may take a little time and patience to help him through the transition, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your cat and yourself!
Additional Sources for Reference
1. Indoor cats are less exposed to diseases
Cats that roam freely outside are exposed to a host of diseases including serious ones such as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) and FIP (Feline Peritonitis).
FIV is pretty similar to the virus that causes HIV or AIDS in humans. While it can’t be transmitted between species, it can be pretty devastating for your feline friend. It could be impossible to detect without a test for quite a long time if your cat is asymptomatic. This is problematic because a good prognosis is dependent upon the management of the disease.
FeLV is a retrovirus that (when the immune system fails to neutralize it) can cause many deadly diseases. The main danger is that the infection can show no symptoms for years, and once you discover it, it might already be too late to do much about it.
FIP is caused by the feline coronavirus that infects the whole body by using the antibodies present as carriers to spread itself. It’s a heartbreaking disease to witness, and it’s always fatal since we have no cure for it.