There are lots of good reasons to keep cats indoors. Indoor cats are safe from dogs, cars, catfights, and infectious diseases. Another upside: birds and other small wildlife are kept safe from them.
But just because cats are confined indoors doesn’t mean their instincts go away. It’s not enough for our cats to be inside and safe. How do we keep them inside and happy? By recognizing their needs to:
The name of the game here is toys. Now, not all cats will play with all toys. And a few cats completely disdain playthings. But most cats have one or two favorites.Cruise the pet store aisle. Pick up a few different varieties, see which one your cat responds to best. One of my cats completely ignores hard plastic balls, but he goes bonkers for the softer foam ones. My other kitty sees no use for balls of any kind. But just the sound of us picking up the laser pointer brings her dashing, pupils dilated, convinced that this time she’s going to nab that maddening red dot.
Nibble on greens
Cats love the occasional graze. Most pet stores have kits to grow your own indoor kitty grass and/or catnip. Deprived of fresh greens, many cats will turn to chewing on houseplants. Save your orchids, and give your kitty his own mini-lawn to mow.
Have clean, fresh toilets
Outdoors, cats instinctively seek out clean sand or dirt to potty in. Provide enough litter boxes for your indoor cats—at least one box per cat—make sure they’re easily accessible, and scoop every day. Doing just this much prevents a lot of inappropriate housesoiling.
To think like a cat, think vertical. Many cats love to observe their world from up high. (Having elevated kitty spaces also helps reduce stress between kitty housemates). You don’t need to buy an enormous multi-perch, floor-to-ceiling structure. Provide space on an existing shelf; install a windowsill kitty perch. Perches with a view serve up double goodies: elevation and entertainment.
It’s no secret cats love small, dark places. Again, no need to get fancy if you don’t want to; a hidey spot can be as simple as a cardboard box. Change it up so your cat doesn’t get bored: move it from room to room, or rotate boxes of different size.
All cats need to scratch. The exercise tones their muscles and helps them shed worn layers on their claws. You can’t train a cat not to scratch; you might as well try to train them not to breathe. So it’s up to us to provide suitable scratching materials. What’s “suitable”? That depends on your particular cat. Some like vertical surfaces; others prefer horizontal. Some like cardboard; others love the feel of fabric; a few adore wood. To find out what makes your cat’s claws tingle, buy a couple of inexpensive scratchers of different types. Once your cat makes her preference known, then you can invest in a longer-lasting style of that surface.
This is just a brief overview of some of the most important indoor-kitty needs. I’ll be diving into each of these in more detail, plus discussing a few others. For more information in the meantime, The Indoor Pet Initiative is a fabulous resource for indoor pets—both cats and dogs.