Keeping Your Indoor Cat Happy
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden for their cat to play in or easy access to the great outdoors from a window or ledge, especially in large cities. It’s a well known fact that most people with pedigree cats keep them exclusively indoors, which many cats can find frustrating.
For cats that are kept indoors, or ones that used to roam but have since been moved into a place with no outside access, it’s essential that they’re given lots of stimulation within their own homes. You and I are able to go outside everyday and be stimulated by hundreds of different sensations: sound, visual candy, smells etc., but it’s a different story for the indoor cat who only has its owner’s home as its ‘life’. It is extremely important for the well being and happiness of your cat that you understand its basic needs. When confining a cat indoors, owners commonly make the mistake of providing no stimulation and this in turn can lead to your cat sleeping for most of its life through boredom and becoming obese. It’s important to remember that cats are animals and the natural state of a cat is to hunt, kill, eat and sleep.
Below is a few main pointers to encourage cat owners to think about their cats and improve the environment they live in.
To create the illusion of the outdoors you should provide a ‘tree’ or two and when I say ‘tree’, I really mean an elevated place for a cat to climb and perch. Cats feel more secure off the ground and like to sit up high and look down on their domain. The elevated space can be a cat tower/climber or even a space on a high shelf – with the ornaments removed of course!
Cats usually keep their claws in good shape by scratching tree trunks or fence posts. As well as keeping their claws trim, cats naturally scratch to exercise the muscles in their paws and to leave their scent, so it’s a basic and natural need. The indoor cat will scratch your furniture and carpets if a scratching post is not provided. Most cat trees have numerous scratch posts within their design and there are designs of every shape and size that can fit discretely into any décor. A large scratch post for an adult cat will also ensure they get to stretch fully.
A Room With A View
Next we come to windows. An indoor cat loves to look out of the window to watch birds go by and keep an eye on its ‘territory’. This is a great way to stimulate your cat and to relieve long hours of boredom. Window perches can be found online in many varieties. If you have property where it’s difficult to make any alterations to the walls (i.e. with screws, nails etc), there are window perches specially designed to combat this problem. These types of window perches use suckers to connect to the actual glass of the window, but are still strong enough to hold most cats’ body weight.
Toys And Boredom
If your cat sleeps all the time you will need to provide stimulation. You may think that your cat doesn’t need to play or doesn’t like playing, but you will be surprised once you have found the ‘right’ toy to suit your cat’s personality. Play time is imperative to relieve boredom, frustration; it also improves the bond between you both. Once you have found the correct toys for your cat they should be rotated to keep the cat interested. Leave out some fun little toys for your cat to enjoy on its own, such as ping-pong balls, open paper bags, cardboard boxes, furry catnip mice, etc. Most people get the wrong kind of toys and then wonder why their cat is disinterested. Here are some ideas for the best kind of toys to try out on your cat.
DA Bird Feather Teaser
Cats are natural hunters and their natural instinct is to kill things, so any toys that stimulate this type of behaviour are highly stimulating for the indoor cat. Toy mice, bugs, spiders or feathers on a wire or string make excellent toys. The ‘Da Bird’ range has a variety of add-ons with different critters such as bugs, spiders and mice. Play with them by half hiding them under a newspaper, rugs, boxes, etc., and watch as your cat enjoys the hunting process. Reward it with a treat afterwards or a little piece of meat (their ‘catch’).
I’m constantly surprised at how many owners never supply catnip for their cats. Catnip is a fun treat, which harmlessly ‘intoxicates’ your cat between 5 and 15 minutes and is completely safe. The main constituent of catnip is nepetalactone, which is an oil contained in leaves. It is believed cats react to the nepetalactone, because it resembles a chemical in tomcat urine. This is a much needed experience for an indoor cat and is a wonderful way to get overweight cats to kick up their heels a little!
Grass is essential and your cats will love having the opportunity to eat it as a normal outdoor cat would. They also love to rub against grass too. It’s easy to grow and you can buy special grass cubes for cats from any pet or Internet stores.
This toy is a wonderful addition to the hunting toy collection. Play with your cat for short bursts of 5-10 minutes and they will go nuts trying to catch the light. Because it’s frustrating for the cat that the light can never be caught it should not be played with for long periods of time. Never shine the light directly into the cats eyes. Sessions should be finished off with a hunting type game where your cat can actually catch something.
Cat Dreams DVD
Check out this wonderful cat DVD that I’ve recently discovered. Especially designed for the indoor cat, this DVD features singing birds, fish swimming back and forth as well as various other critters that your cat would love to get hold of and eat! Check out www.catdreams.co.uk. It may seem crazy but hey, we are cat people!
Cats are true carnivores and must get their supply of vitamin A from animal tissue. The indoor cat should be fed a ‘good’ quality brand of complete wet food (making sure you buy a variety of flavours). Check on the cat food for the words Complementary or complete. Complete means the food contains all of the nutrients a cat needs whilst complementary means it needs to be fed with another food source that has all of the nutrients or makes up the ones that the complementary meal lacks. I am not an advocate of dry kibble as I don’t believe a cat was designed to eat dry biscuits. it’s not a natural food source and can cause many health problems in the future. I won’t go into too much detail on this page but anyone interested in learning more facts about feeding your cat dry food may wish to check out the following web site: http://www.catnutrition.org/open-letter-to-vets.html
Of course I am aware that vets opinions, on the subject of kibble, vary greatly depending on who you speak to but Cat Nutrition.org gives you plenty of links to start investigating the facts yourself.
Make sure the food dish is wide enough for your cat’s face and is shallow. A lot of people buy dishes that are more appropriate for dogs (too deep) or too small in diameter (rabbits!). Just look at your cat’s whiskers to get an idea of the best width for your cat’s food dish. The best dish I have come across is called The Wetnoz Studio Scoop 5 cup. It’s a dogs bowl ;-)… The large size suits most cats’ faces especially large breeds such as Persians, Norwegian Forest and Maine Coons. Food should be placed away from water and definitely as far away as possible from the litter tray. You can make drinking water fun for your cat by buying it a water fountain.
If you have a multi-cat household then set up separate feeding stations, as cats like space away from other cats to eat and it will also stop unwanted behaviour such as food bullying.
Feeding times should be structured, e.g. breakfast in the morning, before you go to work and an evening meal when you return home. If you are not in until late, use a feeding timer.
Food in the wild isn’t available all day and your cat’s digestive system needs time to rest! Without a proper feeding schedule many cats WILL eat all day, even when full, which can lead to obesity. A feeding schedule also breaks up the day for an indoor cat and you will begin to notice your cat getting much more excited at meal times when scheduled feeding times are introduced. If you wish your cat to eat regular but small amounts of wet food through-out the day then consider a food timer which has ice trays.
Treats like Frieze dry chicken or beef are great 100% meat snacks and can be fun in a treat puzzle ball or given as a small bedtime snack to see your cat through the night.
A lot of people buy litter trays that are too small or too gimmicky. Ensure you have a large enough tray for your cat to move around in and dig properly. They should also be able to collect litter from another area of the tray to cover their toilet. Large plastic ‘under the bed’ storage trays are great for this. Don’t line the tray with plastic bin bags or paper. This makes digging harder for the cat, is a totally unnatural material for them to have in their toilet area; bags and paper collect urine, which will turn rancid quickly and be very unpleasant for a cat, whose sense of smell is second to none. For this reason, most cats who have litter trays lined with bags or paper do not cover their toilet. One litter tray per cat is the general rule, plus an extra one in separate areas of multi-cat households, in case one cat blocks a litter tray site entrance (to stop the other resident cat using it easily). Cats do not need lids over their trays. These are mainly for humans. Although a very shy, timid cat may feel more secure with a hooded tray, most cats do very well without them. If you do need to get a tray with a cover make sure the litter tray is XXX large so that the hood does not restrict movement.
Last, but not least, don’t come home and get straight on your computer or crash in front of the TV without giving kitty some attention. The days can be very long and boring for an indoor cat, so they will be very excited to see you when you get home from work.
Time put aside for play is absolutely essential for your cat’s well-being. To be honest it’s also good for owners to wind down after a hard day with some good wholesome kitty love! Spend some time showing your cat just how special she is to you, after all, your cat isn’t just there for your entertainment or to look pretty sitting in your home.
Understanding your cat, its origins and basic natural behaviour, will help you to see what needs to be done inside its home environment and will enable your cat to have the happiest and most fulfilling life it can, especially if it’s confined for the rest of its natural life.
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Anita Kelsey for the CFBA. www.catbehaviourist.com