If you have a cat, keeping her indoor-only will eliminate countless dangers that the great outdoors pose to her, and is perhaps the number one thing you can do to give her her best shot at a long, happy, comfortable life.
The thrill of letting her run wild is easily overshadowed by the risks posed to her by things like cars, dogs, and feral cats.
The happy, lazy life of an indoor housecat is often a truly wonderful one. But if your cat’s not running free outside, climbing, jumping, and hunting, how do you incorporate similar elements into her indoor life to make sure her life is enriched, and still includes some semblance of adventure and the wild? Read on for some ideas!
Why is it necessary to engage my cat?
Your cat can be left alone to laze around and sleep nearly every hour of the day, right?
Not if you want her to live her best life, getting enough physical and mental exercise. Cats who live indoor-only, on average, live longer than outdoor cats and are for obvious reasons less likely to contract diseases and sustain injuries. However, if you simply leave your indoor cat alone to sleep and eat her days away without paying mind to her enrichment needs, she will not burn off necessary energy and may gain weight and act out as a result of developing behavioral issues.
So what can you do?
Build a catio
A catio (rhymes with patio) is an outdoor enclosure, created by either enclosing a covered patio you already have with something like chicken wire or a screen or building your own free-standing one, like a large glorified chicken coop, if you’re terribly ambitious! You can even buy one on Amazon, like this one here!
This way your cat can essentially be outdoors, but be securely enclosed. If you don’t have a patio that you can, or want to, enclose, and don’t want to build one, an easier alternative to this is simply leaving some curtains open throughout the day, so your cat can see the outside world and bird-watch.
Take her on a walk
Alright, this one’s unusual and ambitious, but it is possible. With the proper harness and leash, and plenty of training and acclimating, cats can walk too. The very best-case scenario is to begin at a young age to get your cat used to a harness and walking. It can be near impossible to teach an old cat new tricks. Here it really comes down to your cat’s personality, and getting started with training early in her life. If you’re committed and think this is something your cat could learn to love, taking her on walks can be a great way to stimulate her senses.
Give your kitty toys that will exercise her instincts
Toys on a wand can be particularly engaging for your feline, and can exercise her hunting instincts. There are some being made these days on which the toy is at the end of a metal wire, rather than a limp string, which makes the object fly more realistically. Bird and mouse toys that move and/or make noise are great too, however annoying they may be to you.
Consider putting those ones up at night, but when you’re gone, put them out for your cat to knock herself out. Simple cat toys are extremely easy to make, as well. You can whip up a DIY cat toy in no time.
Get your cat an aquarium—or a TV show or game that looks like one
Set up a small fish tank in a place where your cat can see it, and she’ll be entertained for a good long while.
Make sure your frisky feline can’t get into or knock over the tank, of course—we don’t want any pet fish harmed in the enrichment of your feline! If you don’t want to do this, there are aquarium screensavers complete with swimming fish that you can pull up on a TV or computer screen and leave to give your cat a little entertainment while you’re away.
If you have a touch-screen tablet, there are some great games made especially for cats, with everything from fish swimming across the screen, to bugs crawling, to mice scurrying, that react when the screen is touched. Welcome to the 21st century! There are computer games for cats these days, and they can be a great way to keep your indoor cat engaged and “hunting.”
Use vertical space
Cats love to climb. Keeping them inside and down at your level all the time can make them feel a little restricted. Not only does climbing let them feel like they’re climbing a tree, but it’s great exercise for them, too.
Get your cat a “condo” or a “cat tree” that allows her to jump, climb, perch, sleep and get a little distance. If you have something like an old rack of curtains, an old box spring, or another piece of furniture propped up against a wall, this also makes for a great climb and great fun for your cat.
While cats may not be as reliant upon us for engagement and stimulation as other animals are, in order to have as fulfilling a life as we can give them, they do need interaction from us and a little effort to replicate the stimulation and enrichment that outdoor cats get. We at Space Coast Pet Services love and understand cats and their nuances and quirks, and can provide them the stimulation they need if you’re away.
So give your feline friend the enriched and engaged life she needs to maintain a healthy weight, and ward off boredom, depression, and deviant behaviors, and we’ll be here to offer our services should you need us to fill in the gaps.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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