Have you ever wondered if your indoor-only cats are happy without going outside? Many people worry that cats are missing out on some parts of the feline experience by being kept indoors. However, today we will show you how to keep your cats happy and healthy by providing enrichment and explain why it’s so important to keep cats inside.
What Are Indoor Cats Missing?
Some people worry that their cat will be depressed or anxious staying indoors only. However, it’s much more complex than that. Some things that cats may miss out on are hunting, traveling with other cats, and exploring new territories. However, these aspects of the feline experience are possible to duplicate in a home environment.
Some other things that indoor cats miss out on compared to outdoor cats are parasites, pests like ticks and fleas, injuries from other wildlife or cars, being stolen by someone, being hunted by another animal, and so much more. These risks far outweigh the benefits of allowing your cat to roam freely, regardless of the environment you live in. There are some exceptions, in very special circumstances, which we will get into later in this article. As a rule, keeping owned cats indoors should be the first and foremost priority for owners.
How to Enrich Your Indoor Cat’s Life: Toys
There are so many ways you can give your cats proper enrichment without ever letting them step outdoors. If your cat has a lot of energy, or you feel they need to burn off excess calories, try incorporating games and toys into their life that include chasing. A cat wheel is another fun way to ensure they are moving enough. It may take some time to get your cat used to the wheel, but after they’ve been taught how to use it, they can hop onto it whenever they feel like stretching their legs.
Some owners also choose to make use of technology-based toys, like a wall-mounted device that dispenses a toy on a string on a timer. Your cat won’t know when to expect the toy to come out, so this can be a fun way to keep them on their toes.
Remember to also engage in regular playtime sessions with your cat, whether it’s a wand toy, throwing a toy mouse for them to chase or fetch, wand toys, or laser pointers. Cats have a very strong prey drive, so any type of activity that helps them tap into these instincts is very valuable for your cat’s mental and physical health. If you choose to use small cat toys, it’s also important to be sure they are not eating or swallowing any pieces. If you suspect your cat has eaten a piece of a toy, you should contact your vet immediately.
How Can I Satisfy My Cat’s Natural Instincts Indoors?
Regular exercise, and being sure to satisfy all of your cat’s senses will keep them very happy and healthy, even young and highly active cats. Playing with them with the toys we discussed will certainly help keep them physically tired, but you must also consider other types of enrichment.
Consider feeding your cat in a new way. If your cat simply eats out of a bowl, you have the opportunity to use a puzzle feeder to make mealtimes more exciting. Instead of just eating their food, they will now have to find their food! If a puzzle feeder is not possible, you can also try hiding small portions of your cat’s food in small bowls all over your home, so that, again, they need to find their food. Some owners also hide treats around the house before leaving for work for the day, so they can have a fun activity looking for treats while you’re away.
Cats also enjoy being up high. Their ancestors and big cat cousins are tree climbers, so house cats have a leftover affinity for high places, and for scratching and stretching upward. In the wild, cats use trees for these purposes. Of course, you aren’t able to give them a real tree indoors - the next best thing is to use scratching posts and cat trees for climbing.
Remember, each cat is different. It’s important to figure out exactly what your cat likes to do, to ensure they enjoy the activities and choose to engage in them even when you’re not around. Not giving them enough to do can lead to feline depression and anxiety for your furry friend.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Some cats, especially feral cats who have been trapped and altered by a rescue group, or taken in by a family, cannot live indoors. If your cat is truly feral and will not come inside, the next best thing would be to make sure they are properly identified as an owned cat with a microchip and/or a collar.
Some people also employ cats as pest control, especially on farms. Again, if this is the case, be sure to have your barn cats up to date on all vetting, and have a microchip and/or a collar.
Remember, all cats that do remain outdoors, even only part-time, should receive the same preventative support from a veterinarian that indoor cats do. This includes flea and tick prevention, regular testing for FIV and FeLV, and annual exams with vaccines. In most cases, keeping your cats indoors is the safest option for their well-being and health. Use these tips to ensure they have a happy and healthy life!