Cats are natural predators and take immense pleasure in the thrill of the hunt...along with belly scratches, of course. In fact, if you’ve got an outdoor cat, you’ve likely received the occasional or more-than-occasional gift of a dead mouse. However, research shows that cats do tend to live longer as indoor cats and, as many of us live in areas that are teeming with coyotes and other wildlife, it’s often the only alternative. So how do you keep your indoor cat happy and healthy? In honor of February being National Cat Health Month, here are seven ways listed below.
1. Kitten Consistency is Key
You might be tempted to take your kitten outside with you due to the excitement of having your new fur baby but, if you plan on having an indoor kitty to keep them safe, it’s best to condition them to thrive in this environment from the start.
2. Provide a Cool Catio
You can offer the cat the opportunity to feel like they’re outside without actually doing so. If you are a DIYer you can hop on Pinterest to create one, or perhaps hire a local handyman to help you out. Along these same lines, you can buy indoor cat grass at most pet supply stores. Just make sure the catio is safe for your cat by making sure there are no holes or escape routes, and that it doesn’t give your cat access to toxic plants.
3. Try Walking Your Kitty
Not all cats are fond of this but it’s always worth putting a collar and leash on your cat and giving it a try! As TheHumaneSociety.org notes, “This training takes time and patience, for both you and the cat, and it's easiest when your cat is young. Some cats can even be harnessed and tied to a stationary object to enjoy the outdoors while you are gardening nearby (but be sure to never leave your cat alone while they are tethered).”
4. Perches and Cat Scratching Posts FTW
Not only do scratching posts save your couch and curtains from your cat’s instincts to knead and claw things, but it also gives them a fun way to spend part of their day. Put these perches or posts by a sunny window if you can to offer your cat a glimpse of the world outside.
5. Play All Day
Okay, maybe not all day but cats are much like kids. They like it when you actually get down with them and play with them with feather toys, fishing pole toys, and the like. But also like kids who often end up playing with the wrapping paper instead of their toys on Christmas morning, cats love it if you just leave out boxes or paper bags (no handles) for them to inhabit, bat around, and sleep in.
6. Long Live the Laser Pointer
If you’ve had cats, heard about cats, watched cat videos, or even just seen cats, you likely know about their love of laser pointers. But it’s not just a fun game for them; following the light gets them exercise and taps into their hunting instincts. The only problem with this activity is it can lead to frustration on the cat’s part due to having no real resolution—nothing is ever actually caught. As Dr. Marty Becker notes via VetStreet.com, “After some quality time with the laser pointer, switch toys to something that can be caught and ‘killed,’ such as a toy on the end of a fishing pole or a stuffed mouse. Your cat can then wind down with the satisfaction of having won the game, with ‘dead prey’ to show for his hunting prowess.”
7. Cleanliness is Next to Godliness For Cats
Cats are fastidious about their grooming, so if they stop doing this for any reason, make sure to consult your veterinarian, as something could be wrong. To make them happy, keep their litter box as meticulously clean as you can, as this can really affect their happiness and well being.
One last note—indoor cats are at risk for obesity due to not being able to frolic and forage outside, so keep this in mind when coming up with a good diet with your veterinarian. Also, be sure to microchip your cat and keep an ID tag on them even if they are an indoor kitty because accidents do happen! If you have any questions about how to keep your indoor cat happy and healthy, schedule your pet's next appointment here or give us a call.
The Drake Center for Veterinary Care is an AAHA-accredited animal hospital located in Encinitas, CA. The Drake Center loves being a source of information for all pet owners across the country however if you have any questions regarding pet care and do not live in Encinitas, CA or surrounding cities, we encourage you to contact your local veterinarian.