Improving Your Indoor Cat’s Quality of Life
Remember back in March 2020, when you were quarantined inside your home? Yes, you had everything you could ever need inside your house. You had your comfy bed, food to eat, and lots of stuff to do and keep you busy. But you were still going stir-crazy after a while, bored out of your mind, right?
Now think about your indoor cat. Yes, he has a bowl full of food, a million toys, a nice window perch to look out from, and everything he could ever want. But could you blame him for still wanting more? For wanting a breakup in the monotony and the day-to-day living of life inside four walls?
Cats who are bored and under-stimulated tend to get themselves into trouble. Your cat may become aggressive towards you. He may bolt out the front door when it’s opened. He may start fighting with your other cats. How do you keep an indoor cat happy?
No matter their age or energy level, all cats can use a little extra play and enrichment in their lives. When thinking about enrichment, we want to focus on three key aspects: physical, cognitive, and environmental.
Physical enrichment includes exercise and play. Giving your cat plenty of opportunities for climbing and vertical space is essential. Cats love to be up high and it gives them a sense of confidence and safety. You can use cat furniture like cat trees and shelving, or simply arrange your furniture in a way where your cat can get up high, maybe on a table or bookshelf, and observe the room.
Climbing is great exercise! However, play is the number one way to keep your indoor cat happy and provide him with physical enrichment. You should try to play with your cat twice a day for about ten minutes at a time if possible. These play sessions work best in the morning and evening, as cats are crepuscular and naturally most active around dawn and dusk.
Your cat doesn’t have much to think about. His food comes in a bowl. Everything, for the most part, stays the same from day to day. One of the best ways to keep an indoor cat happy is to provide him with ways to stimulate his brain and get him thinking. If he’s thinking and focusing on something productive, he’s not getting into trouble!
Food puzzles are excellent cognitive enrichment for cats, as is clicker training. Food puzzles let your cat forage for his food, and he must figure out how to get to the yummy snack. Teaching your cat new tricks can also be great fun for your cat. Learning new things is a great way to keep the mind enriched!
Arranging your indoor cat’s environment in a way that is stimulating and interesting is the last key factor in keeping your indoor cat happy. As discussed earlier, vertical space makes a small room feel much longer and gives your cat more space to climb and explore.
Along with vertical space, hiding spots are also important even for confident cats. Every cat needs a comfy, cozy place to hole up and get some private time! Plenty of resting space, opportunities to lounge and look out the window, and a multitude of resources such as litter boxes and food and water are all important aspects of environmental enrichment.
Letting Your Indoor Cat Outdoors
No matter how much enrichment you are providing for your cats indoors, sometimes, adding a little bit of the outdoors can go a long way as well. Although allowing your cat to roam free outdoors can be dangerous in many neighborhoods, there are plenty of safe ways to allow your indoor cat to experience life outside of four walls.
You can train your cat to walk on a harness and leash and go for walks in the neighborhood. Your cat may also enjoy going out in a stroller or backpack. For some people, adding a “catio,” or enclosed outdoor space that your cat can enjoy safely is a great option as well. At a minimum, every cat enjoys a good open window with a comfy perch to lounge on and a birdwatch.
Keeping these things in mind can go a long way in keeping an indoor cat happy. Life inside four walls is boring – do your best to keep your cat’s life as fun, exciting, and enriching as possible.