There are some great advantages to be gained by keeping your cat confined indoors. These include decreased risk of injury and disease and as a result a significantly longer life expectancy. There is the added benefit for wildlife and the appreciation of the non-cat lovers in the community. With a bit of extra effort, these cats can still have a lifestyle that meets their needs. Even cats that spend some time outdoors can benefit from additional opportunities for mental and physical activity in their home environment. This is particularly true for individuals prone to anxiety disorders. The following suggestions allow cats to focus their energies in a healthy, positive way that helps to relieve stress. Cats are individuals so it is important to trial as many of the following as possible so that you can identify the elements that your cat appreciates the most.
Cats are very sight sensitive to moving objects, so providing toys with an element of movement will help to attract your cat’s interest and enthusiasm for play. These can vary from simple home-made items such as scrunched up pieces of newspaper on the end of elastic, attached to a stationary object or tied to your belt so they bobble around on the floor behind you as you walk. Various types of toys are also available commercially and these include things such as balls containing bells, cat dancers and various furry items such as mice. Some cats have a genetic predisposition to respond pleasurably to catnip. Toys are available that contain this substance or you might like to grow your own indoor garden and include catnip, catmint or cat grass. Simple items such as table tennis balls or non-toxic soap bubbles can provide avenues for fun interaction.
INTERACTING WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Cats will often be content with a view of the outside world, even if they can’t venture into it. Some are quite happy with access to a window ledge while others may be more satisfied with an enclosed outdoor run (Cat Run) that extends out into the garden area. There are companies that specialise in erecting and designing these structures with cats’ particular needs in mind. Supervised access to the outdoors on a harness is another alternative.
If you have more than one pet and consider there is some tension between different members of the household, you could consider allowing your cat exclusive access to one viewing area that is particularly favoured. It can then become an area of relaxation for this cat that will be identified as a haven from potential threat. Providing a cubby, such as a cardboard box containing an unwashed sweater, in this or other areas of the house will also help your cat feel secure. Making an entry and exit hole and placing it up high also adds to the feeling of security.
Cats often enjoy chasing concentrated dots of light from a penlight or similar source. They like to explore items such as paper bags and boxes, which you can encourage by popping the odd surprise inside. Cats can be trained to search the house for small piles of food, rather than providing them in one spot. Gradually sprinkle the food away from the bowl until your cat catches onto the idea that it is worth looking in hidden spots for its ration. A Kitty Kong can also have food items placed inside it to extend the pleasure of meal time. Raw chicken wings can help keep teeth and gums healthy and provide a suitable chew item.
Scratching posts can prevent damage to furniture items while allowing the cat to enjoy scratching indoors. A climbing post can provide access to areas such as exposed beams and double as a scratching post if covered in a suitable material such as cut pile carpet. Some young, exuberant cats will appreciate the company of a slightly older, energetic cat who they can play with; however some individuals prefer solitude.
There is quite a marked variation in the amount of time different cats like to spend being cuddled. Many will appreciate extended periods of sitting on your lap, being petted or groomed while others dislike too much physical contact at one time. Some owners like doing some obedience work with their cats which can include teaching tricks or games such as retrieve or hide and seek. With patience they can respond very well to this type of attention.
Taking time to make life more interesting for your cat can really increase the quality of life that it enjoys and is an opportunity to give back some of the pleasure that their company gives to us.