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Indoor Life - Keeping your Indoor Cat Happy

27 March 2017
Indoor Life - Keeping your Indoor Cat Happy Cats can adapt to living indoors, particularly if they are used to it from a young age. Some cats need to be confined indoors due to medical conditions and others prefer an indoor life. If they become bored they may develop behaviour problems so there are a number of ways to keep your cat happy:

Keep them occupied…
Domestic cats that have free access to the outdoors will still often engage in hunting activity even if there is no access to prey – eg playing with fallen leaves, or grass blowing in the wind. It is important to allow cats opportunities to exhibit hunting behaviour, as it keeps them mentally stimulated and releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. Indoor cats aren’t able to play outside, so it is important to provide them with toys and activities to keep them occupied.

Enhancing and maximising the indoor environment for all cats
Cats should be provided with a stimulating and safe indoor environment, whether they go outside or not.
If your cat is solely kept indoors, then this is particularly essential. If you have more than one cat, offer enough resources in different locations where your cats can eat, drink, toilet, rest and hide.

Feeding and drinking
Cats like to eat and drink away from their litter tray, as understandably, it’s more hygienic. However, many people don’t realise that cats also like to have each of their food and water bowls in separate places too. This stems back to the cat’s evolutionary past, when they would eat in a different area to avoid contaminating their drinking source with the remains of their prey.
Avoid putting food and water bowls next to each other. Eating and drinking can be vulnerable activities for a cat – so try placing bowls slightly away from the wall, so that a cat can sit with his back to the wall and view his surroundings. Cats are all individuals and therefore have difference preferences for types of bowls, for example plastic, ceramic or metal bowls.
Cats in the wild spend a lot of their time on short, frequent hunting expeditions. In comparison, domestic cats are given food bowls, so it doesn’t take long for them to eat their daily ration or make use of their great senses. Try using feeding puzzle balls to give part, or all, of your cat’s daily ration. It is best to let cats get used to this gradually, to ensure they have enough to eat and don’t become frustrated.

Play and exercise
Keep your cat amused with toys, climbing towers or activity centres. These can be bought or made – a
cardboard box with holes cut into it or a ball of tin foil can be perfectly adequate. Play is more fun if you
get involved too – you can use fishing rod toys with feathers on a string to mimic their prey!
Opportunities to exhibit hunting behaviour are often triggered by toys which move and attract the cat’s
attention. Older cats will love playing three or four times a day, but the type of play may need to be
adapted to suit their needs and level of mobility.
Younger cats will be happy to play 10 times a day or more. Very short games of one to two minutes are
fine – cats use their energy in short bursts when hunting, so try to mimic this. Create interest at meal
times by hiding biscuits around the house for your cat to find. Make a pyramid out of cardboard
toilet roll tubes and hide food in the tubes, or use a puzzle ball. Swap toys around regularly to keep them
interesting.

Somewhere to hide
It is important to always provide your cat with an easily accessible place to hide which will help to make
him feel safe and secure. A hiding place can be something as simple as a cardboard box on its side, or
upside down with large holes for access. Alternatively, you could purchase an igloo style cat
bed, or offer space under the bed or in a wardrobe with the door left ajar. The cat shouldn’t be disturbed
while he is hiding.

Somewhere to get up high
Cats feel safer if they can view their surroundings from a height and this also increases their territory by
providing extra vertical space that they can use. This is a common coping mechanism for cats that feel
anxious or fearful. You could place a cosy blanket on top of a wardrobe and provide access by placing a
stool or similar item next to it. Cats also love to sit on window sills and shelves. Extra consideration
should be given to elderly cats.

Sleeping
On average, cats spend about 16 hours a day sleeping. Cats generally rest or sleep intermittently
throughout the day and will prefer a warm, comfortable and safe place. There is a large range of cat
beds available, including igloo beds, or hammocks for the radiator. A simple cardboard box with a
blanket inside will also do the trick.

Scratching and climbing
A scratching post will provide exercise, claw maintenance and a focal point for your cat to express this
natural behaviour – it will help protect your furniture too. Cats like to stretch and scratch after they wake
up, so try placing the scratching post near where they sleep. A good scratching post has the
following features:
• A strong sturdy base so the cat can lean against the post without it wobbling
• Tall enough that the cat can stretch fully
• A vertical thread that allows the cat to scratch downwards

Eating grass

A type of grass that cats particularly like is Cocksfoot – it has long broad leaves so it is easy for them to
bite. It is believed that eating grass helps cats to cough up hairballs. If your cat can’t go outside,
Cocksfoot grass can be grown indoors. Seeds are readily available from garden centres and pet shops.
If no grass is provided, your cat may try to eat other household plants which can pose a risk.

Toileting
It is a good idea to have one litter tray per cat, plus one extra – especially if your cats are kept indoors.
Place the litter trays in different quiet areas of the house, away from the food and water bowls. Cats
don’t like using dirty or soiled trays so make sure the litter tray is cleaned at least once a day. This helps
to prevent accidents as well as being more hygienic. Cats generally prefer at least 3cm depth of litter
and a litter of a sandy texture. Make any changes to the tray, the litter or its location very slowly to avoid accidents.