Like most dogs, house cats have a long pedigree dating back to their roots in the wild. Even after domestication, we still see many of their instincts at play today, though in different forms: hunting (chasing bugs), staying sharp (attacking your ankles when you walk by), and pooping in a box (yes, that one is actually based on their desire to mark their territory).
So is it healthy and ethical to keep your cat cooped inside all day? The simple answer is “yes”, and in fact it’s safer for them since most of their survival skills have faded over the millennia. You know how your cat loves rolling around and stretching on the floor begging for belly rubs? While it may be adorable and enjoyable for both of you, a cat who’s lived in the wild his whole life knows not to expose his vital organs to predators. It may be tempting to trust your cat to wander around the neighborhood, but according to the Pets section of WebMD, cats who remain indoors tend to live four times longer on average than an outdoor one.
That said, you can’t completely fight a cat’s instincts. You need to keep your companion entertained by accommodating some of his desires. Here are some steps you can take to ensure a happy and free indoor kitty:
(Photo credit: Flickr user sydney none of your buisness)
Perhaps a cat’s most basic instinct is to observe nature. They aren’t the biggest or toughest creatures, so they rely on their ability to see what’s going on to avoid danger and sense prey. Plus, “Kitty TV” is plain entertainment. Make sure your house has lots of windows with a perch at least big enough for them to sit on, preferably some on a second floor or higher. Avoid basement apartments at all costs. It can also be helpful to install some areas inside the house that are high up, as cats feel more comfortable when observing from above.
While safer, the indoors are obviously much smaller and more cramped than out in nature. Not only does playing with your cat tire him out so he doesn’t bug you at night, it helps keep him healthy and fit. There are lots of way to get him the necessary exercise. You can try gently wrestling your cat, though it will probably leave some bite or scratch marks on your hand. Soft biting is usually a sign of playfulness, but if he starts really clawing you might want to take a step back. Many cats like to be chased as well, as it keeps them agile in case of a monster attack. Let them pounce on you (as long as they aren’t drawing blood).
If you value your skin, find some toys to keep your cat entertained:
While not as fun as the other topics, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your cat. Clean his litterbox at least daily, make sure he has enough food (but not too much) and water, groom him, and make sure dangerous chemicals and the like are out of range. Also ensure that he can’t escape through doors, windows, or other small openings.
Make sure to care for his mental health, too. Give him attention. Even just talking to him helps. Cuddle with him. Scratch behind his ears or whatever odd spots he chooses. Remember, you (and any other pets) are the only family he has, so make sure he feels welcome and loved.
Yes, this entire article is predicated on the idea that cats should be kept safe from outside dangers, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely deprive them of nature. With proper supervision and care, you can take your cat out on a leash and harness and let him explore the wonders of outside. Just be sure that the harness is secure but not crushing, and you take him into a controlled area (away from streets, not near anything dangerous, etc.). You should do some research before taking this step, but it might be worth it to watch your animal joyfully graze like a cow (before throwing it all up).
With all that said, you can still let your cat outside. Just be sure to do the research and confirm that it’s safe. But if you’re like most cat owners and have a strictly inside cat, follow the steps above, along with anything else that works, and you’ll both have a good time.
Share your ideas below on how to keep an indoor cat happy.