It’s important to enhance your home environment to make it more cat-friendly – especially if your cat doesn’t go outside. Here are some ideas to help you maintain your cat’s physical and psychological well-being and cater to their individual needs.
Most cats will have always been fed from a bowl. Try stimulating your cat by hiding treats around the home for them to find, this will make feeding time more fun! You can also buy or make special feeders like puzzle feeders or treat balls. Introduce these gradually and remember some cats will always prefer to eat their food from a bowl. Grow your own cat grass to aid your cat’s digestion.
Automatic pet feeders are very useful if you want your cat to eat specific amounts at set times. The voice activated ones work well, as you can record your voice calling your cat and set it for 4am. This way your cat eats at the time they would normally wake you up to be fed or play.
Keep food and water bowls separately. Remember that cats are lactose intolerant, so milk is not a good replacement for water. Cats will often only drink from something that their whiskers don’t have to touch (this is why they often drink from a full glass of water).
Encourage your cat to drink by offering larger water bowls, water fountains, or a running tap, as these stimulate your cat’s desire to drink and are great way to keep them occupied.
Indoor cats need several options for toileting. Allow for one litter tray per cat plus one, placed away from each other in areas where they won’t get disturbed.
Litter trays come in a variety of sizes, and can be open or covered, if you want to provide your cats with more privacy. Buying a litter tray that suits your cat’s size means they are more likely to use it and won’t make the mistake of toileting over the edge of an open tray.
Quite often cats like places out of the way or high up. On top of the fridge or underneath a chair are often favourites, so they’re well protected and undisturbed whilst they sleep. Provide your cat with a nice comfy bed in the areas of their choice. Also consider cat beds that incorporate perch and hide opportunities, like radiator or covered beds.
There are also complimentary products available which can relax cats, relieve their anxiety and help them get along together. Feline diffusers can help your cat feel more relaxed in the home, some are specifically designed to help improve relationships between cats. Cat anxiety remedies, available in tablets or as supplements, can take the edge off any anxious feelings your cat may have.
Give your cats at least one scratching area like a sturdy scratching post, scratch pad (old carpet tile) or disposable scratcher. This is a form of scent marking and something you should encourage.
Let your cat build up a scent profile around their home, to feel safe and secure. Where possible vertical scratching posts must be high enough for the cat to stretch up and scratch and placed in entrances and exits of rooms. Your cat may also like a carpet tile to scratch in these areas as well.
Your cat should have the option to hide and perch. Give them an upturned sturdy cardboard box (big enough for your cat to lie in, turn around in and sit on top of), a chair with a large towel draped over it, or similar items in your home. If possible, there should be hiding and perching options in all rooms and floors of your cat’s home.
All cats should have the opportunity to climb and jump up high. You could use tree branches for ramps, provide platforms and sturdy cardboard boxes, tall scratching posts and even let them explore shelving – minus the ornaments, of course.
Encourage your cat to play with toys and rotate them regularly to prevent over-familiarity and boredom. Use toys that emulate the natural hunting sequence – Locate, Stalk, Chase, Pounce, Kill, Dissect and Eat. If your indoor cat likes to play predatory games, then play with them at various times throughout day with a suitable toy. This means your cat can express their natural hunting behaviours. Some examples of predatory toys to mentally stimulate your cat are:
When playing with your cat, remember to give a food reward to finish off the natural hunting sequence – Locate, Stalk, Chase, Pounce, Kill, Dissect and Eat. Avoid any toys (like laser pens) that do not allow your cat to follow this natural hunting sequence, as this can cause your cat to get frustrated and redirect this frustration on to you. If you do use one of these toys, finish the game by offering a toy for your cat to ‘kill' and a tasty treat afterwards.
If an indoor cat is showing signs of stress due to other cats directly outside your home, try to prevent your cat from seeing, hearing and smelling them. Cover floor level windows and glass doors to block your cat’s view of outside from the ground, and then create high perches in front of windows. Your cat will feel happier if they can look down on the other cats outside. Leaving a radio on to cover any sound can also help reduce stress.
Provide an outdoor space for your indoor cat
Providing some space outside will allow your cat to express their natural behaviours in a more natural environment. They may also like this space to sunbathe in sunny weather.
If you have a balcony, you can make it part of your indoor cat’s territory with a cat balcony kit. Cat-safe garden fencing and outdoor runs mean your cat can enjoy the garden without the chance of escape. Window covers give your cat access to fresh air, while keeping them safely inside.