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Guide to Indoor Cats

6 Tips for Kitty Contentment

Cat lovers know that many indoor cats are overweight, inactive, and bored – and that can have a negative effect on their health. Indoor cats can live a healthy and fulfilling life, provided they have environmental enrichment.

1. Playtime Keep cats active by providing different toys to encourage and mimic hunting. Some cats like chasing motorized mice, and others like playing with feathers, stuffed animals, or even a cardboard box. Take care not to let your cat ingest little pieces of cat toys. Also, be cautious with laser lights, as they may be confusing since your cat cannot catch the light.

2. Sleeping in a Safe Place Make sure your cat has a safe spot to rest and sleep. This may be elevated, in a corner, or in a nook, depending on your cat’s preferences. The spot should be in a quiet area in the house, and other pets in the home should not threaten your cat in this spot.

3. Litterboxes Cats naturally use a litterbox, so if your cat is eliminating outside the litterbox, a veterinarian should evaluate him. If common health problems have been ruled out, it is time to assess the litterbox situation in the home. As a rule of thumb, you should have a litterbox for each cat – plus one. The boxes should be cleaned daily and washed at least once a week. They should be in a space that feels safe for the cat. For example, some cats might be scared of a litterbox if it’s near a washing machine or dryer. Cats should not have competition when getting to their litterbox. If you have an older cat or a cat with mobility challenges, be aware of where the litterbox is placed. It should be located on a level they can easily reach, and the box should be easy to enter and exit. Most cats generally prefer a large, uncovered box with fine-grained and unscented litter. The size of the box should be approximately one-and-a-half times the size of your cat.

4. Food and Water Make sure your indoor cat has fresh food and water daily. See how your cat responds when you use different kinds of bowls. Many cats prefer a particular shape or material of the bowl. Also, many cats like to drink from running water, so looking into some kind of fountain might be a good idea. Providing different options will help determine your cat’s preferences. Some cats prefer canned food over dry food or vice versa. Ideally, you can talk to your veterinarian about the kind of food that’s right for your cat if there are health challenges.

5. Scratching Posts As much as you love your indoor cat, you can’t allow him to scratch furniture, rugs, carpets, or other valued materials. If you observe your cat scratching a piece of furniture that is vertical, you can mimic this by making a vertical scratch post with a material that’s similar to the one on the furniture (leather, fabric upholstery, etc.) Next, positively reinforce your cat to use this post, rather than your piece of furniture. Providing treats, pheromones, or catnip will help encourage your cat to use the new post. Place the scratching post in a visible area of your home.

6. Veterinary Visits I know from experience, catching your cat and placing him in a carrier can be a challenge. As a result, many owners avoid veterinary visits, which can lead to preventable health problems in the long run. You can help decrease your cat’s association between the carrier and trips to the vet by placing the carrier in your cat’s regularly frequented spaces, where it is always visible. You can also put treats in the carrier, incorporate pheromones or use the carrier for positive adventures.

Cats provide humans with so much joy. In return, we can give them companionship and love by making adjustments at home to improve their health and happiness.

Anne Abernethy, DVM, has been practicing with Dogwood Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center since 2013. She lives the near West End, and her household includes three dogs and a cat.
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