Caring for your cat – keeping indoor cats happy

Ideally all cats would be allowed access
to the outdoors to express their natural behaviour. However some cats need to be
confined to the indoors. The decision on whether to keep your cat inside should
be assessed on your cat’s personality, health, previous experience, home, local
outside environment and your own preferences. If kept solely indoors, your
cat should be provided with ways to exhibit its natural behaviours to ensure
its welfare, reduce dependency on you and avoid undesirable behavioural issues.
Here’s how. One: keep them occupied. It’s important to allow your cat
opportunities to exhibit their natural hunting behaviour, as it keeps them
mentally stimulated and releases feel- good hormones called endorphins. Without
this, your cat may suffer from behavioural issues such as aggression, scratching,
spraying, overgrooming, house soiling and depression. Their hunting behaviour can
often be triggered by toys which move and attract their attention such as
fishing rod toys. Depending on the age and mobility of
your cat, it’s best to play with them for one to two minutes, five to 10 times per day.
You can also keep your cat amused with other toys, climbing towers or activity
centres and create interest at mealtimes by hiding biscuits in puzzle balls or
enrichment toys, to give part or all of their daily ration. However it is best to
introduce these gradually to ensure they have enough to eat and don’t become
frustrated. And swap them regularly to keep things interesting. Two: safe places.
Without access to the outdoors, your cat is unable to escape some of the
disruptions that can occur in the home, such as building work, visitors or other
pets. This can create stress, so it is important to always provide your cat
with easily accessible places to hide, which will help to make them feel safe
and secure. A hiding place can be something as simple as a cardboard box
with large holes for access and a blanket. Alternatively you could offer
space under a bed or in a wardrobe with the door left ajar, remembering your cat
should not be disturbed while it is hiding. Cats feel safer if they can view
their surroundings from a height. Providing extra vertical spaces they can
use increases their territory and helps them feel secure. This is a common coping
mechanism for cats that feel anxious or fearful. These can also double up as
sleeping places. On average, cats spend about 16 hours intermittently sleeping
throughout the day and will prefer warm, comfortable and safe places to rest. Three: feeding.
Cats like to eat and drink away from their litter tray as 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. Eating and
drinking can be vulnerable activities for your cat, so try placing bowls slightly away from the wall where they can sit facing their surroundings. Four: indoor risks. It’s important to remember to keep cupboards,
washing machines, tumble dryers and toilet lids closed to avoid any risk of
injury or drowning. Cats are very susceptible to poisoning and a number of
household items, including some plants and flowers such as lilies, are toxic and
should be kept safely away or out of the house. Any potential escape routes should be fenced over with a strong wire mesh or
screen or simply kept closed. It is recommended that you microchip your cat,
even if they live indoors, to increase the chance of them being reunited with
you if they escape and go missing. They should also be vaccinated and neutered.

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