For years veterinarians have been encouraging cat owners to keep their feline companions indoors, and there is ample evidence to prove this benefits the cat. For example, indoor cats are less prone to disease, injury, and, of course, disappearing. But indoor cats also miss out on a lot of life’s pleasures when they’re cooped up 24/7.
I highly recommend letting your cat have some outdoor time, whether on a harness, in a catio, or even free-roaming if your community allows it. But if you, and your vet, feel safer with kitty indoors, make sure you give them these 5 things.
Fresh air and sunshine — We’ve mentioned this a lot on the blog, but that’s because it’s so important! Imagine never getting fresh air or sunshine again. You’d probably be pretty miserable, and so would your cat. All living creatures need sunlight to thrive. Cats are no exception. Thankfully providing it is really easy. If you have a screened area, let your kitty roam around for a few hours each day, or build them their own space, like a catio or playpen. Or simply throw open the windows on a warm, sunny day. Chances are you’ll find Fluffy lounging in the sun in no time.
High protein diet with garden greens — Cats are carnivores so never put them on a vegan diet. But you can offer them some fresh veggies every now and then. You can grow your own cat-friendly grasses such as oat, wheat, rye or barley grasses. Or you can buy a pre-grown plant from the pet store. Many sell cat-friendly grasses or fresh catnip. Even mint is cat-friendly; plus, humans can enjoy it too. It’s also a good idea to offer your cat a variety of textures and flavors from time to time. Would you want to eat the same exact food for the rest of your life? You can simply buy a different brand of treat, introduce a new wet food, or cook a plain chicken breast.
Hiding spaces — Cats love to hide. It makes them feel safe, secure, and comfortable. It’s also a survival mechanism. As animals that are preyed upon in the wild, they frequently doze or catnap with one eye open, ready to run should danger approach. Good hiding spots allow them to get better sleep. If the predators can’t find them, they don’t have to be so vigilant. This instinct is still present in your indoor feline, so it’s a good idea to offer her comfy, quiet, and sometimes dark places to hide. Some cats love play tunnels like our Hide and Sneak because it allows them to be out of sight but be able to keep an eye out for danger or food.
Physical and mental activity — You know I couldn’t write a blog about indoor cats and not mention play time! An indoor cat’s greatest challenge is keeping his mind and body in shape. Outdoors, cats have ample opportunity to exercise both through hunting. Indoors, cats may fall into a depression or become overweight because they don’t need to worry about finding food or safe spaces. We can help them out, though, by choosing toys that mimic prey and creating puzzles for meal time. Challenge your cats, and they’ll return the favor with love and purrs.
Dental and health care — I think it’s a common misconception that because they’re not exposed to as many diseases or hazards as their outdoor counterparts, indoor cats don’t need to go to the vet. But this is simply not true. Indoor cats need regular check-ups and should be taken to see the doctor any time their behavior seems unusual. Cats don’t show signs of disease the same way other animals do, and often the first sign of something serious is when they stop eating. But by that time, your cat may already be in distress. It’s best to get to know your cat’s routine and personality, so you can notice any small changes as soon as they happen. And don’t forget dental care. I know it’s tough to brush your cat's teeth, but if you start young and associate the experience with good things like treats and pets, cats will adapt pretty well.
BONUS: Love — This one may be obvious, but cats can be pretty standoffish, so it’s important to love them in a way that they enjoy. Chin scritches, head pats, tail pulls, tummy rubs, bath time, play time—whatever your cat’s preference, give him lots and lots of it and he’ll definitely return the favor.