Imagine living your whole life protected, safe, fed, loved…and entirely indoors. While your every physical need is met, you have very little say regarding what your life is like. You can look out windows, but you can never go outside. You get plenty of food, but you never get to decide what you want to eat. You can play, but someone else chooses the toys or activities. And many of your natural tendencies are often shut down. It’s the deal we’ve made with our indoor cats: they will be loved, cared for, and safe, but we will control most aspects of their lives. Their entire lives occur within the walls of our homes.
Now imagine if your cat were allowed to venture outside. They would experience what it was like to walk on grass, soil, mud, or puddles. They would breathe fresh air and feel the heat of the summer sunshine, and the chill of the winter should they so choose. They would use their keen sense of smell to explore their surroundings and learn something new every day, thereby keeping the mind and body active. Cats who go outside have the freedom to choose where they go to the bathroom, what trees feel good to scratch on, and which type of greens to munch on. They are able to bask in the sun or lie in the shade, and they can hunt as much as they like. While indoor cats are safe from predators and danger, many are denied the enjoyment of spending quality time outside their four walls.
We are not suggesting or advocating that you should let your cat go outside (In fact, all of the Dezi & Roo kitties are indoor cats), because only you know if that is a safe option for your kitty. What we are saying is that if you have an indoor-only kitty it is important to recognize that its needs are 100% dependent on you to fulfill. Happy, healthy cats are given choices and their lives are enriched with lots to do, explore, and experience. Here are some tips on how to bring the outdoors in for those special cats that live exclusively indoors.
Let in the sunshine and fresh air!
Indoor cats live entirely in man-made physical surroundings with little access to nature. Their lighting and temperature settings are artificial and dictated by their caregivers; during the winter homes are heated, and during the summer cooled by air conditioning. Curtains and blinds keep sun out during the day and lights in the house go on at nightfall. Cats living within four walls have limited options when it comes to their environment and sadly, many live in a bubble devoid of simple things like the sounds and smell of rain, wind and the neighborhood. One of the easiest and most important things you can do to enrich your cat’s life is to open the windows and let the fresh air, sunshine, and street sounds in. Opening windows allows cats to smell, hear, feel and see life outside better. Screened windows, screened doors, screened-in porches, “catios,” balconies, window units, and outdoor enclosures are all ways in which to provide high-value enrichment. Light, temperature changes, and outdoor noise provides indoor cats with new experiences that make them happier, healthier, smarter and secure.
Tap into their sense of smell and adventure
It is as simple as collecting branches, sticks, leaves, plants and grasses to bring inside. Be creative with specimens from your yard, neighborhood and work. Bring in something different each time and vary the locations where you place them. A few leaves on the windowsill to smell and knock off, or a branch placed on a table will give your cat something new to smell, feel, play and explore. Oat, wheat, rye and barley grasses can be grown, picked, or bought and offer cats fiber, nutrients, and provides them with chewing pleasure. There are many other safe plants like catnip and mint for cats to indulge in. These simple outdoor items are all things indoor cats would love to have more of. Make sure that what you bring inside is safe, pesticide and bug-free (although an occasional cricket, ladybug or small worm can be fun too). Scented paper, boxes or cardboard rolls all offer unique opportunities for cats to experience different smells too (Olive is a big fan of the boxes from Costco). Simply rub them with grass, flowers, soil, food, herbs or anything else that a cat would find outside or in a garbage can. Varying the item, smell, and locations where you place them all help give cats new opportunities to experience the outdoors safely. Even if your cat can’t walk on soil or grass, at least let them smell it and expand their world of knowledge.
Create an indoor playground
Backyards have areas to explore, places to hide, trees to scratch, and critters to catch. Cats love all those activities, and it isn’t hard to set up playsets that are fun for them to enjoy. Tents erected with sheets, towels or a blanket over furniture is a classic way to provide enrichment (if you have kids, get their help on this one). Just like Dezi & Roo’s Hide and Sneak, tents and tunnels provide comfort, safety and adventure. Vary the fabric, piece of furniture and time of day in which to set up your indoor camp site. Building a jungle gym for you cat is easy too: small tables, chairs, stools and sturdy boxes can all be moved together in configurations that encourage jumping, climbing, and exploring. Used wicker furniture is great for cats to scratch and climb on, and it’s cheap and easy to find in thrift stores and garage sales. Large logs and pieces of discarded wood are plentiful outdoors and offer wonderful opportunities for cats to scratch on novel surfaces. The Hide and Sneak cat tunnel or maze you create yourself from boxes helps cats explore new places that are dark and enclosed. The best way to keep things fresh is to set up for a few days, then put away, only to reintroduce in a different room several days later. Large sheets of paper which are easy to obtain from plant nurseries or packing stores, wrapping paper rolls, the Hide and Sneak or lots of newspapers can all be crumbled up and made into a heaping mess of fun for cats to burrow under, on top of and into. A little imagination and creativity is all that it takes to create different fun, enriching, entertaining indoor playgrounds for your cats to enjoy!
More and more cats are now being kept inside full-time. As long as we, the cat parents, are helping them lead fulfilling lives, then there’s nothing wrong with this arrangement. But we need to be mindful of the quality of our cat’s emotional and mental well-being, as well as their physical well-being. Good luck, and if you create something your cat loves, please share in the comments!
We built a compact catio on the deck of our lake house to protect our cats and the local birds and small animals, and in deference to our close proximity neighbors (who don’t like cats). The misguided HOA demanded we remove it, but after appealing to them and presenting the positives, we cut it down from a little over 7 feet to just about 5 1/2 feet. Very upsetting episode, and I’m still angry about taking the height away from my 6 cats. Anybody out there win against similar stupidity?
Though we don’t have our wonderful catio that we had in the last home we owned, we do have lots of windows and doors, and lots of cat furniture, scratching surfaces, toys, and room! so the cats here are pretty happy, I think. They do need a lot of stimuli. Thanks for sharing these great suggestions!
I bring in homegrown catnip and grasses as well as leaves and sticks. I ball up paper for my three BIG cats to knock around …. and they LOVE the feathers I find outside too
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