Keeping your cat happy indoors is 100% possible. This can be achieved through “catifying” your home, providing a variety of enrichment items, and having a regular play schedule.
“Catifying” Your Home
Catifying means making your home a space that your cat enjoys and feels safe and comfortable in. There are a few really important features that help to achieve this:
Provide a Window Seat
Create a place for your cat to perch and look out a window. This can be amplified by placing bird feeders, or squirrel feeders in your yard to increase the amount of wildlife your cat will get to see each day.
Provide Vertical Space
Ensure there are lots of spaces that your cat can perch on that are up and off the floor. This can include cat trees, cat shelves on the wall or window perches. Cats naturally enjoy being elevated from the ground, and feel safest when able to observe their surroundings from a space that is higher up. This is one of the most important things you can do for your cat, but it also helps them to do what they would do outdoors, which is climb trees or fences.
Provide Great Places to Scratch
It’s important to understand that scratching is a normal feline behavior. It is a means for cats to mark their territory both visually and with scent. Scratching also assists with nail conditioning, whole-body stretching and maintenance of necessary claw motion used in hunting, climbing and defense. Providing your cats with a scratching post they like is critical to keeping them happy indoors. A great scratching post is: sturdy, ideally vertical so the cat can stretch out as they scratch, and provides a rougher surface (like corrugated cardboard, or sisal). (link to 2.9 Scratching)
Providing Stimulating Enrichment Items
Much like humans, cats enjoy some variety in their life. There are plenty of things you can do to help keep your cat entertained and engaged!
Provide Scent Enrichment
Cats enjoy a variety of scents beyond the standard catnip. Some great options for scent enrichment for cats are:
- Valerian Root
- Tatarian Honey Suckle
Treat Puzzle Toys
Cats are natural-born hunters, so having to work to get their food is part of their nature. Having a treat ball or treat puzzle for your cat is a great way to keep their mind working.
The following provide good DIY treat puzzles for your cat.
Create a Cat Garden:
Bring the outdoors inside by creating a “cat garden”. Cats love to eat, and smell plants, so providing safe plants that they can eat helps to mimic the feeling of being outdoors. Some safe options for a cat garden indoors or out include:
- Cat nip (very easy to grow)
- Cat Grass
- Barley Grass
- Wheat Grass
- Lemon Grass
- Spider plants (cats love these!)
The following is a good resource for creating an amazing cat garden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bS1Zxa5WmI
Having a Regular Play Schedule
The amount of time to spend playing with your cat depends upon many factors, such as age and activity level. But generally, a couple of 10-15 minute play sessions per day is a good goal. There are many great ways to play with your cat.
Play is best done a few times daily, ideally before each meal. A cat’s natural cycle is: play, eat, and sleep. If you want to have your cat sleep when you’re sleeping, having a good play session, then feeding them is a great way to help lull them into a nap.
The following are great playtime tips:
- Keep a variety of toys on hand. Just as with children’s toys, one of the keys to success is to rotate toys, putting them away for a while after playtime. If the toys are available to your cat all the time, they soon become boring, mundane items. Whether elaborate or simple, toys give your cat exercise, mental stimulation, a chance to act on hunting instincts, and a way to bond with you.
- With so many cat toys on the market, it can be tough to pick ones that are both safe and appealing. Cat toys can range from free homemade items to battery-powered devices, but regardless of the cost, safety comes first. Cats should never have any toy that includes loose string or yarn which can easily be drawn into the cat’s throat and digested leading to serious or deadly problems with the digestive tract.
- There are plenty of items around the house that make safe and fun toys for your cat, starting with a plain brown paper bag – especially if it is large enough to crawl inside. Empty boxes are also cat magnets. Boxes too small to hold your cat can contain small cat toys or treats accessible by cutting small holes in the boxes so cats will be challenged to dig out these rewards. Paper towels and toilet paper rolls make fun puzzle toys for your cat. Try putting your cat’s food in the middle and watch as they figure out how to get at it. Wine corks, milk carton caps, ping pong balls, plastic bottles – the list of everyday household items that make great toys to bat and chase are limitless.
- Felines are the only creature on earth that hunt for fun. Making sure you’re allowing your cat to express this natural behavior in your home is paramount to your feline being happy indoors. Fishing rod or teaser-style toys with a wand that allow you to easily move the toy and keep it just out of your cat’s reach are great options for interactive play which mimic the predator/prey chase. You can give the toy lifelike movements with slight jerks, pauses in movement, changes in speed, etc. to engage the hunting instincts of your cat. Ensure these types of toys are put away after use to prevent strangulation. Laser pointers are another toy that keeps you part of the game!