Cats have become increasingly popular as pets over the past few years, as they require less time commitment than having a dog. There are many cats available for adoption at local SPCA’s and rescue organizations, from kittens to senior cats, so it is easy to find one that fits your family. Some rescue cats have spent their early life outdoors, but they can be converted to indoor cats.
People often feel guilty keeping their cat indoors, especially if they meow at the door, singing the indoor kitty blues! The problem is that outdoor cats are at an increased risk of injury or death from wildlife encounters, such as coyotes. They also can be hit by a vehicle, fight with other cats, pick up diseases from other cats, and get parasites from the critters they hunt.
If we want to keep our pet cat safe, keeping it indoors is a much better option. Indoor cats just need a little help to prevent boredom, weight gain, and behavioral problems.
The number one rule with cats is to feed the cat, not the bowl! Most cats will eat whatever is available to them and ask for more when the bowl is empty. In no time your slim cat is having a little trouble getting around the house and spending more and more time lazing on the couch. Being an overweight cat puts them at increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, ligament injuries, and heart disease. If you follow feeding guidelines and speak with your veterinarian, overfeeding is easy to prevent.
If your cat seems to enjoy being outside, building a fenced cat run, screened porch area or walking it on a harness is a great way to give it exercise. Having a tall cat post, or as they are commonly called a kitty condo, is fun for cats. In my home, this tall perch gives my cat his own sunny spot to look out the window. It also provides a suitable scratching post instead of the leather couch! If the space in your home doesn’t allow for a tall perch, there are smaller window perch options. Scratching posts also come in all shapes and sizes.
Cats will also enjoy playing games on iPads and other tablets. There are some great fish catching games, and even wildlife TV with birds. Hunters by design, indoor cats need an outlet for this instinct. Toys will perk up the laziest of kitties. There are furry mice, chirping bird toys, laser pointers (don’t aim at their eyes), crinkle balls, and feather teasers, to name a few. A crumpled paper ball may be your cats’ favourite toy, and many cats love a good game of fetch. You need to find out what kind of toys your cat likes. Contrary to popular belief, not all cats are the same. They have incredibly unique personalities. A second cat in the home will not only double your entertainment, they can become playmates and burn calories racing thoughout the house.
Another fun way to entertain your cat is to try a puzzle feeder. There are many of these available from treat balls to the ‘NoBowl’ system, where multiple furry mice containing the daily food ration are hidden throughout the home. This is a great system as long as there are no dogs in the home. You can also divide the daily ration among multiple bowls and have them throughout the home. This will make your cat move a little more and is a great option for the overweight and senior cat. Just remember, feed the cat and not the bowls!
Cats do like to nibble on grass and catnip. You can grow this in your own home. There are starter kits available that make it easy, but too much cat grass or catnip and your cat will have a not so happy tummy.
Talk to your Veterinarian about what your indoor cat’s ideal weight should be and discuss any concerns that you may have noticed in your cat’s behavior. Remember to have your indoor cat tattooed or microchipped. If they ever do sneak out, you want to give them every chance of finding their way back home.
By Dr. Karen MacMillan, B.Sc., D.V.M., CCRT
Canmore Veterinary Hospital/ Banff Veterinary Services