Keeping a cat indoors has its benefits, since it minimizes the chances for trauma from being hit by an automobile, bite wounds from cat fights or attacks by dogs, common infectious diseases, and exposure to toxins, just to name a few. On average, indoor-only cats live twice as long as indoor/outdoor cats, and three times as long as cats that live outdoors.
However, there are behavioral risks to keeping your cat indoors. The primary issue is boredom, which can lead to a variety of problems like inappropriate urination, scratching, aggression, depression, lethargy, over-vocalization/crying, increased or decreased appetite, and excessive sleeping.
Consider your home environment. Is it cat friendly? Are there lots of things for your cat to play with and watch? Consider the things cats enjoy and determine if you have them in your home. Evaluate your cat’s environment.
How to Avoid Having a Bored Cat
The most important thing you can do to prevent boredom is to make sure your cat’s environment is stimulating. Nurture an environment full of activities – windows to look out, things to watch, places to climb, and safe toys to play with. Climbing posts, scratching posts, cat grass, windows perches, window beds, and a view of birds and squirrels are all great ways to enrich your cat’s life and prevent boredom. A stimulating environment is very important for a happy cat.
Here are some tips to prevent cat boredom:
- Provide Window Access. Create a window perch or window seat for your cat. It is important that they have a “view” and the ability to watch what is going on outside. This is a great way to create a stimulating environment. There are commercially available “window beds” that attach to your window frame. Another option is a cat tree placed near a window that allows for an outside view.
- Give Them Something to Look At. Consider creating a stimulating view for your cat. A bird or squirrel feeder placed in view of a window is an easy way to do just that. Place a bed near the window so that your cat can see out.
- Get a Scratching Post. Cats will use a cat scratching post for a variety of reasons. One is to help shed the outer layers of their nails. Another is to mark territory, not only visually, but through tiny scent glands at the bottoms of their paws. Even a declawed cat will use a cat scratching post. It’s an instinctive behavior that cats never lose and always enjoy. Make sure the scratching post is tall enough that they can really stretch to use it. Here are some tips for Choosing the Best Scratching Post.
- Create a Cat Refuge. Cats like places where they feel safe. We call this a “cat refuge.” Refuges are often in a high location, such as on top of a dresser or table where a cat can evaluate the environment for “dangers,” just as they would in nature, while being relatively hidden from view. The location of a refuge can be anywhere, low or high, and the substrate can be as simple as a paper bag or cardboard box.
- Find the Right Cat Toys. Not every cat likes the same toys. Make sure you know what your cat likes. If you are not sure what toys will entice your cat, buy a variety and perform a test.
- Buy Backup Toys. Once you know what toys your cat likes, make sure to have plenty of them, since it is common for them to get misplaced.
- Rotate Toys Regularly. Cats become bored with the same toys after some time. Keep a supply so that you can rotate, hiding items temporarily and then reintroducing.
- Get Some Catnip. Periodically provide your cat with catnip, since it can stimulate activity and play. Also, marinate toys in catnip to encourage play when reintroduced.
- Schedule Playtime. Schedule time twice a day to play with your cat. Allow them to chase a ball, laser pointer, or feathery flyer. Take at least 10 minutes out of your day to play with your cat, even if it’s while you’re watching TV. Get out the laser pointer or feather flyer, or just toss a ball across the floor to stimulate your cat.
- Provide Plenty of Affection. Some cats really want your time and attention. Encourage your cat to curl up with you whenever you’re resting or relaxing.
- Grow Some Cat Grass. Cats love the ability to chew on cat grass, just like they would if they were outdoors. For simple instructions, read Cat and Grass: A Love Affair.
- Offer Up a Spot in the Sun. Cats love the sun. Look around your home and see what window allows the most sunshine and consider placing a cat bed in that location. If you have the blinds or curtains closed, open them to allow your cat to bask in the sun.
Bored cats can sleep more or have behavioral problems. Make sure your cat is happy and enriched.
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