With appropriate environmental enrichment, cats can be happily kept inside all the time. There are many benefits to keeping your cat indoors. Indoor cats don’t get hit by cars, they don’t get into fights with neighbourhood cats, and they don’t hunt wildlife (okay in Darwin most will still hunt the geckos). Whether your cat is inside all the time, or only part of the time, enriching their environment will relieve stress and boredom, and make for a happier, healthier cat. This can be done in many ways and some will suit some cats more than others. Options include:
Kittens will naturally chase small, fast moving objects, and most adult cats will continue to do so. Objects such as small ball and scrunched up paper work well. Some of the most enjoyable toys for both people and cats are the interactive ones. A flexible rod with a line that ends in something furry or feathery to engage a cat's prey drive is loved by most cats. Other interactive toys include laser pointers that offer cats a spot of light to chase. (Just be careful not to aim the beam in your cat's eyes, and make sure you let then “catch” it now and then). Some cats love to chase bubbles (non-toxic ones).
New paper bags and cardboard boxes provide the inquisitive cat with something to investigate.
Some toys contain catnip which many cats love. Cat nip, cat mint and cat grasses can also all be grown indoors in pots and most cats will love to play with cat nip and chew on the grasses.
Making feeding more interesting
Getting your cat to search for food, and feeding multiple small meals per day can make feeding more natural and interesting. If dry food is fed it could be put in small amounts on the floor, and moved progressively further away from the food bowl so that your cat has to search in different areas. Using feeding toys such as kongs or puzzle feeders can provide great entertainment for your cat.
Provide heights and a view
Cats love to watch the world go by from a safe place, where they can see things moving and changing, whether it’s people, animals, or vehicles. Try to provide an area where they can do this. There are even DVDs available for cats!
Cats love to be up high - shelves, high walkways, and cat trees (tall scratching posts) can be used to help them achieve this. Cats will often lie for long periods of time in small, high areas where they can watch activity below and feel secure. Providing several areas where they can do this is particularly important for anxious cats. A box with a hole cut out of it placed in a high place can achieve this cheaply and easily.
Cat can be trained! Using positive reinforcement, cats can be trained in a very similar way to dogs. Training sessions and learning new commands will stimulate your cat and add complexity to their lives. Use very small pieces of the most tasty food and reward the desired behaviour immediately when it occurs.
Cats can be taught to use scratching posts and not the furniture for scratching. Use small tasty treats and praise when they use the scratching post and cover your furniture with a non-scratchable surface while they are learning. Place scratching posts next to resting or sleeping areas, and multiple scratching posts in different areas can help.
Access to outside
Outdoor enclosures or teaching your cat to use a harness for short trips outside will provide new sights, sounds and smells and help keep indoor cats stimulated.
A companion cat
For cats that are left on their own for long periods each day, a feline companion can enrich their lives, but bringing older cats together is often difficult and can lead to many stress related problems.
The younger they are introduced, the greater the chances of getting along. There may still be fights and chases that are not playful but seem to be part of normal living. Getting littermates gives you the best chances of a pair getting along. Where other cats are to be introduced, it is preferable to do so when they are kittens, and to have them arrive at the property at the same time. Urine-spraying and fighting are less likely when all the cats are spayed females as compared to having one or more neutered males in the house.
Make sure that there are multiple resources (food and water bowls, litter trays) and enough climbing, hiding and resting areas for all cats.
Following just a few of these tips can enrich the lives of your precious felines and in turn make your household a more fun and cat friendly home.