Indoor cats are at less risk for outdoor hazards such as car accidents, animal attacks, poisoning, parasites, and infectious diseases, but they still need to express their natural behaviors to stay happy and healthy. Cats are considered self reliant, but they can become stressed if their environment isn’t to their liking. Our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Dove Mountain Veterinary wants to help by providing pointers to ensure your indoor cat remains happy and stress free.
#1: Ensure your cat’s dining experience is acceptable
Wild cats spend several hours a day hunting their prey, and they may need 30 or more hunting expeditions each day to acquire enough food to survive. Placing a food bowl under your cat’s nose obviously doesn’t demand the same mental or physical exercise level. Pointers to improve your cat’s dining experience include:
- Provide set meals for your cat — Calculate your cat’s daily caloric needs and provide several meals throughout the day. Feeding your cat ad lib promotes obesity, which can lead to serious health complications such as diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. Your cat will live a longer, happier life if they maintain a healthy weight.
- Use a food puzzle toy to feed your cat — Put your cat’s meal portion in a food puzzle toy to engage their mind and make them work to get their food. Several food puzzle toys are commercially available, or you can make your own by cutting holes in a plastic drink bottle.
- Make your cat hunt for their food — Scattering your cat’s meal around the house and letting them hunt for their food is another option. Choose different locations at every meal to keep the game challenging.
#2: Introduce a new cat friend appropriately
If you have a single cat, you may think getting a new cat will keep them from being lonely. However, cats do not like change, and adding a new cat can lead to a stressful situation, unless you make appropriate introductions. Pointers to introduce a new cat friend include:
- Purchase new supplies — Ensure each cat has their own bowls, litter box, scratching post, bed, and toys.
- Confine your new cat — Place your new cat and all their new supplies in a designated room while they acclimate to their new home.
- Feed your cats near the door — Let your cats meet through the door and feed them near the closed door to help them make a positive association.
- Exchange your cats’ bedding — Exchange your cats’ bedding to get them used to the new smells and pheromones.
- Introduce your cats — Initially, keep your cats separated when they meet, letting them get used to one another in a way they feel safe. As long as they are not aggressive, allow them to make contact after a few sessions. Supervise their interactions until you are certain they won’t fight.
#3: Provide hiding places for your cat
Small hiding places make cats feel calm and secure. A study published in the journal Animal Welfare showed that cats who have a place to hide exhibit significantly less stress, so ensure your cat has several hiding spots around your home, and don’t invade their space when they want some alone time.
#4: Let your cat climb
Climbing allows your cat to observe their world from a safe vantage point. Cats are predators and prey animals, and an elevated position allows them to watch for prey while staying safe from predators. A cat who feels stressed instinctively wants to climb, and vertical space will help ensure your cat can find a place to relax. Pointers to let your cat climb include:
- Clear objects from your furniture — Remove items from the top of your refrigerator, bookcases, and cabinets, so your cat can rest in an easily accessible elevated area.
- Cat towers — Purchase or build your own cat tower.
#5: Ensure your cat’s bathroom experience is acceptable
Your cat’s litter box can be a cause for stress. If the setup isn’t exactly to your cat’s liking, they may get upset and find another place to powder their nose. To ensure your cat’s bathroom experience is top notch:
- Find the right spot — Place your cat’s litter box in a quiet, easily accessible location that isn’t close to their food or water bowls.
- Provide enough boxes — If you have multiple cats, ensure you have one litter box for each cat, and one extra box.
- Provide the appropriate litter — Cats prefer about two to three inches of unscented, clumpable litter.
- Clean the litter box — Ensure you scoop the litter box at least twice a day, and clean the box thoroughly at least once a week.
#6: Provide a window perch for your cat
In the wild, birds and small mammals are prey for cats, and watching these animals from your window can entertain your cat for several hours. Ensure your cat has a comfortable spot to look outside, and consider installing a bird feeder to attract more performers.
#7: Make time for your cat
Set aside time every day to play with your cat. Find what toys they prefer, and switch out their toys every few days to ensure they don’t get bored. Wand-style toys, laser pointers, and toys on strings are great interactive toys for playing with your cat.
These pointers should help you keep your indoor cat happy and stress free. However, if your cat’s behavior is concerning, contact our Fear Free team at Dove Mountain Veterinary, so we can determine if a health problem is contributing to the problem.