Did you know that indoor cats may live twice as long on average than cats that go outside occasionally? Cats who live entirely outside have a life span estimated to be a fraction of those that live indoors only. The risks for outdoor cats are devastating in the world we live in; they are susceptible to common infectious diseases, toxins, bite wounds from other pets or wild animals, and the possibility of being hit by a car.
The only downside to keeping your cat indoors is something to address: boredom and restlessness. Boredom can lead to a variety of problems such as inappropriate urination, destructive behaviors such as scratching, aggression, depression, lethargy, over-vocalization/crying, increased or decreased appetite, and sleeping in excess. Here are some suggestions. . .
Keys to Preventing Boredom
A stimulating environment is key to prevent boredom. This means a home filled with things to do: windows to look out, things to watch, places to climb, and safe toys to play with. Climbing and scratching posts, cat grass, windows perches, window beds, and a view of birds or squirrels are all great ways to enrich your cat's life and prevent boredom.
Here are some specific tips:
- Window Views - Create a window perch or window seat for your cat. It is important for him or her to have a "view" and the ability to watch what is going on outside. Some commercially available "window beds" attach to your window frame; another option is a cat tree placed near a window.
- Create a View - If you don't already have an interesting view outside, consider making one! A bird or squirrel feeder placed in view of a window is a quick and easy way to do just that. Place your cat's perch or bed near that window for maximum fun.
- Get a Scratching Post - Cats will use a cat scratching post for many 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 often enjoy. One tip: make sure the scratching post is long enough that your cat can really stretch when she uses it. Also note that some cats like vertical scratching posts and some like horizontal.
- Create a Cat Refuge - Cats like places where they feel safe. These “refuges” are often in a high location such as the top of a dresser or table where a cat can remain somewhat hidden and evaluate the environment for "dangers", just as they would in nature. 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 enjoys the same toys so make sure you know what your cat likes. If you are not sure what toys will entice your cat, get one of each type and see which she prefers. Be sure to consider their safety – no toys with parts that fall off easily and can be ingested.
- Have Plenty of Cat Toys - Once you know what toys your cats like, make sure you have plenty of them. It is common for them to get "misplaced" (and show up again as soon as you move the sofa!) so keep several on hand.
- Rotate Toys - Cats become bored with the same toys after a while. A great tip is to hide a favorite toy for a while and reintroduce in a few weeks. Keep a supply of toys on hand to replace boring or worn-out ones.
- Get Some Catnip - Most cats are at least a little sensitive to catnip, so offer some catnip periodically for your cat to enjoy. “Marinating” toys in catnip is a great way to encourage your cat to enjoy old favorites even more when you reintroduce them.
- Schedule Playtime - Make time twice a day to play with your cat. Allow him or her to chase the ball, laser pointer or feathery flyer. We recommend playing for at least 10 minutes out of your day. You can even do this while you are watching T.V. in the evening. Just get out the laser pointer, feather flyer, or even toss a ball across the floor to keep your cat happy.
- Plenty of Love Time - Some cats really just want a little of your time and attention. Encourage your cats to curl up with you when you are resting or relaxing with a favorite book or TV show.
- Grow Cat Grass - Occasionally cats love the ability to chew on a little cat grass, just like they would if they were outdoors. It is easy to grow. Be sure it is meant for cats, and free of pesticides or chemicals.
- A Spot of Sun - Cats love the sun! Look around your home for a sunny window and consider placing a cat bed in that location. If you have the blinds or curtains closed, try opening them for at least an hour or two to allow your cat the ability to bask in the sun’s warm rays!