With spring comes longer days, warmer temperatures and the opportunity to spend more time outdoors. But for cats, this can be dangerous. Statistics show that indoor cats live two to three times as long as those who are allowed outside. Allowing a cat to come and go can seriously curtail its lifetime. Keeping cats indoors protects them from the hazards of cars, predators and infectious disease. Even though many owners understand this, they may also worry that their cats aren’t getting enough stimulation indoors.
Such concerns are valid. Cats will find a way to entertain themselves even if it means developing destructive or boredom-related behaviors. According to cat expert and author Pam Johnson Bennett, “Under-stimulated cats are at risk of developing…behaviors such as over-grooming, chewing inappropriate items, picking on companion pets, retreating into isolation, over-eating, self-mutilation, compulsive behavior and loss of appetite.”
The secret to avoiding unwanted behaviors and keeping your cat physically healthy, says Johnson Bennett, is to enrich their indoor environment. “Fun, safe environment = happy, confident cat. Stressful or boring environment = unhappy, stressed cat,” she notes.
Luckily, it’s not difficult to create a rich, stimulating environment for indoor cats. Here are just a few simple, affordable ways to bring the outdoors inside:
- Window Perches – Set up perches in rooms throughout your house to bring different areas of the outside within view. Birds, butterflies and squirrels provide interesting, interactive entertainment that will keep your cat amused for hours.
- Catnip – Most cats love catnip, although their reactions may vary. Some become hyperactive and playful while others become calm and mellow. You can purchase catnip from a store or you can grow your own in a sunny spot for your cat to munch on.
- Enclosed Porch – If you’re lucky enough to have a screened-in porch, this is the perfect space to allow your cat to enjoy the sunshine, breezes and birds in safety. Even if you don’t have one already, there are many ideas on the Internet on how to build a dedicated outdoor space for your cat. Of course, cats should be supervised in any type of enclosure, and shouldn’t be left alone for too long.
- Vertical World – Most cats love vertical surfaces, which is why they climb trees when outdoors. Climbing and scratching also provide much-needed exercise. Simulate this activity inside with an indoor cat tree. Depending on your cat’s needs and the size of your living space, you can find one to fit almost any situation.
- Cat Caves – Cats are naturally drawn to cozy hiding spots so why not provide them some of their very own? Buy a pet bed shaped like a ball with a single hole for them to crawl into, or make a hideaway by simply cutting a hole in a box. Another option is to open a brown paper bag and place it in the middle of the room. Cats usually find these cat caves irresistible.
- Toys – Interactive toys stimulate a cat’s natural hunting instinct. Of course, you may have to experiment to find the toys that most appeal to your cat. Catnip-stuffed toys are usually a big hit, and many cats love chasing a laser light. And don’t forget the ever-popular feather wands or cat fishing poles that end in attractive strings/feathers. These can be dragged along the floor or flicked into the air to provide fun and exercise.
As Bennett Johnson notes, “Environmental enrichment is a necessity not a luxury.” By bringing the stimulation of the outdoors into the safety of your home, you’re helping create a happier, healthier pet.