While routine feline veterinary care is at the forefront of their overall well-being, indoor cats have a special set of additional needs. As a species naturally inclined to prowl, climb, and predate, cats need opportunities to practice their special skills to feel fulfilled. Outdoor cats can easily apply these abilities, but they run the risk of injury and disease. So, how do you allow your cat the freedom to be themselves while safely keeping them indoors? Enrich your cat’s life with the following tips.

#1: Exercise your cat daily

Like all animals, cats need daily exercise—not only for physical health, but for global well-being. And, while strapping a collar and leash on your dog and heading out for a stroll is easy, doing the same with your cat may be a challenge—although leash-training your cat is possible. Get your indoor cat moving and grooving every day by way of play. Here are some ideas:

  • Laser pointers, which encourage cats to run and climb
  • Games of chase or hide-and-seek
  • Play sessions with feather teasers or squeaky toys
  • Another form of hide-and-seek where you hide a few tasty treats in hard-to-reach places for your cat to find and enjoy—but go easy on this game, since indoor cats can easily pack on the pounds. 

#2. Ensure your cat can scratch

Much to many owners’ dismay, scratching is an innate feline behavior. Cats scratch to stretch their muscles, shed dead nail layers, and release their scent. If your cats do not have appropriate scratching surfaces, they may find your drapes or furniture a suitable alternative. Offer a variety of safe scratching materials, such as vertical climbing posts made of durable rope or carpet, and horizontal corrugated cardboard surfaces. See what your cat prefers and then place different scratching objects around your home, rearranging them periodically to keep your cat interested. 

#3. Give your cat a view from above

There is no doubt that cats are curious, and they prefer their view from above. Not only do cats love to climb, but they also like being above the action, which helps them feel safe while they observe their environment for any danger. Prepare safe perches in various home areas—near windows, in corners, and in quiet and active areas. Not all perches have to be ceiling-height—rather, several perches at different levels offer your cat variety and choice, and further enrich their experience. 

#4: Follow litter-box rules for your cat

Indoor cats use litter boxes for obvious reasons, but when they start avoiding them and begin using other home areas to eliminate, this can signify a litter box problem. Cats may stop using the litter box because of its location, its cleanliness, or other various reasons. For the best possible experience, follow a few litter box guidelines:

  • A rule of thumb is to provide one litter box per cat, plus an additional one. So, if you have three cats, you should have at least four boxes in your home.
  • Ensure you place elimination areas on all home levels.
  • Never put a litter box where your cat may feel threatened—for example, in the laundry room, where they will be startled by the loud machines.

Cats are fastidious creatures and may refuse to use a dirty litter box, so frequent cleaning is recommended. 

#5: Provide refuge from household chaos

Despite their innate curiosity, cats need a place to hide, too. Ensure your home has at least one quiet area where your cat can retreat as they please. This could be in the form of FACT (Free Access Crate Training), similar to a crate for dogs. Fit the refuge you choose for your cat with soft bedding, a favorite toy, and Feliway, and place it on a safe, elevated surface in an attractive, tranquil room. 

Does your indoor cat seem stressed or unhappy? Despite their somewhat stoic nature, the feline species is surprisingly sensitive to their environment. With abrupt changes or without adequate opportunity for practicing their innate behaviors, cats may become withdrawn or aggressive, or begin displaying undesirable behaviors such as inappropriate urination. 

While environmental causes can explain many cat behaviors, an underlying medical condition that warrants veterinary attention may be the cause. If you notice any behavior problems or elimination changes in your cat, contact our University Veterinary Hospital team for guidance. For more expert tips on indoor cat enrichment, consult The Ohio State University Indoor Pet Initiative website.n