There are many circumstances in which keeping a cat indoors may be safer for the cat and therefore, arguably, better for the cat. Indoor cats are at lower risk for injuries associated with the outdoor environment (e.g. cars, trains, dogs, predators, humans) and are at far less risk of contracting parasites and infectious diseases such as feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis and feline immunodeficiency virus.
If you decide to keep your cat as an indoor pet, you will need to be very aware of the extra responsibility that an indoor cat brings. You must take the time and trouble to ensure offering your cat a happy and healthy living environment.
Food and Water
Cat owners may doubt about “should I feed my cat at specific times, or should I leave food in the bowl all of the time?”
In general, use a good quality diet and only feed once or twice a day. Leaving food out all day for your cat to graze on encourages obesity. There should always be fresh water available to your cat. Water bowls need to be cleaned daily as cats don’t like drinking from a dirty bowl.
If your cat doesn’t drink much water, you may need to encourage it to do so. Try using a water fountain. Try flavouring the water by adding a little chicken broth or tuna water.
Cats are very clean animals and are very particular about their toileting. They also use urination as a way of marking their territory. It is therefore very important that your cat is happy with his choice of litter box. This is especially important in preventing future bladder disease.
- Provide 1 litter box per cat plus 1 extra
- In a multi-level house, place a litter box in every level
- Place the box in a quiet part of the house to ensure privacy for your cat during elimination. Make sure your cat has 24-hour access to the box.
- The box should be large enough for your cat to move in
- Whether the box is covered or not is a matter of personal preference for you and your cat
- Unscented litter materials tend to be preferred by most cats. As far as possible stick to the same type of litter.
- The faeces and urine should be removed from the box as frequently as possible and at least once a day.
- The whole box should be cleaned weekly with water. Do not use ammonia based or other strong smelling compounds.
- If your litter box smells, it is an indication that it is not getting emptied often enough.
It is very important to spend time playing with your cat daily. This increases activity and prevents obesity and boredom. Use a variety of toys to avoid boredom.
A universal favourite for most cats is a furry mouse that cats can chase and swipe. Cats also love toys that squeak or jingle. Anything with catnip on it is usually a winner. Balls are also a much loved toy, especially those filled with treats. Toys that dangle from a string are another great favourite. Cats also like chasing a red laser light on walls.
Cats scratch to strengthen their muscles, sharpen their cuticles and mark their territory.
- The scratch pole should be made of a coarse material. It should have a horizontal and a vertical surface to scratch. The best option is a multi level pole, but where these are impractical, the pole should be at least taller than a cat standing on its hind limbs.
- The pole should be located in the most active part of the house as this is where cats like to indulge in their scratching and marking behaviour the most.
- The poles also double up as perches for the cats. Cats love sitting up high and observing the world, so its ideal if the pole is located close to a window.
Even though your cat isn’t going outside, you still are! It’s important to vaccinate your indoor cat and keep up with their boosters as germs and other nasties can make their way into your home. Whether your cat is inside or outside, they can still catch preventable diseases.
You’ll also need to stay on top of their flea and worming treatments. Although your cat may not leave the house, fleas could come in on the clothes and bags of other cat lovers, or on your own clothes if you visit a cat-owning friend and there happens to be a flea around. You should ask your vet if need any recommendation.
Fulfillment of your cat’s needs goes a long way towards making a happy and healthy, and also a long living pet!