Before moving in with me, William, our tuxedo cat, was an outdoor/indoor cat that spent a lot of time outside.
My boyfriend lived with a roommate in a home with a moderately sized yard and would supervise William as he stalked squirrels and rolled in the grass. Before that, he lived with his parents on their large plot of land where William could roam free for hours.
Needless to say, William was a bit shocked to be moved to an apartment in the city with two other cat friends where he was no longer allowed to leave.
We currently live in a neighborhood that sits right next to a major highway–I can watch the cars zoom past from my bedroom window–and I worry too much about his safety to let him outside anymore.
Keeping Your Indoor Cat Happy
I have always lived in the city, so my two cats have known nothing but indoors. With limited space and no place to fulfill their natural instincts, indoor cats can get bored.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few methods for keeping their inner hunters satiated and their wild minds entertained.
Maximize Your Indoor Cat’s Living Space
As someone who has lived in apartments and rental properties for the majority of her life, I’m no stranger to making the best out of small spaces. Even if you have a lot of space to work with, your cat can get bored with floor space quickly.
The key is to make use of vertical space with furniture and shelving. Most cats love to climb, and they feel most comfortable in areas above the ground.
Place cat trees around the house and, if possible, install shelving along the walls that provide a walkway for your cat to get around without needing to be on the ground. The more interactive elements in your house for your cat to climb on or hide inside, the better.
Keep Windows Accessible
Cats need challenge and brain stimulation throughout the day to ease their unrest and boredom. One way they can get their fix of visual enrichment is by perching at a window. Placing cat towers or furniture near the windows gives your kitty the chance to watch birds, squirrels, and other small prey, stimulating the hunter in their brain.
In my experience, your cat can spend hours a day just watching the neighborhood kids playing outside.
Stimulate Your Cat’s Hunter Brain
Like I said before, your cat needs challenge to feel satisfied. One of the biggest culprits for kitty boredom is mealtime.
In the wild, there would not be a bowl of kibble waiting for Fluffy at the same time every day. He would need to hunt and work hard to get his meal. While I’m not suggesting you let your cat fend for himself, there are ways to make meal time feel like a hunt.
Puzzle feeders and slow feeders make your cat work for their food, making them feel more fulfilled in the end. You can also hide some of your cat’s food around the house, and guide them through play to simulate stalking and hunting.
Interactive Exercise and Playtime for Your Indoor Cat
Another way to simulate hunting is through play time. Using toys like cat wands and laser pointers to mimic the movements of prey let’s your cat fully engage in their hunting behaviors. Doing this at least 10 or 15 minutes every day will release some pent up energy and have them taking a cat nap in no time.
Cat guru Jackson Galaxy recommends the “boil and simmer” method. Play with your cat in short bursts of time. Build them up with slow movements that simulate stalking and then give them a cool down period. Doing this repeatedly will tire them out.
The important thing is to find the toys and style of play that your cat enjoys most and to keep repeating those movements.
Consider Leash Training Your Cat
If your cat is absolutely insistent on wanting to be outside, or if you have a yard and think this would be something your cat would enjoy, there is the option of walking your cat on a leash. This, however, requires some training.
We have tried to use a leash with William a few times, but haven’t had any luck yet. Every time the sneaky cat crawls his way out of the harness.
Many people have had success with leash walking. If you’re interested, here is a nice tutorial for training. If you do try leash training, Micro-chip your cat and get them some sort of ID tag or collar.
Even Your Indoor Cat Should Be Spayed or Neutered
Pets that are not spayed or neutered still experience the hormonal desires to escape and mate. This could be a main contributing factor to your cat’s unhappiness inside.
Do you have indoor cats? What do you do to keep them happy and entertained?