12 facts on keeping an indoor cat happy

I have written on this topic many times before! Repetition comes to mind but each article is different as is this one. I am listing 12 facts in bullet fashion for ease of reading; speed reading which I think a lot of internet users employ these days. Web surfers flit from one site to another like a bee collecting nectar.

Classy cat window box
Classy cat window box. From Catio Spaces
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Here are 12 facts about keeping an indoor cat happy and I wish to thank the cat behaviourist Dr John Bradshaw for the list in his book Cat Sense to which I have added my own thoughts.

  1. Allow your cat as much space as you can so that they can roam as widely as possible. This helps to counteract the natural consequence of a cat being confined to a home which will invariably result in a very compressed ‘home range’ (their territory).
  2. Position the litter tray in a secluded place which is away from windows from where they might be able to see other cats outside the window which might cause stress.
  3. If possible – and I consider this addition to be very important – ensure that there is some sort of window enclosure (see image above) which are quite common in America or a cheap little run to an outside miniature enclosure (see image below) or indeed a catio and even better than that a full-scale garden enclosure which is the luxury version of the above. I think all full-time cats should be able to enjoy at least a window enclosure which fits into an open window and allows the cat to sit outside in the fresh air to enable them to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors to keep them interested.
  4. Inside the home provide two different kinds of bed. One should be on the floor and it should contain a roof and three walls. This would be an easily accessible hiding place. Domestic cats need such a place. The other would be placed up high somewhere near the ceiling but also easily accessible. It should provide a good view of the entrance to the house and/or out of the window. A cat might not use both of them but probably will. I have found that cats rotate their sleeping places. There might be as many as four or five different places so in addition to the two mentioned above, a domestic cat might use others as they see fit. Cats like to sleep on fleece.
  5. Provide at least one scratching post. It should be a large, solid scratching post; the largest that you can find and I would add to that some horizontal, cardboard floor-based scratching pads. Your cat will probably use them all. The vertical one should be large because it should mimic a tree which encourages them to use it.
  6. The greatest challenge for a cat owner in respect of a caring for an indoor cat is to ensure that they are stimulated and one way to achieve this is to play with your cat several times a day. Games with prey-like toys might satisfy a cat’s desire to hunt particularly if they have been stimulated to hunt by watching prey outside the window. Cat toys should be changed regularly and I think cat toys should be destructible to enable the cat to “kill” the prey animal which is the toy. This will help prevent the cat becoming bored with a plastic toy which cannot be destroyed and therefore “killed”.
  7. Puzzle feeders are a useful way to challenge a cat when finding food. Once again it is a way of trying to simulate as close as possible within a very artificial environment natural cat behaviour. These devices contain dry cat food and therefore plenty of water should be available and the puzzle feeders should not be the only source of food. Wet cat food should also be available. One home-made device/toy suggested by Dr. Jon Bradshaw would be a “plastic drink bottle with a few holes of appropriate size cat in the sides”. This should keep a cat busy for hours he says.
  8. Provide a pot of live “cat grass”. This will allow a cat to chew on grass which we know they like to do. Jon Bradshaw says that “many cats like to chew on these oat seedlings, Avena sativa. He does not know why cats like to chew on the seedlings.
  9. Make sure that you do not overfeed an indoor cat because they are at greater risk of obesity than outdoor cats for obvious reasons. The diet should be adjusted to ensure that full-time indoor cats do not become obese.
  10. If you are thinking of adopting a cat and making them a full-time indoor cat then you might consider adopting two cats together who might be siblings from the same rescue center but don’t think that siblings automatically get along when they become adults. They might but they might not because of sibling rivalry and independence when they are adult. Although it is highly recommended by all cat behaviourists that they, where possible, adopt two cats who are known to get along well together because this will help to ensure that the cats are entertained as they can entertain themselves. This also takes away some of the responsibility from the cat owner.
  11. Cats that have never met before are unlikely to get along instantly. So, if you have a resident cat and you wish to adopt a new cat, both of which will be full-time indoor cats, it is important that you plan ahead before adopting the second cat for company. This is a very complicated area and there are far too many families who have adopted a second or third cat and found that they don’t get along creating stress within the family home. Great care should be taken as mentioned. I have a page on introducing a new cat to the home which may help.
  12. Often times we read about cat lovers keeping several or up to 10+ cats in a home full-time. This will be a great responsibility and to be frank, I don’t think they see it that way. One of the biggest issues in this kind of arrangement is ensuring that the air quality is good because you will get a lot of smells from litter trays. You will get ammonia and the smell of faeces and urine. It’s important that you devise a system whereby the atmosphere is not polluted by the smells. I have a page on a man who achieved this utopian dream which I would advise you to read by clicking on this link.
Fix mesh to upstairs windows to prevent cats falling and getting out.
Fix mesh to upstairs windows to prevent cats falling and getting out. Photo: PoC.
Tailormade cat window box
Cat Solarium. Image: Amazon.

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