Bored Cats are Unhappy Cats

by Michael
(London, UK)

Charlie playing with me - photo Michael Broad

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Charlie playing with me - photo Michael Broad

Yep, this is controversial. I say that bored cats are unhappy cats. And I say that it is much harder to keep a cat from becoming bored if the cat is permanently indoors. The best way to combat boredom is to make a cat's life as natural as possible. What keeps a cat from being bored? Acting naturally. What is acting naturally? Chasing, sniffing, investigating, hunting and sleeping. I don't think we can truly replicate these when the cat is indoors all the time no matter what we do (except for sleeping). A cat needs to smell the air, the earth, the grass and other animals.

But how the hell do you do this when the outside is as dangerous as it is? We seem to be resigned to the fact that our cats will be bored (at least a bit) as it is a decent compromise between being (a) hurt and getting stimuli and (b) being bored and safe. Cats though might not see it the same way.

Why did I decide to bring up the evergreen perennial of a subject? Well, I have just watched a bit of TV (22nd March 2010). In a programme called, Animal Park - Wild On The West Coast, one of the senior animal keepers of a safari park in the UK said that, "a bored animal is an unhappy animal".

Before, that about a week ago, the former England football coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, said on TV that he is happier working. Sure, a fortnight's holiday is good but that is it, he said.

I, myself, know that I am happier when challenged. I need constant challenges and targets. So, I conclude that animals including the dominant human animal cannot be bored if he wishes to be happy. The same undoubtedly goes for our cat companions.

Boredom, for our cats, might actually be a bigger problem than we think. One problem is that cats are relatively undemanding in terms of requesting stimuli. They just sleep instead. But I am convinced that cats are happier and healthier if they are challenged and stimulated in a natural way and that can only truly happen in a natural environment, which means the sky over their heads.

This is because cats are still wild cats at heart. It takes very little for a domestic cat to revert to its wild mentality. As soon as they go out into a garden they become wild cats (blunted, though by 9,000 years of domestication).

So, why am I bothering to discuss this? I think we need to do more to make our cat's life as natural as possible. I sense strongly that a lot of people keep their cats indoors for their benefit - meaning the benefit of the person not the cat. They compound that by declawing their cat to protect furniture. It is all one way. The mentality is one which says we can do as we please with our cat companions.

My personal preference is that the "agreement" is mutual and on equal terms. That should be the mentality of the true cat lover.

So, if we have a free choice as to whether we keep a cat or not we should decide whether we have the commitment and facilities to build an outside enclosure. Enclosures are the only practical way to strike a balance between (a) protecting our cat (b) letting our cat act as naturally as possible and (c) giving us peace of mind. I am sorry if this upsets people but logic dictates that it is the best solution. There are very few cat enclosures considering their appropriateness in the modern world.

This post sets an ideal. There are many great cat lovers who need to compromise a lot. I just feel that we should compromise less and try and set some standards. Cat "ownership" can be too casual, to easy to the detriment of the cat.

One last point. I am as guilty as anyone else. I just think that the desire to keep a cat companion is seen as similar to buying a new sofa. In fact the sofa is more important, often. We need to re-evaluate the whole concept of cat keeping in the light of the 2 - 14 million cats euthanised every year in the USA.

Michael Avatar

Bored Cats are Unhappy Cats to Cat Health Problems

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Bored Cats are Unhappy Cats

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Mar 27, 2010 Compromises
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

This World is far from perfect and still people bear children into it, knowing they'll have to make lots of compromises because so many things are not ideal. This is also the World we have to offer our cats, because it's the only World we got. Every effort that helps save it for future generations will help the cats as well as us. To me the enviromental issue is where the most important battle lies.

Finn Frode avatar

Mar 24, 2010 Cat Enclosures
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

While I'd like to think cat enclosures are the end-all, they are not as great as one would think, unless space/money is not a consideration.

A poster in another thread made many valid points about enclosures, including: snakes being able to slither between the spaces in the wire, thereby making the enclosure dangerous. Strays/ferals/wild dogs/wild animals being able to pounce on it - possibly breaking through it and harming/killing the domestic cat. Claws getting stuck in the wire. Weather elements - rain, thunder/lightning, heat stroke - when we're not at home (best-laid plans usually go awry). These are just a few points off the top.

Another consideration would be that the cat could potentially be over-stimulated in an enclosure unless said enclosure had ramps, scratching posts, toys, etc. because the cat can still not run/play wildly as the need arises. Not being free in that sense could potentially stress out the cat, thereby cancelling out the positive.

Most of us live in apartments and are hampered by that scenario - dealing with landlords, space issues, allergies within the household - but we do the best we can.

Sadie stays indoors 24/7; however, when the weather is nice, we put on her body harness and extra-long leash and we either sit out back on the porch or go for a little walk. She comes running when I say the word "Sadie go outside? Leash?" She runs to the back door and sits patiently while I put on her harness/leash - then makes a mad dash for the open screen door!

Mar 22, 2010 Agreed
by: Michael

I agree with the last comment. Enclosures won't be built. But lets think of a parallel universe where all new houses had the facility to attach an animal companion enclosure and there was a law that said people who lived in houses and had cats and other companion animals should have a enclosure.

That seems reasonable to me and it would have a positive impact on cats going astray (possibly!). It would stop millions of arguments between neighbours, cats would be safe and content and the world would be a better place..:)

Michael Avatar

Mar 22, 2010 better not be poor...
by: Anonymous

Good points, and I like the idea of building an outside enclosure quite a bit. However, if this is the best solution, then a very large percentage of humans in the western world cannot own a cat (one that would be happy, anyway) because a large proportion of them live in urban areas where building ANYTHING outside of one's residence (often an apartment) is either not allowed or quite impossible. Most people who live in urban or "busy" areas keep their cats indoors (fortunately), but I doubt that the majority of city cats are bored and depressed. But who knows? while I like your outdoor enclosure solution, it requires many people to either NOT live in an apartment, own their own home, or have a fairly lenient landlord. That criteria eliminates a lot of people. Still, your solution would be ideal in an ideal situation.

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