We can see the gradual trend towards domestic cat confinement inside people’s homes and backyards in Australia. In support of that trend and in further encouragement of it, RSPCA Australia has provided information entitled ‘cat containment tips’ within a document prepared by the government of Australian Capital Territory.
This is what they recommend, in my words:
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- Domestic cats require plenty of horizontal and vertical climbing spaces. Cats often like to take up a high position so they can view things from above, thereby feeling safer. We all know about this and cat trees, cat condos and ladders are very easy to buy.
- Cat owners should provide plenty of toys to keep their cat amused. That’s what they recommend but we know it is not quite as simple as that because cat toys should behave in a way which mimics prey. Cats should be allowed to release their pent-up energy and hunting instincts when playing which will usually involve the cat owner. They say that it is a good idea to provide your cat with different toys to play with on different days. Obviously the toys should be safe. Avoid string toys or smaller objects which could be swallowed.
- Cat caretakers should provide hiding places for their cats. Cardboard boxes with holes cut into them are perfect for this as is the cat cave which I recently wrote about.
- Several scratching posts should be installed because, as we know, cats love to scratch to keep their claws in good condition and to redirect them away from furniture. Scratching posts should be large and solid to mimic trees etc, which are the usual scratching surfaces for cats.
- Plants should be safe and therefore chosen with caution. Many plants are not safe and one of them is lilies. Just the pollen from lilies can kill cats.
- A cat caretaker who confines her cat to the indoors and the home’s yard full-time should play with their cat daily and give him plenty of attention and company.
- As cats like to lie in the sun, a nice sunny spot should be provided, for example, on a windowsill so that he or she can both feel the warmth of the sun and at the same time keep an eye on the outside world for entertainment.
- The outside enclosure should be escape proof but also safe for the cat. In other words the method of ensuring that the enclosure is effective should also be safe for the cat and not harm the cat; common sense but worth mentioning.
- RSPCA Australia recommends that the caretaker considers adopting two compatible cats when cat confinement is in operation. The important aspect of this is that they should be completely compatible to avoid hidden stresses and possible health issues. It is quite difficult to ensure this except when for example adopting cats who are close relatives but even then things may go wrong. The RSPCA recommends adopting two cats together such as a sibling kitten pair or two cats who are known to get along by the rescue centre. You quite often see rescue centres advertising cats for adoption in pairs.
- If the cat’s owner wishes to take their cat outside of the backyard the RSPCA recommend using a lead and harness. They say that cats enjoy regular walks outside. It allows cats to experience new stimuli and get some exercise. The tip here is to train a kitten to accept a harness and lead. Many cats do not like having a harness put on them and by a harness I mean a device which goes around the shoulders and to which a lead can be attached. Training to accept leash walking should be carried out by positive reinforcement and never punishment.
- If there’s more than one cat kept indoors full-time then litter trays should be available for each cat and these should be kept away from eating and sleeping areas. Food should be provided separately for each cat and the same goes for water bowls and sleeping areas.
- Of course cats should be spayed and neutered even if indoors because it reduces antagonistic behaviour and the possibility of urine spraying.
- Also, even when cats are confined in this way they should be micro-chipped and in Australia, in certain states, there is an obligation to register the cat with the council so that if he or she does escape the confines of the family home they can then be reunited with their owner.