The guiding principle of cat ownership is to allow your cat to perform as much of his natural behaviour as possible. This guideline applies to vertebrate animals in general. It applies to the owners as well 😉 . Reference to this guideline can be made when making decisions about cat welfare. This guideline underpins the criminal law concerning animal abuse in the UK.
Following the guideline will almost inevitably result in compromise. Keeping domestic cats indoors is a compromise. They are safer; sometimes they are completely safe indoors. The downside is that the cat’s owner has more work to do to make her cat’s life as natural as possible.
The outdoors nearly always automatically provides a natural environment for a cat. The downside is that it is unsafe mainly because of traffic, and in the USA, predators.
The are many pages on PoC about enriching the cat’s environment so I won’t go over the same ground.
We often see pacing wild cats in cages in zoos. This is a mentally diverting activity to cope with the stress of captivity and living in a highly unnatural environment.
Simulating hunting behaviour has been used successfully in restoring normal captive wild cat behaviour. Also preventing the cat from seeing the entire area of the enclosure from an one place helps as it forces the cat to move around. Simply providing more space does not necessarily stop pacing in enclosures. What does stop it is making the existing space more stimulating.
We can learn from this to improve cat ownership. The guiding principle of cat ownership is a reason why manufacturers make prey-sized toys containing dry cat food which requires that the domestic cat expresses his hunting skills to release each piece of kibble.