Cats have a reputation for being wandering and independent souls, a little closer to their wild ancestors than their canine counterparts.
As a result, the idea of keeping them confined indoors can seem cruel. However, most cats don’t need vast open spaces and critters to hunt in order to be happy.
All they need is a loving owner and a stimulating environment.
To keep an indoor cat is not cruel. Provided you give your cat the right amount of stimulation and attention (each cat will be different), they can live full and happy lives inside of your home. It may even be the better option for both you and your cat.
There are many reasons why people keep indoor cats, many reasons why this is a good option, and many ways to make your cat’s indoor home a paradise that provides all they need.
Reasons For Keeping An Indoor Cat
1. You have no yard
If you currently live in an apartment building and have no yard, this does not mean that you forfeit the joy of owning a cat (unless your landlord does not allow pets!).
2. Your country or state has long seasons of wet and or cold weather
If your winters are rainy or snowy, you will need to keep your cat indoors during this season, and so your home will need to be set up for an indoor cat lifestyle at least part of the year.
3. Your cat has a medical condition
If your cat needs medication, it’s best to keep them indoors. Cats wander and may not be around when it is time for their next dose.
If you have a sickly cat prone to infection or illness, keep them inside to limit their exposure. If your cat has a physical deformity such as blindness, deafness, or a missing limb, keep them inside.
A blind cat will not see obstacles such as holes, a deaf cat won’t hear cars and dogs, and a cat with a missing limb won’t be able to run fast enough or climb high enough to evade danger.
4. Your cat has a nervous temperament
Highly-strung cats can become overwhelmed with the noises, sights, and smells that they encounter outside. If forced to go outside, they will run and hide, or they will stay near to you.
In each case, it is kinder not to enforce the stressful situations and just make them indoor cats. Nervous cats will often make themselves indoor cats, anyway.
5. You are a nervous owner
If you view the outside environment as more dangerous than beneficial to your cat, you will be a happier pet owner if you can control your cat’s living environment.
This is not an invalid reason to keep your cat indoors. If you are worried, you are more likely to hover over your cat, causing them to become frustrated.
Your cat will also sense your stress and may become unhappy themselves.
6. You think it’s the best decision for your cat
There are many people, including professionals such as veterinarians and animal welfare organizations, who believe that it is better for all cats to be indoor cats (see the next section for why).
Outdoor Dangers To Your Cat
There are certain risks to your cat’s welfare when they leave the safety of your home or property. While it’s not healthy to be paranoid, it is wise to educate yourself for your benefit and your cat’s.
When cats are allowed outside, they don’t confine their movements within their own yard. Even though cats seem independent and capable, they can lose their way home.
They can get caught in fences, up trees, or even, if you live in the country, in traps and may be too far from home for you to hear them calling for help.
In cities and suburban areas, there is always the danger of your cat getting hit by a car. Cats are low to the ground and prone to darting if startled, a bad combination where cars are involved.
Even cats that are considered ‘car-smart’ can misjudge the direction from which a car is approaching and run the wrong way.
Your cat is also at risk of being attacked by stray dogs, neighborhood dogs (cats are not always respectful of your neighbors’ walls and fences), other cats, and even, in less built-up areas, wild predators such as coyotes and snakes.
If allowed to wander freely, your cat is at risk of contracting Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and or feline leukemia.
This is not just a risk from other pet cats, but from the colonies of feral cats in which the spread of these diseases is mostly unregulated.
FIV is transmissible through non-superficial bite wounds inflicted by an infected cat.
As cats, especially male cats, are territorial, the type of fighting that results in bite wounds is not uncommon.
While cats with FIV can still live relatively long and happy lives, it does compromise their immune system.
An FIV cat is more susceptible to infections, and these infections spread rapidly if not treated early.
A common issue with FIV cats is recurring gingivitis.
Persistent gum infections lead to reduced appetite, loss of weight and condition, and infections in the mouth progress to digestive tract infections.
Additionally, any small cuts or scrapes can quickly develop into ulcers and abscesses that are difficult to close up.
Feline leukemia is also an immunocompromising disease, but what makes it more problematic than FIV is that it is more easily transmitted.
Feline leukemia is transmissible via blood and saliva and, to a lesser extent, via urine and feces.
So fighting, grooming, and sharing water and food bowls with infected cats can lead to the development of feline leukemia.
Now that you know some of the risks to which outdoor cats are exposed, you might be an advocate of indoor-only cats.
However, you have to remember that, to an indoor cat, your home is their world.
So, whether you live in a single-bedroom apartment or a sprawling mansion, you need to think carefully about what cat to get and how to make your home the best place for them to live.
- Read also A Guide to Outdoor Cat Enclosures and how to get one.
Choosing An Indoor Cat
It is best to get a kitten and train them as an indoor cat from a young age. It is also wise to sterilize your cat.
Unsterilized cats tend to be restless as their hormones trigger the need to find a mate, and so they are more likely to try to escape.
If you are rescuing an adult cat or transitioning your current cats to an indoor-only lifestyle, you may need to put in a little extra work.
During the first few weeks or months, your cat will probably try to escape frequently, and you will need to watch them closely.
In this situation, the key is patience. Give them a few months to calm down, and make sure you provide them with lots of toys and attention!
There are certain cat breeds better suited to a fully indoor lifestyle. If you are looking to get a pure-bred cat, you can look at breeds such as Ragdolls, Siamese, Devon Rex, and British Short-Hair.
If pedigree is not a factor, Moggies (mixed-breed cats) are typically quite adaptable to their environment, and they usually come from long lines of domesticated cats, so most of their wilder traits have been diluted.
Breeds to avoid are the domesticated ‘wild’ cats such as Lynx, Ocelots, and Savannahs. A good rule is if they are still found in the wild, they won’t suit an indoor life.
Another thing you should consider is getting more than one cat at a time. A pair of cats will entertain each other. This is particularly important if you are out all day at work.
The Ideal Indoor Environment
Your cat needs food, clean water, and a clean litter tray. There should be one or two designated eating spots in your house (depending on the size). Cats like routine and will go to the same place to look for food.
Put clean water bowls around the house, and make sure your cat knows where they are. Change their water daily, but also check on it throughout the day, especially in hot weather.
Make sure their water bowls are not in direct sunlight to minimize evaporation and to ensure your cat has cool water to drink. Your indoor cat has only the water you provide, so make sure they are never without.
Cats are very clean creatures. It is essential to your cat’s peace of mind that you clear out their litter tray regularly.
Additionally, it’s in your best interest to clean it out, as cat urine and feces are particularly malodorous!
Take care not to accidentally lock your cat away from their litter tray as they find it very distressing to go to the toilet anywhere else.
Make sure your cat has access to a windowsill or a cat tree near a window, which will allow them to look outside.
Even if they are not allowed to go out, they can still benefit from the stimulation of the ever-changing scene outside.
If you install a mesh over the window, you can even leave it open, allowing your cat to further benefit from the smells and breezes.
Let your cat have access to most, if not all, of the rooms in the house. To confine an indoor cat to only one room is cruel. Remember, your home is their world.
Your cat should always have somewhere to go if they are scared. Cats will look for somewhere small, dark, and quiet to hide.
Their preferred hiding spots will probably be in quieter rooms, so a bedroom or a bathroom rather than the living room or kitchen.
Make sure your cat has access to these places of safety in situations that may cause them anxiety, such as during storms or when you have guests.
1. Beds and cat trees
Cats enjoy sleeping in the sun, so put a bed or a cat tree near the window. Put cat beds in the rooms in which you spend the most time, especially if you would prefer your cat not to sleep on your furniture.
Most cats like to climb, although there are certainly some that prefer to stay on the ground. Cat trees and cat condos will help keep them off your counters and curtains!
Watch your cat and see where they like to spend their time, then put the cat furniture in those places.
If your floor space is limited and a large cat tree just won’t fit in your home, you can install staggered floating shelves for your cats to climb on.
There is also a wide range of cat trees and condos out there, so you can choose one that fits in with your décor. If you are good at DIY, you might even enjoy making your cat trees.
2. Scratching posts
Cats are scratchers. It’s a fact. If you want to spare your furniture, provide them with scratching posts.
If they still seem to prefer your sofa, try putting a scratching post in front of your sofa to encourage better behavior.
Cats also love cardboard! Slot some sheets of corrugated cardboard vertically into a shoebox, and you’ve got yourself a cheap scratching board.
You should provide your cat with a range of toys that allow them to engage in different forms of play. This is not only for entertainment but for exercise.
Give them toys they can pounce on, chase, hunt, and carry. But don’t just leave them to play with their toys alone.
You need to join their playtimes and encourage them to move around. This will also create a closer bond between you and your cat.
Toys with feathers and bells are popular. Toys attached to strings or ribbons that you can drag around the house or dangle from their scratching post are also going to be favorites.
You can go the high-tech route and get laser pointers or motorized toys that drag imitation mice or feathers.
You don’t have to spend large sums of money on cat toys either. Cats are notoriously contrary and will reject your expensive gifts in favor of the packaging or a random scrap of paper.
A sheet of newspaper can bring hours of entertainment, especially if you wriggle it now and then. Boxes are a source of endless enjoyment. Pipe cleaners and pom-poms are golden too!
If your cat seems bored with their current toys, try introducing a new toy and taking an old one away. You can then bring out the old toy again when they get bored with the new one.
4. Pet grass and catnip
Cat’s often graze (as strange as it sounds). They eat grass to aid their digestion, or if they feel nauseous, so you should consider keeping some pot plants of pet grass for your cat to nibble on.
Another plant you can keep is catnip. Cats love to eat catnip; it can have a calming effect, which will help to keep your cat happy. Cats don’t just eat catnip; they enjoy rubbing themselves on it and rolling in it.
So, make sure it’s in a sturdy container, preferably on the ground, so you don’t have to clean up a mess of broken pots and soil.
A catio is an outside area that has been caged off and affixed to a house, usually outside a window or on a deck or patio.
A catio is designed to allow cats to move freely between the inside of the house and the sectioned-off outside area.
Catios can be purchased or home-made and can come in all sizes and designs.
If you provide your cat with a full and stimulating life within the walls of your home, it is not cruel to keep them indoors.
Whatever your reason for choosing to keep an indoor cat, whether it suits your home, climate, or personal preference, there are many benefits to this choice.
Indoor cats are protected from getting lost, getting hit by cars, animal attacks, and diseases.
Certain cat breeds are more suited to an indoor life than others, but each individual cat is different, so choose wisely and be patient.
A good indoor environment and the correct equipment and toys are essential to creating the best home for your indoor cat.
Your cat should be given fresh food and water daily, have access to a clean litter tray at all times, and be allowed to roam through the majority of your house.
Even though you don’t want them to go outside, they should at least be able to sit by windows because viewing the outside environment provides stimulation for your cat’s senses.
Most importantly, you need to be a part of your cat’s indoor life. You need to make sure your cat is well-loved and lavished with all the attention they deserve!