Tips to keep indoor cats happy (opinion)
Tribune Opinion Columnist
I’ve been told I should keep my cat indoors — but don’t cats really like to be outside? I just want my cat to be as happy as he can be. What are your thoughts or suggestions?
Love my CAT
Dear Love my CAT,
I’m so glad you want the best for your furry family member! First, let me say it’s a myth that going outside is a requirement for feline happiness. Playing regularly with a cat and providing them entertaining toys can easily satisfy their stalking instinct, keep them stimulated and provide the exercise they need to stay healthy and happy. It also keeps local wildlife safe and keeps your cat safe from local wildlife.
Here are some tips for making the great indoors an interesting, feline-friendly environment that meets all of your cat’s needs:
When possible, start young. Kittens who are kept indoors are usually happy to stay there as they grow up.
Good fences equal happy kitties. Provide a screened porch for your cat to experience the outdoors safely. Consider building or purchasing a “catio” or similar enclosure to allow your cat to get a taste of the outside without the risks. A regular fence may not prevent other animals from entering your yard, so you should always be present when you allow your cat outside in your yard. Google “catio” for examples of well-built outside cat enclosures.
Be sure to cat-proof the yard by checking that your fence has no escape routes and by making sure that toxic plants, garden chemicals and other dangerous objects inaccessible.
Walk this way. If you live in a peaceful neighborhood in which you can walk without encountering loose dogs, consider buying a harness and training your cat to walk on a leash. This training takes time and patience, for both you and the cat, and it’s easiest when your cat is young. Consider a cat stroller; this will get you some good exercise as well as getting Fluffy outside for a breath of fresh air. I would always recommend your kitty wearing a harness with a leash while in a kitty stroller, just in case they escape.
Hang out. Install a perch indoors near a sunny window; padded perches can be purchased at many pet supply stores or through catalog retailers. Another option is an enclosure that sits in a window frame (much like an air conditioning unit) and provides a secure space in which your kitty can hang out. Larger perches can attach to the side of a house or ground-floor apartment patio.
Tree’s company. Buy a ready-made cat tree (often called a “kitty condo”), or make your own. A cat tree can be short, or may stretch from floor to ceiling. It provides great climbing opportunities and, in multi-cat households, creates more play and rest areas by taking advantage of vertical space. If you can, locate the cat tree next to a window so your cat can watch the action outdoors.
Play time. Play with your cat each day. Try random different types of toys that allow your cat to stalk, chase, pounce and kick. When you’ve tired out your cat, store toys that could harm them (such as those with strings attached) out of reach. When you can’t be there to supervise, leave out “toys” such as paper bags (with the handles removed) or cardboard boxes. Be sure to switch the toys from time to time so that they seem “new” and more interesting to your cat.
Bring the outdoors in. Plant cat grass (available from pet supply stores) in indoor pots so your feline can graze.
Clean house. Cats can be neat freaks, so clean the litter box regularly.
ID and chip for safety. Even indoor cats should still be outfitted with a collar and visible identification. The occasional open window (make sure your windows have secure screens) or door offers a tempting opportunity for your cat. And your cat may become frightened and make their way outside if strangers come to work on your house, or if there is a fire or similar disaster. The collar and visible ID could help someone get your pet back to you. For extra insurance, consider having your cat microchipped and keep your contact information up to date.
Hoping this helps you keep your kitty indoors, safe and happy.
It’s time again to submit your furry family member’s photos to Lake Tahoe Humane Society’s calendar/card photo contest. Visit http://www.laketahoehumanesociety.org and click on the calendar link, scroll to bottom of the page, fill out the form and submit your image. It a fun way to support Lake Tahoe Humane Society and help them help local animals in need.
Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to AskHenry@LakeTahoeHumaneSociety.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit http://www.Facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumane SocietySPCA, http://www.Facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry or http://www.twitter.com/LtHumaneSociety.