7 Tips for a Happy Indoor Cat

how to keep an indoor cat happy and stimulated

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden for their cat to play in, or easy access to the great outdoors from a window or ledge, especially in large cities. It’s also a well-known fact that most people with pedigree cats keep them exclusively indoors, which many cats can find frustrating.

For cats that are kept indoors, or ones that used to roam but have since been moved into a place with no outside access, it’s essential that they’re given lots of stimulation within their own homes. You and I are able to go outside everyday and be stimulated by hundreds of different sensations – sound, visual candy and smells, but it’s a different story for the indoor cat who only has its owner’s home as its ‘life’.

When confining a cat indoors, owners commonly make the mistake of providing no stimulation and this in turn can lead to your cat sleeping for most of its life through boredom and becoming obese. It’s important to remember that cats are animals and the natural state of a cat is to hunt, kill, eat and sleep.

Understanding your cat, its origins and basic natural behaviour, will help you to see what needs to be done inside its home environment and will enable your cat to have the happiest and most fulfilling life it can, especially if it’s confined for the rest of its natural life.

Below are some important ways you can improve your cat’s indoor environment. The first is a cat tree, however we have talked about the importance of cat trees previously, which you can read about here.

 

MY KOTTY LUI CAT SCRATCHER

1. SCRATCHING POSTS & FURNITURE

Cats usually keep their claws in good shape by scratching tree trunks or fence posts. As well as ensuring their claws are trim, cats naturally scratch to exercise the muscles in their paws and to leave their scent, so it’s a basic and natural need. The indoor cat will scratch your furniture and carpets if a scratching post or area is not provided. Most cat trees have numerous scratch posts within their design and there are trees of every shape and size that can fit discretely into any décor. A large vertical scratch post for an adult cat will also ensure they get to stretch fully. Another great design is the cat scratch lounger (pictured) that my cats adore. Not only do they get to fully stretch out on the lounger, it also doubles up as a fantastic piece of stylish furniture they can scratch to their heart’s content.

 


sunny seat cat window ledge

2. A ROOM WITH A VIEW

An indoor cat loves to look out of the window to watch birds go by and keep an eye on their ‘territory’. This is a great way to stimulate your cat and to relieve long hours of boredom. Window perches can be found online in many varieties. If you have property where it’s difficult to make any alterations on the walls (i.e. with screws, nails etc), there are window perches specially designed to combat this problem. These types of window perches use suckers to connect to the actual glass of the window but are still strong enough to hold most cats’ body weight. One of the best I have come across is called The Sunny Seat Window Cat Bed.

Sunny Seat Window Cat Bed at amazon.co.uk 

cute kitten playing with toy

3. TOYS AND BOREDOM

If your cat sleeps all the time, you will need to provide some stimulation. You may think that your cat doesn’t need to play or doesn’t like playing but you will be surprised once you have found the ‘right’ toy to suit your cat’s personality. Playtime is imperative to relieve boredom and frustration; it can also improve the human to cat bond. Once you have found the correct toys for your cat, they should be rotated to keep the cat interested. Leave out some fun little toys for your cat to enjoy on its own such as ping-pong balls, open paper bags, cardboard boxes or furry catnip mice. Most people get the wrong kind of toys, and then wonder why their cat is disinterested. Below are some ideas for the best kind of toys to try out on your cat.

Tux and Tabby House Cat Toy Box
4. INTERACTIVE ROD TOYS

Cats are natural hunters and their natural instinct is to kill things, so any toys that stimulate this type of behaviour are highly stimulating for the indoor cat. Toy mice, bugs, spiders or feathers on a wire or string make excellent toys. The Frenzy cat toy range  has some brilliant rod toys with a variety of add-ons. Play with them by half hiding them under a newspaper, rugs or boxes and watch as your cat enjoys the hunting process. Reward them with a treat afterwards, or a little piece of meat (their ‘catch’). Another great hunting toy is the Tiger Teaser, recommended by US cat behaviourist Jackson Galaxy. My cats love them.

organic catnip
5. CATNIP

I’m constantly surprised at how many owners never supply catnip for their cats. Catnip is a fun treat, which harmlessly ‘intoxicates’ your cat for between five and 15 mins, and is completely safe. The main constituent of catnip is nepetalactone, which is an oil contained in the leaves. It is believed cats react to the nepetalactone because it resembles a chemical in tomcat urine. This is a much-needed experience for an indoor cat and is a wonderful way to get overweight cats to kick up their heels a little! A toy stuffed with catnip like these gorgeous ones from Cheshire & Wain are sure to drive them crazy. 

Premium Organic Catnip - US$6.00 at hauspanther.com

indoor cat grass
6. CAT GRASS

Grass is essential and your cats will love having the opportunity to eat it as a normal outdoor cat would. They also love to rub against grass too. It’s easy to grow and you can buy special grass cubes for cats from any pet or internet stores.

cat dreams dvd cats watching tv

7. CAT DREAMS DVD

Check out this wonderful cat DVD by Cat Dreams that I’ve recently discovered. Especially designed for the indoor cat, this DVD features singing birds, fish swimming back and forth and various other critters that your cat would love to get hold of and eat! It may seem crazy but hey, we are cat people!

Cat Dreams DVD at amazon.co.uk 

How do you keep your indoor cat stimulated? Tell us in the comments below! 

Anita is an accredited, vet referred cat behaviourist based in Notting Hill and a full member of The Canine and Feline Behaviour Association. She is also a master cat groomer, specialising in working with timid or aggressive cats. She holds a first class honour degree in Feline Behaviour & Psychology (work based studies) and lives with her husband, a successful music producer and two Norwegian Forest cats. Anita writes regular features for Your Cat and The Cats Protection and is on the experts panel of Your Cat magazine.

22 Comments

  • spicekitty57@yahoo.com'
    Reply January 12, 2016

    Angela Colvin

    Awesome article! I do most of these things for my two cats, Oreo and Spice. Though my 12 yr old cat, Spice will not play with anything. She sleeps a lot. Is this normal, is she just getting too old?

    • Reply February 21, 2016

      Anita Kelsey

      Elderly cats do sleep a lot but don’t assume because your cat is elderly that they no longer want to play. The games can be less robust like giving them a little catnip mouse to batt around their beds or even an old shoe lace to batt. Cats can have fun without leaving the pod
      It does sound like they have an excellent carer. Well done.

    • Ppeckham100@gmail.com'
      Reply July 17, 2017

      Penny Reagan

      I try and stimulate my 2 cats, Baxter and Skylar with colorful, bright ,fun DIY toys! We have gift-wrap ribbon tied to our air conditioner so it flows prettily in the air. Skylar climbs up on the end table and plays with the ribbon! Very entertaining and fun for all! There is always old faithful, being a laser light! Both of my furry four leggers love it!

  • jcsjmssheldon@yahoo.com'
    Reply February 12, 2016

    Jim Sheldon

    Very helpful and enjoyable article. Lots of good information. I passed it on our Facebook to give encouragement to a lot of other cat-owners we know. Thanks!

  • Cronullajen@gmail.com'
    Reply February 19, 2016

    Jen H

    Thank you for your info,
    Our beautiful pussy bear, is trained to walk on a lead and is taken for a walk every day. We have grown cat mint which I dry and crush for her and placed in silk satchels dangled at delectable heights to swipe.She has a large hand woven cane bowel attached to the wall for scratching, and a special pot full of cat grass she eats 5 times a day.
    I play with her during the day with soft objects attached to a long cord so she can chase. She loves it when items are hidden under her mat, and she digs them out. When I cook she sits in the bar kitchen chairs and I give her things to smell. Lemmon, mint basil rosemary. I do not know how I trained her but she never goes on the dinning table or kitchen bench. So when I cook I give her ingredients to smell. She just leans over and gives them a sniff. Some she likes others she hates , but she loves mummy for including her in making dinner.

    My husband was often away,however when he returned home he always brought me flowers,, the funniest thing happened, because as my husband would start up the stairs me and pussy bear would run down to meet him, my husband would lay the flowers down so we could hug and kiss. Pussy bear always had the flowers at her paws, so she thought that the flowers where bought were for her. When we buy flowers now we put them in a place that she can easily smell them and we of course pretend, that the flowers are hers. Everyone is happy.
    We have a special nest at the bottom of the bed for her.
    My husband now walks her and brushes her everyday for 30 minutes she is a rag doll and furry. We now have her clipped in summer so she feels cool and light.
    I feed her human food, roast chicken, rare finely chopped beef, and fish that she likes.
    I always bring her a flower from the garden and we both always say hello to her when we enter the room she is in. When we go out , we always tell her to guard the place, and kiss her goodbye. We both say good morning and good night, we treat her, like a smart person because she generally senses what is happening before we do.
    When I am sick and just wake at night, she will jump on the bed, before my eyes are even open because she knows I have just stirred. Our pussybear is so beautiful, she is a sensitive smart person in a very nice coat,, go spoil and learn what your cat likes. They will tell you if you have the love in your heart, and patience,,not a big ask,,, and they will give you everything they have.
    To love your cat is a measure of how much you love yourself.Go ahead and spoil that joyful smart little person. If only they could talk. Mine does,,, learn to hear it,, it is interesting what they say.
    Love to all the pussy bears,, you are beautiful creatures.

    • jessieharrington35@gmail.com'
      Reply March 30, 2017

      Jess

      Love!!!

    • mermaidrluvu@yahoo.com'
      Reply April 2, 2017

      gale christine

      So beautifully shared ~ thank you for inspiring me to be a better feline friend & owner to Doc & Charlie Sheen

  • Sophie2katz@gmail.com'
    Reply February 21, 2016

    Sophie Katz

    As much ‘fun’ as it may be for your cat to live an indoor life – it will never come close to the joy the cat will experience being outdoors sniffing new smells, sleeping in a sunny spot in the back garden, and enjoying watching real-life birds in the trees. Get a cat flap for your cat and stop treating them as prisoners on death row. Would you like to never leave your house under the pretext of you will live longer and it’s safer?

    • ronja.schrand@freenet.de'
      Reply October 5, 2016

      Ronja

      Well, of course its much nicer for cats to be outside, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice (apart from maybe not getting a cat, but then the big question is if the cat really were happier being drowned or whatnot if you didn’t giveher a home) when you live in the middle of the city. Not everybody has a backgarden, not everybody is allowed to install a cat flap 😉 we certainly plan to let the cat out when we move to a more suitable area, but right now he has to be an indoor cat, thus I really appreciate articles like this that maybe give me more ideas on how to make his life more enjoyable.

  • Cronullajen@gmail.com'
    Reply February 22, 2016

    Jen H

    Dear,Sophie,
    I couldn’t agree more,, it is beautiful for cats to be roaming and chasing butterflies.
    We had cat flaps installed to allow our Littlebear the freedom to explore.We all loved it until the day she was hit by a car. My husband found her,, to the vet, 5 broken right leg bones and a total hip removal. Our vet Michael Bramely was a magician. I couldn’t believe she would be saved.Littlebear went through 2 major operations. That is why my husband trained her to walk on a lead, he takes her out now at 4 pm her tail and meow also incredulously knows the time. In 10 years I think we have only missed a couple of walks.She is taken supervised to play in the grass , smell the cat mint and chase the lizards and breathe in the earth smell.
    She loves her special, time, she is then brushed and massaged in what we call the spar, for 30 minutex,,then she is deliver back inside and fed yummy food that mummy has made for her.
    She has a window to watch all that is happening outside,,, much happens. She smiles at me, when I show her something going on out the window.
    I also had surgery, I too am surprised to be alive. Littlebear spends many hours on the bed with me,,, I suppose we are both prisoners.
    However we love her and try and give her everything that is outside ,,, inside, so she is entertained and importantly safe. Littlebear is so beautiful, smart, and has both of us caring for her and both of us treat her as best parents can. I hope she is happy and every day I regret she was hit by the car. I should never have let her out.
    I hope all pussy bears inside, are never missing out,,,and also have outside supervision to enjoy and feel what it like to lie in the grass upside down with paws extended ready for a tummy rub.
    How I wish it were a perfect world.
    Love to you and your special pussy bear.
    Love and Abundance to every one .

  • gntakasap@yahoo.com'
    Reply November 23, 2016

    Tammy

    I recently adopted a 4 year old neutered tom that has been declawed on all fours (declawing the front is cruel enough, but all four is just horrible) & just to find out what he liked & get him to playing I purchased feathers on a stick with a bell, a crinkly shiny ball, a batter operated toy that flips a catnip ball in a circle & I have learned a couple of things. He is completely uninterested in playing & totally unaffected by catnip. They only thing he has shown interest in & very limited interest, is a pigeon feather I brought in to him. I am in the process of growing him some grass & I have ordered him a cat tree that has faux branches with silk leaves, resting shelves & faux grass on the base. I will just wait & see I suppose to see if he will become more playful once he is more settled in, since I have only had him a week, he may come around………

  • birds@gmail.com'
    Reply December 16, 2016

    Birds Everywhere

  • holly.bea@hotmail.co.uk'
    Reply February 20, 2017

    Holly

    This is a great read. We’re picking up our cat from the Cat’s Protection on Sunday and as she was a stray we’ve been advised to keep her inside for a good couple of months to get her adjusted, so I’m a bit worried about making sure she’s entertained and active enough in our home.
    Thank you for this informative and helpful post 🙂

  • wamurrell@googlemail.com'
    Reply February 22, 2017

    Wendy Murrell

    Brilliant article! My cat is so timid that she will only go outside when it’s not windy & not wet, and then she won’t venture any further than the back garden. She’s 10yrs old now so I don’t think she’s streetwise enough to go any further & I would worry if she did! I’ve tried so many toys over the years & finally found one that she is interested in playing with, it’s a laser mouse light. I like your suggestions but I would be a bit nervous about the dvd in case she tried to attack one of the creatures & killed the tv in the process lol!

  • Jo_sinclair@hotmail.co.uk'
    Reply March 5, 2017

    Jo

    A good informative post. We adopted 13 year old Ernie from cats protection just 2 days ago. Ernie has just 5 teeth, diabetes and FIV so has to be an indoor cat. I don’t want him to be bored so will try the things I’ve read about, to keep him stimulated.

    • Reply March 8, 2017

      Sara White

      Congrats on adopting Jo – hope Ernie is settling in well and some of these things keep him happy and stimulated x

  • Smallsroxursox96@aol.com'
    Reply April 4, 2017

    Gabby Small

    Any tips for cat trees that allow bigger cats to play and lounge on and aren’t too expensive??? Love my cat, Jane and I always feel terrible about her being home alone most of the day. She’s part main coon and about 20lbs. Just a broke college student trying to find a fun little jungle gym for my furrr baby! Please help!

    Also, I have the cat hammock on the window and she loves it!!! Great advice!

  • carrie.kosiak@gmail.com'
    Reply May 17, 2017

    Carrie

    I couldn’t figure out if my cats didn’t like toys, or DIDN’T LIKE THE TOYS THEY HAD…… Turns out they both do like a toy… when they “discover” or “find” one. Seems they don’t much appreciate being presented with a ”gift” from me. Mystery solved! Some catnip helps them get on the trail and ”discover” the play toy btw.

  • email2vickiek@yahoo.com'
    Reply June 2, 2017

    Vickie Killeen

    I have a Recycled male Tabby, Murphy, who loves catnip, and enjoys most “cat toys” for a while, but becomes quickly bored. But, he loves his fine collection of ping pong balls, and gets a heroic workout with them. I discovered what a true Cathlete he is when he keeps them in the air and sends them flying. Only problem is when they get lost in dark places. Time to search them out again. What Fun!
    >^..^<

  • Michaudd@msn.com'
    Reply July 7, 2017

    Dm

    Our adopted cat loves just a plain shoelace and will pounce on it and throws it up in the air. I have catnip mice that is second to the shoelace and is dis-interested in felt attached to a wand or even balls with bells. It’s all about the shoelace and catnip mice. He even uses them as teddies.

  • emorri24@yahoo.com'
    Reply August 31, 2017

    Emily

    Lasers are a wonderful toy as well! Just make sure you don’t get them in their eye. My only wish is that I could stimulate my tabby while I was gone for work for 7 hours. I know he sleeps for a good part of it, but I notice that there is always something on the ground that was once on a table when I get home. He likes a certain type of spring that I am trying to replace. Home Depot doesn’t seem to have it and I couldn’t take it away from my sister’s cat when we moved away. He won’t play with any cat toys though. He only plays with my hair ties, this spring that I am currently trying to find, and lasers. I’m at a loss for pretty much anything else I can add to the mix. I used to take him for walks outside on the leash but now we live in the city so that’s not really feasible. I’m hoping to get some cat shelves that lead to the windows for a different vantage point for him, in hopes that will be of interest for him. Lovely website by the way. Wish my cat wasn’t very picky!

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