Keeping cats indoors has tons of benefits especially when it comes to their health and well-being. For one, you can save them from acquiring tons of parasites, viruses, and bacteria like ringworm and feline immunodeficiency virus. It also keeps them safe from getting lost or being stolen by burglars and catnappers in your area.
But it’s not all positive. Securing them indoors has its cons as well. Cats living in limited-spaced apartments may be hindered to practice their hunting and chasing skills because they might end up destroying your furniture. They can become so bored and lonely that they start to be destructive.
This behavior is one of the many reasons why 3.4 million cats are left abandoned to animal shelters across the country every year by families and individuals who cannot stand them anymore.
Luckily, there are various ways on how you can keep your kitties happy and distracted without bringing them outdoors. Here are five of them:
1. Shower them with toys.
The more varied the toys, the better. They don’t have to be expensive, either. As long as they can chase, kick, pounce, claw, and bite them, any scrap material can work.
Examples could be a ball of paper, small plush toys, a stick with feathers or a ball at one end, cardboard boxes, and paper bags. It doesn’t really take that much to make them happy since they have enough imagination to amuse themselves.
If you have enough finances, though, you can buy interactive toys that not only keep them from getting bored but also stimulate their mind.
Some manufacturers offer puzzle toys wherein treats are placed inside and it’s up to the cat to figure out how to bring the food out. These interactive toys can keep cats busy for hours.
In choosing a pet toy, make sure that it’s big enough not to be swallowed accidentally by your cat as it bites and chews the toy. Your kitty might end up swallowing it if you leave the feline unsupervised.
For improvised toys, replace them immediately as soon as you see signs of deterioration that can cause choking.
2. Introduce them to the neighborhood.
Contrary to popular belief, cats can be leash-trained just like dogs. The earlier you teach them, the better it is to enforce the behavior.
That doesn’t mean that adult cats are a hopeless case when it comes to leash training. However, you do need tons of patience to train adult cats.
The general steps when it comes to leash training are to first let them get used to wearing a harness while indoors. Let them wear it for 5-10 minutes each day, then gradually increase it to an hour.
Once they’re comfortable at the feel of the harness around their body, introduce the leash. You can either leave it dangling around or tie it up at a post or a sturdy chair.
Now that they are familiar with the harness and leash, you can now use the latter to coax them to walk. Get them to walk indoors first in order for them to have a general idea as to how or why they have both stuff attached to them. Gradually increase the duration, followed by the distance.
Make sure that you are there to provide comfort and moral support during the whole process. That way, they see the harness and leash as opportunities to bond with you rather than as symbols of punishment and restriction.
The key to leash training is to take slow, baby steps and to observe how they respond to it. If you are unsure about how to go through it, you can always ask for help from a cat trainer.
After taking them to a walk outdoors, give them time to rest before providing enough water for hydration and replenishment. This is to prevent choking and regurgitation.
3. Provide visual entertainment.
Making your cat an indoor feline should not mean that it must not see or even experience the outside world unless you’re around. Cats can get extremely lonely if they’re always left alone without anything to entertain them; not even toys.
Another way to chase their boredom away is to designate a window perch where they can take in the view of the world outside. You can place a bird feeder where your cat can see and watch the birds come and go freely.
Putting their cat bed next to this window (preferably at the side of the house where the sun rises) would give your feline the chance to take in the wonderful view as soon as it wakes up.
If you want to take it a step further by letting in fresh, cold air for your cat to feel and enjoy, place a screen to cover the windows then open them freely. You must, however, check the screen for damage from time to time to prevent your cat from escaping.
4. Give them a buddy.
Despite their independence, cats can still get lonely especially if you always leave them alone at the house. One way to ease their boredom and loneliness is to provide another kitty that they can have as a companion.
The tricky part of this method, however, is introducing both cats to one another. As we all know, felines can get territorial especially if they are of the same sex. That is why it is recommended that you get a buddy that grew up with your current pet.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that cats that are unrelated to your current feline cannot be brought to your home. It only means that you may need to be prepared, careful, and patient enough to go through the process.
Just like in leash training, cat introduction must be done slowly. You can start by exposing your current cat to the scent of the other (using the same bath towel, for example), then giving the other one a glimpse of your kitty from afar. Close the distance gradually until they grow accustomed to each other’s company.
5. Opt for a surgical removal.
The primary reason why cats love to go outdoors (aside from boredom) is because of their libidinous desire to find a mate. This can be an issue especially if your cat is a lone kitty in the household.
You can lessen the urge of cats to escape and go outside by spaying or castrating them. Not only are you reducing the stress they may feel; you can also contribute to controlling the number of cat population in the neighborhood.
6. Strike a compromise.
If your cat can’t help but go outdoors no matter what you do to prevent it, then provide an alternative.
For example, give your cat a special corner in your garden or backyard wherein it can play, explore, and run around without destroying your well-kept lawn. Fill the area with enough toys, food, water, and litter to keep it so busy and distracted that it won’t find the outside world interesting.
And just like its indoor stuff, always clean the area, especially the litter box. Cats are extremely hygienic; a dirty outdoor litter box could give them a reason to explore and dump their excrement in your garden instead.
7. Give them a stroke.
Finally, no amount of material things can ever replace the love and affection that you, their “hooman”, can provide. Carve a time out of your busy schedule to play, groom, stroke, or pet your furry kitty. Not only is the bonding time beneficial to your cat; their presence can make you happy, too.