It’s highly recommended that your cat remain indoors in order to have a longer and healthier life, but staying indoors can also interfere with their needs as natural hunters and predators. This can lead to boredom, anxiety, and destructive behaviors in your cat such as:
- Compulsive overeating and/or over-grooming
- Chewing and clawing at the furniture
- Scarfing down their food and regurgitating it shortly after
- Lashing out at other animals or people
- Isolating themselves
In a worst-case scenario, the stress of not having an enriching environment can cause some cats to develop urinary issues. These can be characterized by urinating outside of the litterbox, having difficulty urinating, or having a urinary obstruction, which can be life-threatening.
Things to Remember When Adopting a Cat
Cats do not have the long history of domestication that dogs do and maintain many of their “wild” characteristics. They are solitary, territorial hunters; they use scent, posturing and vocalizing to communicate; and they have a strong sense of smell and hearing.
While living indoors can protect cats from outdoor threats, it can come at a cost—but only if their instinctual needs are not being met. If you can enrich your pet’s environment to suit their needs, they will be a much happier and healthier companion.
How to Enrich Your Cat’s Environment
Here are a few effective ways to meet your cat’s needs and keep them happy in their indoor life:
- Give them a safe, secure space to retreat to (cardboard box, cat carrier, raised cat perch/tree).
- Provide multiple key resources in separate, easily-accessible areas of your cat’s environment; this includes their litter box, food and water bowls, scratching posts, play areas, and sleeping areas. Your cat should be able to access these resources stress-free.
- Give them plenty of opportunities for playing and tapping into their instinctual hunting behaviors; use interactive toys that mimic prey (make sure you allow your cat to capture their “prey” intermittently to prevent them from becoming frustrated). We also recommend food puzzles to encourage more natural eating behavior.
- Create positive, consistent, and predictable social interactions with your cat. Also, give them the opportunity to choose for themselves when and with whom they would like to interact if you have visitors.
- Be mindful of how your cat’s environment affects their keen sense of smell. They mark their boundaries with their own scent to establish a sense of security and familiarity. Unfamiliar scents can make a cat feel threatened and anxious.