First Step: Basic Items Needed for the Purrfect Environment
For the safety and longevity of your pet, most veterinary experts recommend keeping your cat inside if possible. With that being said, we understand keeping your cat strictly indoors poses some unique challenges. By reducing stimulation and prey behaviors, many indoor cats become bored, increasingly focused on food, and display stress and anxiety when interacting with other pets in the household. We are here to provide you with the tools needed to create and maintain the perfect environment for your feline friend. Stay tuned for this multi-part blog series entitled: “Keeping Your Cat Content”.
Whether you are interested in bringing a new cat or kitten into your home, or already have a cat it is a good idea to assess their environment and make sure your pet’s basic needs are met. In general, the list of things required to keep your indoor cat happy is short and simple: a food and water bowl, a bed, a litter box, a scratching/climbing post, a window to look out of, and some toys. However, how you provide these basic needs takes a little thought and preparation.
First, let’s talk about feeding areas and litter box areas. Both feeding/watering stations and litter box areas must be easily accessible to your cat and in a quiet area. Pet feeding areas should be kept separate from litter box areas for hygienic reasons. The location you chose for both areas should be far away from appliances and air ducts that might make unexpected noises and startle your cat. If you have multiple pets in the home, make sure each has access to their own resources. Competition for basic needs such as food, water and litter is extremely stressful to pets. We recommend you provide access to multiple litter boxes in your home. A general rule of thumb is there should be one box for each cat in the household, plus one additional box. Litter box preferences vary between cats but most prefer a large uncovered box with unscented litter. Keep the box clean by scooping at least once daily.
An unfortunate truth is that many cats are relinquished to shelters because of damage they cause to furniture and household items through scratching. However, cats must scratch in order to maintain mental and physical health. Cats scratch to stretch their muscles, shed old cuticle, sharpen their claws, and leave scent marks (their calling card). Even declawed cats retain the instinct to scratch. Providing a scratching post for your cat ensures they have something appropriate to scratch on, and deters them from damaging your household items. As expected, finicky cats can have a lot to say about the type of scratcher they like. Some cats prefer vertical scratchers, others prefer horizontal. Cats often demonstrate preferences for scratching on one material over another. Examples include carpet type fibers, sisal, cardboard or wood. If you are able to, purchase a few different types of scratching posts to find your cat’s favorite. Entice them to use the post with catnip or treats, and praise them profusely for use. Another little known cat scratching post fact is that scratching posts should ideally be placed in a location where people and other pets can observe the scratch marks. The scratches a cat leaves on a post are a bold “Tigger was here” statement and should be visible for all to see… sort of like hanging your child’s artwork on the refrigerator!
Toys are a wonderful addition to encourage exercise and strengthen the bond you have with your pet. We recommend toys that encourage natural prey behaviors, like feather wands, treat puzzles, and motorized mice. Daily play time with your cat is fun for both of you and helps your cat maintain body condition through exercise. After a day full of scratching and playing, your cat will love a nice area to cuddle up for a nap. The bottom of your pet carrier, filled with soft bedding, is an ideal portable bed. It allows them to associate comfort and safety with the carrier and makes transportation to and from our office (in the same carrier) less stressful.
And for our final tip of the day, providing your cat with a place to climb and look out the window does much to improve their mental well being. There are many creative ideas online for DIY shelving! Excellent examples are found here: http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/how-to-create-a-cat-climbing-system-in-your-home. We hope you and your cat find these recommendations useful and fun. To learn more, visit Ohio State University’s Indoor Cat Initiative: https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats or call to discuss any questions or concerns with your Longwood Veterinarian at 610-388-3388.
Written By: Tara Corridori, LVT