Spring is finally here! And for many of us, the return of the warmer weather and longer days will mean lots more time spent outside–working in the yard, relaxing at the park, or walking around the neighborhood. However, what’s good for cat parent isn’t necessarily good for the cat. No matter what time of year it is, the safest place for a cat is in the house!
Statistics show that indoor cats live significantly longer than those who spend a lot of unsupervised time outside. And it only makes sense. The world outdoors is full of potential for cat-astrophe. Cars, predators, and infectious diseases are a daily threat for kitties who roam free outside. Cats who stay indoors can live to be 17 or even older, while the average lifespan of outdoor cats is only 2-5 years!
Unfortunately, though, our kitties are completely unaware of the dangers. All they see when they look out the window is a wonderland of birds to chase, trees to climb, and nooks and crannies to explore. Some cat parents, afraid that their feline friends will not get enough stimulation in the safety of the home, wonder if it’s worth the risk to let them outside.
This is a valid concern. Cats need both physical and mental stimulation, and a dull, boring environment will result in a bored, unhappy, and possibly destructive cat. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to give your favorite feline all of the fun and stimulation of the outside world without exposing him to needless danger. With a little bit of planning, most of the things that make going outside so entertaining can be brought inside so kitty can enjoy them safely.
“Prey” to Hunt
Cats are natural predators. Even though our kitties don’t have to lift a paw to get their food, they still love (and need) the thrill of the chase. Thankfully for us, they don’t need live birds and mice to fill that need!
Interactive toys are a great way to engage in an invigorating game of cat and mouse. Some cats go crazy for feather wands or cat “fishing poles” with tempting toys dangling at the end. Others can’t resist a laser pointer. Experiment a bit to find what gets your kitty excited, and make sure to give him plenty of time to indulge his inner tiger!
“Trees” to Climb
Most cats love vertical surfaces, which is why they climb trees. You can’t plant a tree in your living room, but you can still give your kitty a safe place to climb, scratch, and perch. A cat tree provides the purr-fect spot for your cat to scratch, stretch, climb, and survey his surroundings. It also will lessen the likelihood that kitty will decide to climb or scratch your curtains or furniture!
You may even be able to make your own tree or scratching posts to save money and fit your specific space. If you don’t have the room for a full-sized cat tree, many cats are just as happy with carpeted shelves hung on the wall at a good jumping distance.
Places to Hide
Cats are instinctively drawn to cozy hiding spots. Outside they love to crouch down under low shrubs, bushes, or other locations that offer lots of cover. You can bring the fun inside with an enclosed, ball shaped cat bed with a hole for them to crawl in through. Or you could even create your own cat cave using a paper bag or a cardboard box with a hole cut in it. Cats usually find these spaces irresistible.
Plants to Munch
Some cats just love to nibble on grass or other plants. Many plants, both outdoor and indoor, are poisonous to felines, but you can provide your indoor kitty with plenty of safe greenery to munch on.
Most cats love catnip, although not all react the same way. Some become super active and playful, while others become calm and mellow. You can purchase catnip at a pet supply store or grow your own in a sunny spot for your cat to munch on. Cat grass is another cat-friendly plant that your kitty may enjoy.
Sights and Sounds of Nature
A simple window seat can provide kitty with hours of entertainment. For even more fun, try putting up a bird feeder within easy viewing distance.
Some cats even respond to videos of birds and other small animals or recordings of nature sounds such as birdsongs, rustling leaves, and crickets chirping. You can even find special DVDs or CDs made just for cats!
Another option is to purchase a kitty drinking fountain. The sound of running water will bring your cat back to nature, and he will probably enjoy the experience of drinking fresh, moving water too!
A Breath of Fresh Air
If you’re lucky enough to have a screened in porch, this is the perfect spot for your cat to enjoy the breezes, birds, and sunshine in safety. If not, there are lots of ideas on the internet for building a dedicated outdoor space (or “catio”) for your kitty.
Another ingenious way to keep kitty safe and secure outside is Wrapsit – a cozy, mesh-sided crate that can be added to your folding “camp” chair. Wrapsit offers five cubic feet of space, which is about the same as most medium-sized crates. It’s a great way for kitty to get a taste of the outdoors without exposing him to the dangers. Of course, it goes without saying that cats should always be supervised in any kind of enclosure and should never be left alone for too long.
By bringing the stimulating outside environment inside for your kitty to enjoy, you’ll be keeping him happier, healthier, and safer.
For more ways to live happier and healthier with your cat, visit my website at www.kristenlevine.com.
Guest post by Kristen Levine Pet Living, the place for stories, science & advice for living happier and healthier with pets.