By Dr Katrina Warren 

The past few years have seen a considerable shift in the number of cat owners choosing to keep their cat indoors or contained outdoors. There are many benefits to this; contained cats generally live longer than outdoor cats that roam freely, they're unlikely to get hit by a car, injured in fights with other animals, catch infectious diseases, kill wildlife or be a nuisance to neighbours.

Plus, it is now becoming mandatory in some parts of Australia. From 1 July, 2022 it will be compulsory for new cats in all ACT suburbs to be contained within their owner's property or on a leash.

Most cats live very happily indoors and enjoy the home comforts on offer, but some things must be considered to ensure their mental and physical needs are met. 

Here are my top 5 tips for creating a home environment to keep your cat safe and happy.

 

1. Create an enriched environment

Provide your cat with an environment that offers them plenty of things to do. Cats love to perch and sleep in high places, and I recommend all cats have a climbing tree that they can use as their place to relax. Bring the outside in by providing safe potted plants such as cat grass and catnip.

Empty boxes can provide endless entertainment for cats; try stacking and taping them together to create a cat cubby house. Keep a variety of cat toys, furry ones, coloured ones, jingly ones, dangly ones and rolling ones, and offer them on a rotating basis to maintain your cat's interest. 

 

2. Exercise and playtime 

Although cats sleep up to 18 hours a day, they still need to exercise their mind and body. Cats, particularly young ones, may become destructive if they don't receive enough exercise. Overweight cats are more likely to suffer from conditions such as Diabetes Mellitus, liver disease, cardiac disease and arthritis.

Allocate some time each day to play with your cat. Just 5-10 minutes a day can make a difference to your cat's wellbeing. Play games that get your cat moving, such as tossing a toy a distance away so that your cat chases it or fishing rod type toys. Also, offer some safe toys that your cat enjoys playing with if you are not there. Many cats are attracted to toys that make a crinkly sound, and some cats respond to toys that are enriched with catnip. Be sure to rotate the toys regularly to prevent boredom. 

 

3. Enclose an area

Many homes have spaces that can be enclosed by netting to allow a cat to enjoy the outdoors and fresh air, while keeping them and wildlife safe. These include contained inner courtyards & atriums, balconies and other outdoor areas. Cat netting is an easy way to provide affordable and secure cat containment solutions that can be integrated into any outdoor space.

You can build your own Cat Run using netting and DIY materials according to your space and situation. It’s easier than you think, and you can end up saving quite of bit of money on installation by doing it yourself.

You can also get portable enclosures in various sizes that can be assembled and disassembled quickly for your convenience.  

 

4. Scratching posts

Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats, and it's essential to understand that all cats need to scratch. It's a way for a cat to mark its territory and how they remove the outer sheath of their claws. 

If a cat does not have a suitable option, they will choose your furniture or carpet to scratch. You need to offer appropriate alternatives and then teach your cat how to use them by playing games on and around the post.

 

5. Use Vertical Space

Cats love to be elevated and love to climb. Simple shelves can be placed to create a cat ladder, and furniture can be strategically placed to allow a cat to access higher spots, such as the top of a wardrobe or a sunny window sill.