Many cats, particularly breeds with a placid temperament, such as the Persian, will take to indoor life quite happily. But, just as some humans are very much the outdoor type while others are happy just to stay in, if you keep your cats indoors you will have to judge over a period of time how well it is coping with the restriction. If you do decide to take the indoor option, you should do so from day one. While a cat that is kept indoors from kittenhood can learn to go outside, it would be very unfair to make an outdoor cat stay in and would be likely to cause great frustration. You must therefore be clear in you own mind as to how you wish to keep your cat before you bring it home, bearing in mind the following potential problems:
*The cat is a natural hunter, and has great energies and abilities to be used in this pursuit. If you cat is not allowed to venture outdoors, it could become frustrated and develop behavioural problems such as scratching furniture or indulging in wild bouts of running around the house.
*The lack of exercise may cause your cat to become overweight if you do not pay very careful attention to his diet.
*The cat may become bored, and also lonely if you are out all day
*It may become over-reactive to changes within its small territory(your house), and therefore unable to cope with novelty, whether in the form of people or of objects brought in
*There will be much greater dependence on you for stimulation and activity, and a risk of over-attachment
*If your cat does get out, it may be disorientated and will not have any ‘street’ smart skills. If you keep the cat in a high-rise flat, the dangers of a fall resulting from an attempt to escape are obvious.
*If you have only one cat, it may be very difficult to introduce another one at a later stage into your first cat’s restricted territory, as there will be no neutral ground to which either party can retire. Minimizing Problems
You can take active steps to reduce or eliminate many of the above problems by the following means:
#Keep your cat entertained. A solitary cat kept entirely indoors will often centre its waking and active time around the comings and goings of its owners, so you will have to spend time interacting with it and catering for its hunting and social needs. This is especially important with some of the more ‘dog-like’, socially demanding breeds such as the Siamese and Burmese, which form very strong attachments to their owners. Indeed, some individuals may even begin to over-groom or self-mutilate due to the stress of being left alone with insufficient stimulation. You must therefore be continually creative and produce new toys and games to keep him exercised, both physically and mentally. Cats love newspaper ‘tents’, cardboard boxes and paper bags, not to mention the various play centres and climbing frames that are commercially available.
#Monitor your cat’s food intake to ensure that it does not put on excess weight, either through lack of exercise or due to over-eating because of boredom. Make the cat ‘work’ and forage for its food by placing dried cat tidbits and treats in, under or behind objects to encourage it to be active and to simulate a ‘hunting’ activity.
#Try to ensure that you have regular visitors and that life is not too quiet, especially when your cat is small, because this is what it will come to see as normal, as he is growing. As the cat’s whole world may consist of 2 or 3 rooms in a flat, it is important to avoid hypersensitivity to change, and human or animal visitors can potentially introduce huge novelty in the day-to-day environment.
#Your cat will need to act out its normal behavioural repertoire in you home. One of these natural and important activities is scratching. Even an outdoor cat, which may well choose a tree in the garden or a special post for this, should have a scratching post in the home, and carpets and/furniture to suffer. Let your cat play around the post, and drape toys over it for the cat to swat at so that it becomes used to the post and to climb around it. Then gently lift the cat’s front paws and rub them against the post to introduce the idea of what to do. This will also deposit some scent from the glands between the cat’s footpads onto the post, and so encourage it to use the post again.
#On your part, try to accept that your house may not always stay looking at its best, especially when your cat is at the ‘hurtling around the walls and up the curtains’ stage. Put away any precious ornaments, even if they are fairly high up, you need to imagine that you have a toddler who can fly. Choose a litter tray big enough for the cat to scratch about in and become used to, the hooded type may be better than an open tray, as this will prevent spillage of the litter. These trays also often contain air fresheners, to help keep smells at bay.
#Have 2 cats instead of 1 right from the start. Another cat will bring change and interaction, and is highly preferable if cats are kept permanently indoors. It will also help to reduce your sense of guilt at leaving 1 cat on its own when you go out. Having 2 cats will also relieve you some of the burden of providing stimulation and exercise, as they will happily wear each other out playing and entertaining each other.
#An outdoor cat will nibble on grass and herbs as part of its diet one reason for this may be that it assists in the regurgitation of hair balls.) You should provide some grass indoors (seed kits are available in pet shops), and perhaps catnip, thyme, sage or parsley. you can even grow cereal grasses such as wheat and oats in a potting mixture. Sow every 2 or 3 weeks so that there is always a fresh supply for them.
#Invest in some good claw clippers designed specifically for cats. Your cat’s claws may not wear down as quickly as they would do if it walked on hard surfaces outdoors, and long claws also have a tendency to become snagged in carpets and upholstery. If you are not confident about cutting your cat’s claws, ask your vet or a professional groomer for a demonstration of how to restrain your cat and use the clippers correctly.
#Ensure that your home is completely ‘cat-proof’, especially if you live several stories up. Put mesh over the windows if necessary, and train everyone in the family to keep all external doors shut. An inquisitive and bored cat will be able to squeeze through very small holes, or may work at an edge until it gives way.
The writer has had many years experience in cat ownership, and an authority in fostering and encouraging responsible cat ownership around the country. Having been invited to speak on the subject in many functions and events, he decided that interested cat lovers will benefit greatly if he wrote a book on it, entitled: Responsible Cat Ownership.
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