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Keeping Your Indoor Cat Happy, Healthy and Sane..

November 12, 2009 | By FelinePine | 1 comment
Category: Behavior & Training

By Dr. Michele Gaspar DVM, DABVP (feline)

There's no doubt that an indoors-only lifestyle is the safest one for our companion cats. Automobiles, wild animals, malicious humans and infectious diseases are just a few of the dangers that outdoor cats dodge on a daily basis. And, those same outdoor cats cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of songbirds and baby animals annually as they do "what comes naturally."

Responsible cat guardians know that for the safety of the cat and the environment indoors is where it's at. However, throughout thousands of years, our domestic cats have developed keen visual hunting skills, rich social relationships and basic feline needs. Placing our cats in even the most luxurious condo or home can be detrimental to their health if we don't take it upon ourselves to make their environment enriching and cat-friendly. The following tips will help keep your kitty happy, healthy and stress-free:

(1.) Let Playtime Be Prey-time: A happy cat is visually stimulated and that can be difficult if you're living 40 stories above the streets of Manhattan. Cats seem to fall into one of two hunting types: Some cats prefer to chase bird-like toys; others like those that resemble mice or rabbits. Purchase a few toys from each group and see which ones your cat is most interested in. Once you've figured out the type of toy that is most popular, buy several different ones and rotate them throughout the week. Avoid toys with easy-to-remove parts, as well as those with strings or ribbons, which can cause serious medical problems if swallowed. Large paper grocery bags, ping pong balls and crumpled wads of paper are very inexpensive, fun toys to add to your kitty's toy collection, too.

(2.) Hand Your Kitty The Remote: Many cats enjoy watching videos that capture the sights and sounds of birds, squirrels, rabbits and fish. These videos are inexpensive and are sold in most large pet supermarkets. Some of my favorite pictures through the years have been of my patients watching their favorite television "shows".

(3.) Put Your Cat on a Pedestal: Most cats naturally like to relax on a perch that is off the ground and provides some privacy. Cat trees or a comfy pillow placed on a high shelf can allow your "tiger" a place where they can get away from it all and relax. Ideally, this special spot should be away from heavily trafficked areas. Think of this as your kitty's special room where he or she can "kick back" and get away from it all.

(4.) Make Kitty's Playtime Your Time, Too: Having a basketful of toys sitting in a corner by itself isn't stimulating enough for most cats. They need to be engaged. By you. While we're all busy with work, school, children or home matters, take 15 or 20 minutes out of your morning or evening and actively play with your kitty. Not only will this time provide needed exercise for your favorite feline, but your bond with him or her will become stronger.

(5.) Give Your Cat A Job: Although most veterinarians recommend feeding cats a diet of low-carbohydrate food from a can, putting a few small kibbles into a Kitty Kong everyday allows your cat to become mentally engaged as he or she works the kibbles out of the toy. These Kongs are found in most large pet supermarkets.

(6.) Take a Deep Breath: Animals and humans alike produce pheromones, subtle aromatic chemicals that can signal relaxation, stress or fear. When cats mark furniture, walls (or even us) with their faces, they are depositing a "feel good" pheromone that is soothing and calming. There is now a synthetic facial marking pheromone that comes in plug-in diffusers, which you can use in the home. The subtle fragrance can't be detected by humans, but the cats can detect its pleasing, stress-reducing aroma. These diffusers are available on-line, at some veterinary practices and where cat supplies are sold.

(7.) Get In a Daily Yoga Class: Scratching is a natural activity for cats that allows them to remove the cuticle from their nails, mark their territory and stretch. Sissal (rope) scratching posts are best. Make sure they are tall enough for the kitty to use and stable enough that they won't be knocked over when in use. Some cats like to use scratching posts that lie on the floor.

(8.) Keep the Litter Box Pristine: There should be one more cat box than there are cats in the home. Cats generally prefer uncovered boxes that are large enough for them to comfortably turn around in. Scoop wastes daily and place the box in a quiet location.

(9.) Play Matchmaker: Although some cats prefer a solitary living arrangement, most enjoy the company of another cat with whom they can play, cuddle and "talk cat." Shelters are overflowing with loving cats who are looking for that purr-fect, life-long home. Talk to your veterinarian about whether he or she believes that your kitty would benefit from having a feline friend.

(10.) Watch the Scale: We work late, come home tired and sometimes substitute food and treats for what our cats really want: A bit of our time. Some cats deal with boredom just like some people do and they overeat. Talk to your veterinarian about establishing a proper weight for your cat and feed only the amount of food necessary to maintain that weight. You can purchase a small scale at stores that have baby and infant departments and weigh your cats monthly (or more often, as your veterinarian suggests).

As you can see, with just a few additions to your household routine and some basic understanding of cat needs, it's possible for your kitty to be active, trim and interested in his or her surroundings as he watches the world go by from the safety of your loving home.
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Tina P.
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Tina P.
5 years ago

Please read my journal! I would like to try your clumping litter but, I have 8 cats and can't spend extra money on a product if I'm not sure it will work in my household! Thanks!

www.zootoo.com/journals_j_petproduct/youlearnsomethingneweveryday_wildchildsmom

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