The Star-Herald

Tips for a happy indoor cat

We have had indoor cats for close to 17 years. Even though we lost our sweet Annie back in March, Willie is still going strong and continues to be an indoor cat.  On occasion he will join us outside in the yard if we are sitting enjoying the peace and quiet. He is not very woods-smart and the resident chipmunks will all but run up over his head before he can actually react.  The “chippies” have nothing to fear on Kinney Hill. Because we feed the birds and we also have hawks flying through our yard on a regular basis, the safest place for Willie is inside.

With the cold weather upon us, The Humane Society of the United States offers some tips for making the great indoors an interesting, feline-friendly environment that meets all of your cat’s needs.

It’s a myth that going outside is a requirement for feline happiness. Playing regularly with a cat and providing their entertaining toys can easily satisfy their stalking instinct, keep them stimulated and provide the exercise they need to stay healthy and happy. It also keeps local wildlife safe.

Start ’em young: Kittens who are kept indoors are usually happy to stay there as they grow up.

Good fences = happy kitties: Provide a screened porch for your cat to experience the outdoors safely. Consider building or purchasing a “catio” or similar enclosure to allow your cat to get a taste of the outside without the risks. A regular fence may not prevent other animals from entering your yard, so you should always be present when you allow your cat outside in your yard.

Be sure to cat-proof the yard by checking that your fence has no escape routes and by making toxic plants, garden chemicals and other dangerous objects inaccessible.

Walk this way: If you live in a peaceful neighborhood in which you can walk without encountering loose dogs, consider buying a harness and training your cat to walk on a leash. This training takes time and patience, for both you and the cat, and it’s easiest when your cat is young. Some cats can even be harnessed and tied to a stationary object to enjoy the outdoors while you are gardening nearby (but be sure never to leave your cat alone while they are tethered).

Hang out: Install a perch indoors near a sunny window; padded perches can be purchased at many pet supply stores or through catalog retailers. Another option is an enclosure that sits in a window frame (much like an air conditioning unit) and provides a secure space in which your kitty can hang out. Larger perches can attach to the side of a house or ground-floor apartment patio.

Tree’s company:  Buy a ready-made cat tree (often called a “kitty condo”), or make your own. My husband built a three-story perch out of carpet and heavy jute rope. It has withstood many years of climbing, perching and skirmishes over who gets the top. A cat tree can be short, or may stretch from floor to ceiling. It provides great climbing opportunities and, in multi-cat households, creates more play and rest areas by taking advantage of vertical space. If you can, locate the cat tree next to a window so your cat can watch the action outdoors.

Play time: Play with your cat each day. Try different types of toys that allow your cat to stalk, chase, pounce and kick. When you’ve tired out your cat, store toys that could harm them (such as toys with strings attached) out of reach. When you can’t be there to supervise, leave out “toys” such as paper bags (with the handles removed) or cardboard boxes. Willie LOVES a new delivery to the house — and will spend days in a new box. Be sure to switch the toys from time to time so that they seem “new” and more interesting to your cat. 

Bring the outdoors in: Plant cat grass (available from pet supply stores) in indoor pots so your feline can graze.  Cats can be neat freaks, so clean the litter box regularly.

You can find more cat tips at www.humanesociety.org/search?keys=cats. Please be responsible: spay and neuter your pets.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board of directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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