Research by Nottingham Trent University in 2021 found that 41% of cat owners keep their pets indoors at all times – with the majority citing safety concerns as the deciding factor.
More than half of indoor cat owners (59%) said their biggest concern was traffic, with 13% of owners worried that their pets would be stolen or intentionally harmed.
The number of indoor cats has risen sharply in recent years, and researchers expect this trend to continue as urbanization expands. Cats with medical conditions or disabilities that impair their senses may be safer indoors, but veterinarians and animal welfare organizations generally believe that the majority of cats should have access to the great outdoors.
Chasing and climbing are natural behaviors for cats and it is important that all cats have the opportunity to do so. In fact, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (England and Wales) places the legal responsibility on the owner to ensure that a cat – or any other pet – is capable of displaying normal behaviors.
While some cats are content with being housebound, others can become miserable if stuck indoors, so it’s important to know the signs of a happy cat.
How do you know if your cat is happy indoors?
Signs that an indoor cat is happy and thriving include:
- Display their natural instincts by spending part of the day “chasing” toys, scratching a scratching post and interacting with their surroundings
- Look out the window or watch television. This shows that a cat is stimulated by what is happening around him
- Meow, purr and seek affection
- A healthy appetite and willingness to use a litter box
Indoor vs Outdoor
A cat that is kept indoors is safe from busy roads, cannot hang out with neighborhood cats, is protected from theft (especially if it is a valuable pedigree breed ) and will not be able to bring home “gifts” of dead birds. or mice.
However, an indoor cat may become bored if not mentally stimulated, overweight from lack of exercise, or stressed if their natural need to explore cannot be satisfied.
If you choose to let your cat outside, it’s a good idea to try to keep them indoors at night, as traffic accidents and cat fights are more likely to happen in the dark. A cat flap connected to your pet’s microchip will allow him to come and go during the day without giving access to his food to other passing moggies.
The choices cat owners make can have a big impact on the well-being, health and happiness of their pets, so you need to weigh the pros and cons, which will be different from cat to cat.
Nervous cats generally prefer to stay closer to home — especially if there are feline bullies living in the neighborhood — but eager, outgoing hunters can quickly become depressed if they find themselves incarcerated.
It all depends on what is best for a particular cat, and you are in the best position to assess your own pet’s quality of life.
How to have a happy house cat
If you decide to keep your cat indoors, the following top tips will help her live her life to the fullest and respond to her natural instincts.
- Provide a litter box in a quiet place and clean it regularly. Cats like privacy when going to the toilet and won’t want it located too close to their food bowls. They also don’t like their food and water in the same place, so keep the bowls separate
- Make your cat work for their food by putting it in a treat ball or puzzle. It will give them a good mental workout at the same time and help keep boredom at bay.
- Make sure your cat has access to enough indoor space in multiple rooms and plenty of places to hide
- Plan at least two types of resting place – a ground level lair closed on three sides and a higher place with a good view
- Install scratching posts in several places around the house so your cat can burn off energy while sharpening their claws. It will also save your furniture and curtains!
- Keep your cat active by providing plenty of opportunities to play. Cardboard boxes, used toilet paper tubes, and screwed-up paper balls are often as exciting, if not more so, than store-bought cat toys.
- Fishing rod type toys are a great way to encourage natural stalking and bouncing behaviors. A cat’s hunting streak isn’t just about catching its dinner – stalking prey actually releases happy hormones in its brain.
- A bored cat can turn into a destructive cat, which can be a problem for proud home owners. Provide enrichment activities so your cat doesn’t make her own entertainment by pulling apart your furniture or knocking ornaments off the shelves.
- Take the time to interact with your cat. This is more important with indoor cats who will not interact with other animals and people outside the home.
- Don’t leave your cat home alone for long periods during the day. They will become lonely and bored stuck without any human contact
- If you have a garden, you can install an inward-positioned fence to prevent your cat from climbing, or build an enclosed structure of wood and wire to give her some safe garden time.
- If a cat used to being indoors suddenly finds themselves out in the world, they may become stressed and disoriented. You will need to make sure your cat cannot escape your home by keeping windows and doors closed.
What if you have more than one cat?
Cats like to have their own territory and can easily become stressed if they don’t have their own space. Cats like to explore and relax on their own, so conflicts can arise in multi-cat households if space is limited.
To help reduce aggression and spraying in the home, you should ensure that each cat has its own spacious territory, which includes feeding and grooming areas.
I’ve spent 20 years writing about pets and exploring the wonderful relationships they have with their owners. I started as an editor for Dogs Today magazine and then worked my way up to associate editor in 2008. In 2010 I left the office to pursue a freelance career, moved up north from Norfolk and started a family.
Over the years I have contributed human interest reporting, celebrity interviews and investigative reporting to publications such as The Sunday Times, Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly and Your Cat. I have also written veterinary books and press releases for the pet industry.
When I’m not writing I like to take long walks in the Norfolk countryside with my rescue lurcher Popsie. These are always followed by tea and cake.