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How To Keep Your Indoor Cat Happy and Healthy

Updated on November 2, 2011

So you've made the decision that your cat is going to be an indoor cat. Congratulations! She'll have a lot fewer health problems and will probably live as much as three times longer than an outdoor cat usually lives. While keeping your cat indoors is the best decision you could make for your cat's health, you may find that your indoor cat needs a few extra considerations.

For most cats, indoor living does have a down side. Cats are hunters by instinct, and the great outdoors offers opportunities to hunt, play, and get plenty of exercise. Without the freedom to roam the wide open spaces, a cat can easily become bored and may even gain an unhealthy amount of weight. Without the right stimulation, indoor cats might also focus their hunting instinct on things that you'd rather not have them hunting. Like your hands or feet for instance; or your furniture.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make indoor living more interesting for your cat. If you know the ten things an indoor cat needs to be happy and healthy, you'll shed less blood, and your cat (and your furniture) will thank you.

Cat Litter Boxes

Your cat litter box needs to be scooped every day. The litter should be changed once a month, and the entire box should be replaced every six months. If you see that your cat sometimes urinates on the floor near the box, you may need an additional box. Some cats prefer a separate cat litter box for urinating.

Cleaning the litter box every day can be less than agreeable for some people, but you can ease the yuck factor if you buy an automatic litter box. Automatic cat litter boxes cost more than regular litter boxes, but everything is automatically scooped into an easy to empty tray, so you don't have to deal with the odor and dust. For many, the added cost is a worthwhile investment.

Indoor Cat Food

Cats love table scraps just as much as dogs do; but a cat's digestive system is very delicate. Too many table scraps will all but ensure a trip to the vet with a sick cat. You may not find a brand that is labeled as "indoor cat food" but, as with your regular grocery shopping, reading the label can clue you in to the quality of your cat food. If the first ingredient listed for a particular cat food is corn or some other filler, look for another brand.

Cheap or low quality cat foods can also cause cats health problems. Cats (especially indoor cats) need food that is specifically formulated for their unique nutritional requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about which food is best for your indoor cats. Two of my personal favorites, which are also highly recommended by many vets, are Science Diet and IAMS. These brands offer all of the right ingredients to keep indoor cats happy and healthy.

Clean food and water dishes are essential. Wash them every day to avoid bacterial contamination and bad tasting food and water. You wouldn't want to eat from dirty dishes, and either would your cat.

Cat Condos

If you've ever lived with a cat, then you know they pretty much own the whole house. Once they pick a spot (or several) that they like, it belongs exclusively to them. But sometimes cats like to nap or play in private. They like to feel protected, and seek out a secluded place in the house.

You can create your own cat condo with something as simple as an old paper grocery bag or a cardboard box. These make great temporary hideouts, offer a measure of privacy to indoor cats, and are easily replaced when worn out. Pet carriers also make great hideaways for indoor cats that prefer a little seclusion.

If you don't want your house cluttered with boxes and shopping bags, try a cat condo. They come in all shapes and sizes and cats go crazy for them. A cat condo gives your indoor cat all the privacy they need, and can help keep the clutter to a minimum by doubling as a storage unit for some of your cat's toys. Some cat condos even have built-in toys and scratching posts to keep your indoor cat entertained and his attention diverted away from your furniture.

Cat Furniture

Cat furniture can go a long way toward keeping an indoor cat happy. A cat condo may offer seclusion and a commanding view of the room, but there are other things to consider when picking out cat furniture.

Indoor cats still need the visual stimulation that the great outdoors offers. Even if they can't get out there and chase the birds or the blowing leaves, watching through a window will help keep them interested and fully engaged in their environment. They also love to soak up the sun, which helps them absorb the vitamin D they need to get every day.

Window beds are an affordable and easy to install way for your cat to catch some rays and watch the world go by. They often provide hours of entertainment as well as a comfy place to nap in the sun. For many indoor cats, a window bed is the most used piece of cat furniture in the house.

Cat Toys

If you value your furniture (and your flesh) it's a good idea to keep a good variety of cat toys on hand. Cats will chase anything that moves, and if they don't have anything to play with, rest assured they'll find something to play with all on their own. It could be an ink pen you left on a desk or table, or it may be a foot that you've cleverly hidden under a blanket while you sleep. Under the right circumstances, anything in sight may be considered prey to a playful cat.

Cats are also instinctive claw sharpeners. This action not only keeps their best weapons razor sharp, it also helps to shed dead or broken bits of claw and keeps them at a manageable length. If you prefer to keep the stuffing on the inside of your furniture, it's a good idea to keep a scratching post on hand.

Other Important Indoor Cat Needs

These five basics will go a long way toward keeping your cat from running for the door every time you go out to get the mail. There are a few other things, though, that help to make kitty feel at home. Some of the creature comforts any cat would appreciate include:

• Cat Grass- Outdoor cats sometimes eat grass. It aids digestion and helps to keep hair balls to a minimum. Try growing cat grass indoors, in small containers. Cats love it.
• Catnip- This intoxicating herb causes different reactions for different cats. Some get playful and excited, and others just get relaxed and zone out.
• Regular Play Time- Cats need at least ten minutes of play time every day to keep them trim and healthy.
• A Comfy Bed- Cats are greedy when it comes to real estate. They'll often claim their own cushion on the sofa, as well as several napping spots throughout the house in addition to the personal hideaway we spoke of. But, believe it or not, that's not all there is to it. Most cats appreciate a cozy bed to sleep in. Preferably something fleece lined and with high sides.

Good Lovin'

Cats need lots of love, but they only want it on their terms. If you pick your cat up to pet her, she just might let you; as long as she's in the mood. There's an equally good chance that she'll swat you in the face and sulk off to do her own thing for a while. When she comes back and jumps into your lap purring, that's her way of saying "I've thought it over and you may love me now."

Sometimes you just have to take it where you can get it with cats. As you gain their trust and respect, those times will gradually become more frequent. Cats don't just give away their love, but once you've earned it, you have a friend for life.


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