Cats are natural hunters with deeply rooted instincts similar to their wild counterparts. Indoor cats need opportunities to express their natural behaviors in a safe, enriching environment so they don’t develop common behavior problems, such as house soiling or housemate aggression. From hunting and scratching to socializing and foraging, here are strategies that the Parker Center Animal Clinic team recommends to ensure your feline friend leads a fulfilling indoor life.

1: Hunting opportunities for cats

Play is a natural outlet for a cat’s instinct to stalk and kill small prey that you can easily fulfill with daily playtime and a supply of interactive toys they can play with anytime. The best toys mimic prey behavior, such as wand toys with feathers or toys that simulate small rodents. Food puzzles and hidden treats can also encourage your cat to “hunt” for their meals.

2: Healthy scratching for cats

Cats scratch to maintain claw health, mark territory, communicate with other cats, and stretch and strengthen their muscles. Cat owners should provide various scratching surfaces in prominent home areas to prevent their feline friends from choosing furniture or other valuable objects as their scratching post. Offer pet scratching posts made of different materials, such as sisal, cardboard, or carpet, and in vertical and horizontal styles that will appeal to different cat preferences.

3: Foraging opportunities for cats

Feeding cats in a bowl is not particularly stimulating, while offering food in toys, puzzles, or scattered throughout the house requires them to work for their meals. This foraging behavior provides mental stimulation and physical activity, which indoor cats often lack. You can purchase cat-specific puzzle feeders and food-dispensing toys at your local pet store or online retailer.

4: Safe outdoor exploration for cats

Outdoor exploration can be dangerous for cats, especially if they live an entirely indoor lifestyle otherwise. But, outdoor time and sunshine are stimulating and provide physical and mental health benefits. You can create safe outdoor time by supervising your cat in your fenced yard or training them to accept a harness and leash. You can also invest in a “catio” or other enclosed indoor-outdoor space where your cat can experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors while remaining protected from potential dangers.

5: Social interactions for cats

Cats enjoy companionship from humans and other household pets but also need positive, predictable social interactions. Daily play, grooming, or cuddle sessions are enjoyable positive experiences. If you have a multiple-pet household, ensuring each pet has a space of their own and plenty of room and resources sets the scene for positive interactions on their own terms.

6: Resting areas for cats

Cats prefer to rest and observe their surroundings from high vantage points where they feel safe. Provide your cat with elevated perches and trees with various bed types, so they have a quiet, safe space when they need a retreat.

7: Vertical space for cats

Vertical space is essential for cats, so they feel secure in their environment and have extra room to climb and explore. Cat trees, wall shelves, catwalks, and window perches allow your cat to observe their surroundings, nap in the sun, and satisfy their instinct to climb and explore. 

8: Stress reduction for cats

Stress can significantly impact your cat’s health and behavior. Minimizing loud noises, avoiding disruptive changes, providing hiding spots, and maintaining consistent routines will ensure your cat feels comfortable expressing their natural behaviors. For multiple-cat homes, provide enough litter boxes, food and water stations, and scratching areas to avoid competition.

Incorporating our tips into your household can help you honor their natural instincts and behaviors and foster a fulfilling indoor life. In addition, cats need regular veterinary care to stay healthy. Contact the Parker Center Animal Clinic team to schedule your cat’s next routine preventive care visit or to discuss more strategies for creating a cat-friendly household.