The average life span of an indoor cat is longer than those allowed outside. Cats who live outdoors are vulnerable to injuries from fighting, poisoning, traffic accidents, contagious diseases and parasites, extreme weather, pet theft, animal cruelty and can fall prey to wild animals. Roaming cats also cause problems by digging in neighbours' gardens, marking territory by spraying and indiscriminately preying upon songbirds and other wildlife.
However, cats kept indoors can suffer from depression, frustration and become lethargic if their environment does not provide enough stimulation. It is important to provide an indoor environment that promotes natural behaviours such as hiding, chasing, climbing, jumping and pouncing.
Here are some tips to keep your cat happy, healthy and safe indoors:
Provide cat toys that are safe and stimulating such as feathery and furry toys that move and feel like small prey or toys filled with catnip (beware that catnip makes some cats aggressive or hyperactive);
Provide a scratching post with high perches;
Set up perch areas near windows so your cat can observe the world and open screened windows to let fresh air in;
Spend time every day interacting with her by playing with toys, games of chase and peek-a-boo.
Plant a pot of indoor greens for your cat to munch on such as cat grass or alfalfa.
Hide treats around the house and encourage her to find them.
You can purchase a remote door bell (at the hardware store), clicking device or a buzzer (something that makes a distinct noise. Associate the sound with a treat for your cat by pressing the buzzer and giving a treat immediately. You can then hide the buzzing device in different locations around the house with a treat beside it. Once in a while press the buzzer and watch your cat go "hunting" for her treats. This is lots of fun for both you and your cat.
Should I let my cat go outdoors?
The BC SPCA strongly recommends that you keep cats indoors, however, some cats get extremely frustrated in an indoor environment and may benefit from some restricted outdoor exposure. Should your cat require access to the outdoors, consider building a special cat enclosure or train your cat to a harness and leash.
Whether inside or out, your cat should always have a collar and ID tag as well as a tattoo or microchip. Be sure to use "quick-release" or "break-away" collars with built-in elastic to prevent your cat from getting tangled in branches or other objects.
Consider the risks in your neighbourhood
Are you near busy streets; are there other cats or dogs outside in the neighbourhood; are there coyotes, eagles or other predators in proximity; are you near sensitive habitats for birds or other wildlife that may be threatened by your outdoor cat?
If you choose to let your cat out, here are some tips to help keep your cat safe:
Train your cat to come back at a certain time every day by feeding her only then.
Ensure your cat always has access to the inside of the house or a safe shelter near the house to escape other cats or dogs should one be chasing her.
Train your cat to respond to a whistle by blowing the whistle every time you feed her or give her a treat. (Be careful as your cat may come running from across the street when she hears the whistle. You should not use the whistle unless you know it is safe).
Caution: Think carefully before making a decision to have your cat go outdoors. Once you let your cat out, you may find it difficult to change her habit should you change your mind.
If you let your cat out, make sure she wears a reflective collar and a bell so you can hear her when you are looking for her. Note: Keep in mind that a bell on cat will not prevent your cat from being a successful wildlife hunter. Belled cats can easily catch birds - particularly baby birds, rabbits, squirrels and other animals.