Cats who spend their lives entirely indoors live much longer than outdoor cats. Keeping your cat inside eliminates their ability to get into trouble, and reduces the likelihood of them being injured. Cats that go outside face a variety of dangers. They can get attacked by dogs, eaten by coyotes, fight with other cats, get lost or stuck in places and/or hit by a car. While being inside keeps your cat safe from most dangers, your indoor cat needs enrichment to remain happy and healthy. Eliciting a cat's natural behaviors with hunting and foraging games can do wonders for their well-being. Even on a limited budget, you can keep your indoor cat stimulated.
Toys are an easy way to enrich your cats environment. They come in many shapes and sizes, but there are two basic kinds of toys you can use to entertain them: self play and interactive. Self play toys are great for cats who are left home alone a lot. Some self play toys dispense food. Simply fill with dry kibble and treats to encourage your cat to play. Others contain cat nip, which is irresistable to most cats. You can also buy toys that hang from doorframes which will keep your cat occupied when you are too busy to play with them. If you don't have the money to buy toys, you can use things in your house to keep your cat entertained. Some suggestions include: tabs from milk bottles, plastic bottle tops, wadded up paper or foil balls, cardboard inserts from paper towels or toilet paper.
Interactive toys help strengthen the bond between you and your cat. There are numerous products on the market using sticks or wands that will encourage your cat's inner hunter. These allow interaction with your cat as you move the stick/wand around so your cat can stalk and chase the toy. Some cats enjoy chasing a laser light around the house. Others can find entertainment in yarn or shoelaces. It is imperitive that you pick all of these toys up and place them out of your cat's reach before leaving the house for your cat's safety. Cats are capable of eating almost any object, many of which can cause serious problems when ingested. You want to enrich your cat without endangering them.
Cats love to climb. High places make them feel secure. From a perch, they can watch the world around them - both inside and outside. Multiple perches and cat trees throughout your house or apartment are ideal. Cats feel vulnerable when they sleep and tend to prefer higher areas. Indoor cats need visual stimulation. They will enjoy looking out the window to watch birds, butterflies and other wild life. This can provide hours of entertainment and help your cat feel as though it is outdoors. Cat perches come in many sizes and shapes. They can be expensive, though. If you don't have the money in your budget to purchase one, clearing off the back of a couch or a chair and placing it next to the window can suffice. Adding a bird feeder or bird bath within view of the perch can increase your cat's enjoyment. Just be sure to place it high enough off the ground that the birds are safe from predators.
Scratching is a natural behavior for your cat. Cats lose the sheath of their nail by scratching rough surfaces. Scratching also helps your cat release pent up energy or emotional stress. Provide a variety of scratching posts - vertical and horizontal, sisal and cardboard. You will have to experiment a bit to find your cat's preference. Providing scratching posts for your cat to express their natural instinct is important to keep them from scratching inappropriate areas.
Providing your cat with an enriched environment will keep them happy and will also cut down on behavior problems. It is important for their well being that they have plenty of toys, perches, appropriate scratching places and opportunities to play. In addition to proper nutrition and regular vet visits, enrichment plays a necessary role in keeping your cat healthy and happy so they live a long life with you.