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Indoor cats: Safe and happy


  • Clare Meade is the vet at The Cat Hospital ( in Glanmire, just outside Cork city. It opened in April this year, and though it Ireland's first veterinary hospital dedicated entirely to the care of cats, cat-only hospitals have been thriving in America and in the UK since the early 1990s.

More and more people are opting to keep their cats indoors.  There are lots of reasons why owners decide to do this but the most striking one is that indoor cats live longer ... twice as long, on average than outdoor cats.  For some owners the fear that their cat will wander off or be stolen means they opt to keep them indoors. Others have lost a cat in a road traffic accident and want to ensure their cat is safe. Some people do not wish for their pets to hunt and kill birds.

Being indoors all the time means that owners need to spend a lot more time with their cats to make sure that all their needs are fulfilled. A bored cat will often sleep a lot more  than a stimulated cat and also can express abnormal behaviour due to lack of stimulation. Some cats even take to over grooming which is called a stereotypic behaviour much like sucking your thumb or biting your nails.  In extreme cases the cats can lick off all their fur in the areas they can reach! It is our responsibility as owners to provide as interesting an indoor environment to our cats so they can have fulfilling lives.

Playing is one of the most enjoyable activities you can do with your cat and even our outdoor pet cats benefit greatly from interactive play. Cats love to hunt and will spend endless hours outdoors stalking, hunting and killing small prey. Indoor cats must get an opportunity to express this instinct using small toys and laser pointers. It is normal for a cat to attack the toy as in the wild ‘the kill’ part of the hunt is the most thrilling. When you are out of the house there are more and more toys available which operate unassisted such as The Undercover Mouse which keeps your cat entertained for hours. For this and other cat toy ideas see (

Cats love to climb so providing a climbing frame somewhere in the house and encouraging your cat to use it will help to keep them fit and happy. They love to look down on the rest of the world from an elevated position!

An appropriate sized scratching post is essential. The post must be tall enough for your cat to stretch out to his or her full height. You can get scratching mats to that attach to a corner wall and these can be raised as your kitten gets bigger.

Catnip is great fun for the two thirds of cats that are sensitive to it. It is hereditary to enjoy catnip and applying catnip to a new toy or scratching post helps to encourage a cat to use it. See more information on catnip (

A lot of research has been carried out on keeping your indoor cat happy and there is a terrific DVD available from an American university that leads the way in this research the website has lots of information on it too (

All these ideas are also appropriate for indoor outdoor cats and all the time you spend playing with your cat improves the bond you have with him or her.

Copyright © 2010. Permission to reprint this article and photos must be obtained from the author.

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