Cats Need Exercise Too
Dr. Dana Carr DVM
Shirlington Animal Hospital

Did you know that household cats, especially those who live exclusively indoors, have little to do and can easily become bored?  This can lead to behavioral issues, excessive weight gain, and eventual health consequences.  Although it may be tempting to allow your cat outdoors, there are many safety and health concerns that pose a much higher risk than keeping your cat indoors.  Even if you do not think your indoor cat seems bored, the following are some of the potential consequences of boredom and important reasons to provide enrichment opportunities for your feline companion:

  1. Cats who lack enrichment can become aggressive in play with both humans and other animals in the house.
  2. Young cats without adequate enrichment opportunities often bother their owners for play at inappropriate hours of the day and night.
  3. Cats may become destructive with furniture, plants, or other household objects.
  4. They may become reclusive and are more likely to retreat from new people or objects that enter their home. 
  5. Cats lacking regular play may overreact to the presence of outdoor cats and become very distressed. 

Luckily, there are many great ways to keep your indoor cat happy and to ensure a long, healthy life inside your home.   You can easily provide environmental enrichment for your cat(s).  The following are some tips and ideas to try:

  1. Provide a variety of interactive toys that keep them physically and mentally stimulated.  Rotate through your stock of toys every few days to provide your cat a “new toy” and prevent him or her from getting bored with a specific toy.  Provide opportunities for your kitty to “hunt” – move toys in a way that mimics the movements of a mouse or bird, use a laser toy or kitty fishing pole.  Ideally, you should provide several minutes of play with these toys per day to provide much needed exercise and an outlet for your cat’s natural prey drive. 
  2. Provide objects for your cat to explore – cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags, a dripping water tap, or an aquarium with real fish can provide great entertainment!
  3. Provide appropriate surfaces on which your cat can scratch.  Cats have individual preferences therefore providing a variety of scratching posts and surfaces in several different areas of your house is best.
  4. Be sure there are climbing opportunities on furniture, shelves, and cabinets and access to several windows as cats love to sunbathe and watch birds, squirrels, and other small animals.  Position bird feeders outside your windows where your cat can observe.  You may also provide a cat tree (available at many pet stores or research how to build your own). 
  5. Provide several small meals per day and avoid free-feeding (keeping your cat’s bowl full at all times).  If your schedule is too hectic to provide scheduled feeding try purchasing a feeder with a built-in timer. 
  6. Training your cat can provide a great mental stimulation.  Cats, just like dogs, can learn tricks and commands. 
  7. Teach your cat to walk on a leash and harness is a safe way to take your indoor cat on outdoor adventures.  Be sure your cat always wears ID tags when walking outside.
  8. Many cats enjoy the company of other cats, and in some cases dogs.  A companion can provide the opportunity for exercise, play, mutual grooming, and affection while you are away from home.