Activities you can do with your cat to keep them happy indoors and ensure a lifelong bond, including play, enrichment and training
Cats love to explore, so most cats will usually prefer outdoor access so they can enjoy all of the sights, sounds and smells the natural world has to offer.
However, in the UK, 37% of cats are kept indoors, so it’s important to offer these indoor-only cats with plenty of enrichment to allow them to exhibit their natural cat behaviours and prevent boredom and frustration.
Not only will this keep indoor cats happy, but it will also help form a strong bond between you and your indoor cat.
That's why we've partnered with our long-standing partner Purina, to help shine a light on the importance of enrichment. Find more details about this campaign and other tips and advice on keeping indoor cats happy.
How to bond with an indoor cat
When outdoors, cats have the opportunity to express their natural hunting behaviour, stalking, chasing and pouncing on any prey they can find. If they are kept indoors, they will still need plenty of opportunity to hunt, but this can be replicated with cat toys, like fishing rods, and puzzle feeders instead. Have regular play sessions with them throughout each day (just a few minutes at a time will do), encouraging them to pounce on cat toys, and try placing some of their dry cat food in puzzle feeders so they can hunt it out. Play releases ‘feel good’ hormones in cats’ brains, and if you play together they’ll start to associate those happy feelings with spending time with you. Find out more about cats and play.
Although cats are usually quite good at grooming themselves, they can benefit from a little help every so often, especially if they are long-haired. If they’re comfortable with it, try gently brushing their fur with a cat grooming brush to help remove any excess fur. It can be lovely and relaxing for both you and your cat, and is a great way to bond with them. Find out more about grooming your cat.
Most people know that dogs can be trained, but did you know cats can be too? Using positive reinforcement, you can train your cat to do all sorts of tricks. From simple things like training them to use the litter tray and cat flap, to more advanced activities such as teaching them how to sit, roll over and respond to their name, training is a fun way to build a bond between you. Take a look at our cat training guides by visiting the blog homepage and filtering by the 'Cat Training' tag at the top.
4. Appropriate petting
The urge to pick up and cuddle your cat at every opportunity can be hard to resist, but cats much prefer interaction on their own terms. Waiting for your cat to approach you before giving them a fuss will help them learn to trust you. Try getting on their level and holding your hand out to them to see if they come forward to sniff and rub against it. If they roll onto their back, avoid the temptation to rub their belly, as most cats don’t enjoy this.
5. Create a routine
Cats love routine, as they feel calmer and safer if they know what to expect at all times. Try to establish a daily routine for feeding, playing and petting. Not only will this avoid any unwanted surprises for your cat, but it will also help you to remember their daily cat care tasks and ensure you spend some quality time together. If you need to adjust their routine, do this gradually over a period of a few weeks to help your cat adjust.
6. Give them space
Even happy cats will feel scared or stressed from time to time, and when they feel this way they will most likely want to be alone and hide. Make sure you give them plenty of quiet hiding places (cardboard boxes are ideal) that they can retreat to if they’re feeling vulnerable, and allow them to come out in their own time. Don’t disturb them while they’re hiding, as this could damage the trust between you. Find out more about cats and hiding.
For more ways to learn about play and feeding enrichment for indoor cats check out our work with Purina, helping to keep happy cats in happy homes.