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Find out if you should keep your cat indoors and how to look after indoor cats  

At Cats Protection, when we rehome cats and kittens, we work hard to find the perfect match between pet and owner that will best suit everyone. If you are considering getting an indoor cat, there are a number of important factors to consider.

grey tabby-and-white cat peering out from behind a scratching post

Is it cruel to keep a cat indoors?

Ideally all cats would have the choice to access the outdoors to express their natural behaviours. However, we also know that, like humans, cats are individuals with varying needs and preferences. Some cats love going outside, while some barely put a paw through the cat flap. It’s recommended that some cats are kept indoors for their own benefit, such as blind cats or those with a medical condition such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Over one-third of cats in the UK are kept indoors and it is really important that owners ensure their indoor cats’ needs are met. 

How do I keep my indoor cat safe?

1. Preparing your cat

No matter how well a property is prepared, you can’t guarantee your cat won’t find their way outside. Therefore regardless of whether your cat lives only indoors or has access to outdoors too, it’s vital that they are microchipped, neutered, vaccinated and provided with flea and worming treatment.

Given that a house cat isn't as familiar with their neighbourhood as one that spends time outside, ensuring your cat is microchipped maximises your chances of being reunited with them if they do get lost. Neutering, meanwhile, means your cat is less likely to get serious diseases through mating and reduces the chance of males spraying. Find out more about microchipping and discover the benefits of neutering.

2. Securing your property

If you need to keep your moggy indoors, you’ll need to ensure your property is set up to accommodate them. This includes taking care when entering and exiting the building and screening open windows and doors in order to prevent escape.

3. Removing dangers

A household environment can pose many dangers to curious kittens and cats. It’s important to ensure there are no toxic houseplants or household products accessible to them. It’s also a good idea to keep cupboards, washing machines and tumble driers closed and toilet lids down. Find out more about common household hazards for cats.

How do I keep my indoor cat happy?

brown tabby-and-white cat playing with feather fishing rod toy on grey sofa with yellow cushion

1. Meeting their needs

The outdoor environment provides so much more for cats than simply a place to exercise and you’ll need to ensure these benefits are replicated inside. That includes providing places for them to scratch; hiding areas and high resting places where they can feel secure; and interesting areas and objects for them to investigate.

It’s also important to offer sufficient resources, such as food bowls, water bowls, litter trays and beds. If you have more than one cat, offer enough resources in different locations where your cats can eat, drink, toilet, rest and hide away from each other. Find out more about what your cat needs. 

2. Providing stimulation

Outdoor pursuits provide a great deal of stimulation for cats, keeping them happy and healthy. For those lacking outside access, this stimulation has to be found inside. This is why enrichment or play is incredibly important for our feline friends to keep them happy and fulfilled.

This can be achieved by upping the time you spend with your moggy and by ensuring your property provides a sufficiently interesting environment for them. You can keep your cat stimulated, and allow them to exhibit their natural hunting behaviour, through use of different toys, such a feeder toys, and by hiding tasty treats around the house for them to discover in scatter feeding. 

Cats can often be described as low maintenance compared to other pets but the truth is they have really specific needs, like the urge to hunt, that they need to express in order to be happy. Even if they're not hungry, hunting behaviours release feel-good hormones called endorphins in their brains. 

Cats can also get bored and frustrated, particularly if they spend a lot of time indoors and this can sometimes lead to certain behavioural issues, but often enrichment activities can really help. Find out more about playing with your cat.

3. Keeping an eye on them

If they are not allowed outdoor access, your cat may suffer from frustration if they are unable to exhibit their natural behaviour. Look out for behavioural problems such as scratching furniture, spraying, overgrooming, aggression, house soiling and depression and be ready to take measures to identify and address the causes. Oversleeping can be another sign of boredom.

If your cat’s behaviour changes, it’s important to take them to the vet for a health check. If there is no medical reason causing the behaviour, you may find guidance from a qualified behaviourist useful, such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

By recognising and satisfying their needs, you can ensure your indoor cat enjoys a happy and fulfilling life. 

Find more advice on how to look after indoor cats.

Watch our video on keeping indoor cats safe and happy.  

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. 

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