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If you’re considering getting an indoor or house cat, or your cat needs to stay indoors, you might be wondering how best to keep them happy. Our guide has all you need to know about keeping an indoor cat.


How to keep an indoor cat happy

It’s important that indoor cats are able to perform behaviours that express their natural cat-like nature. If they can’t it leads to stress, that in turn may result in problem behaviours such as spraying or scratching in unwanted areas of the home, obsessive grooming or physical illness. If you have decided to keep your cat indoors, there are things you can do to keep them happy and safe in their home environment. Our video includes the factors to consider when keeping a cat indoors and what to consider in the care of your indoor cat.

Tips to make sure your indoor cat stays happy and healthy:

  • use puzzle feeders to make food time more interesting (and it gets in some extra play!)
  • make sure there are plenty of interactive toys to keep your cat occupied while in the house
  • provide lots of cat-friendly shelves and things to climb on so they can explore just as they would outside. You can even hide a tasty treat on these to encourage them to move around more
  • make sure they’re still getting plenty of exercise to help keep them in shape
  • consider building a ‘catio’ if you can, to give your cat secure access to your garden
  • be aware of household hazards, such as wires, toxic house plants/bouquets, medications, cleaning chemicals and kitchen scalds or burns
  • if you have more than one indoor cat, make sure they each have all their own resources (such as bowls, litter trays, beds) plus a spare, and areas they can be away from each other
  • provide lots of scratching posts! Scratching is an essential behaviour for cats and allows them to leave their familiar scent on objects, which they find reassuring and relieves stress. Also not going outside might mean your cat’s claws start to get longer, so having plenty of places to scratch will help keep them in check

Should I keep my cat indoors?

There are lots of reasons you might need to keep your cat in the house. For example, if you’ve only just got your cat it’s better for them to stay inside for a few weeks to fully settle, or if they have been diagnosed with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), also known as feline AIDS, they will need to be kept indoors all the time, away from other cats.

Keeping your cat indoors will depend on your cat’s situation and individual needs. If you’ve adopted a cat who has always lived inside, for example, going out might be a scary and stressful experience for them so it could be better for them to continue living as a house cat.

If you’re wanting to keep your cat indoors to protect wildlife, consider only keeping them indoors at dawn and dusk when they’re most likely to want to hunt. Make sure to spend lots of time playing with them so they can express their natural hunting behaviour.

For cats who are used to having the choice to go outside, life as an indoor cat can be stressful. If your cat shows signs of stress when kept indoors, as long as they do not have a medical or physical condition which requires them to stay indoors, then consider allowing access to outside to prevent further upset. See our guide for the signs of stress in cats.

Feral cats are not socialised to people or the indoor environment, and therefore cannot be kept indoors. Read more in our feral cat guide.

Is it cruel to have an indoor cat?

As long as your cat has the space and resources to express all of their natural behaviours and isn’t frustrated when they can’t go outside, there’s no reason they can’t live a perfectly happy life as a house cat. However, cats used to having outdoor access find it difficult to make the adjustment as adults.

In an ideal world, all cats would have access to the outdoors, but this isn’t always possible. Following our top tips on keeping your indoor cat happy will help to prevent your cat becoming bored or stressed inside the house.

Do indoor cats need vaccinating?

Even though your cat isn’t going outside, you still are! It’s important to vaccinate your indoor cat and keep up with their boosters as germs and other nasties can make their way into your home. Whether your cat is inside or outside, they can still catch preventable diseases. Make sure they’re microchipped, too, in case of any daring escapes. Read more about vaccinations and microchipping in our guides.

You’ll also need to stay on top of their flea and worming treatments. Although your cat may not leave the house, fleas could come in on the clothes and bags of other cat lovers, or on your own clothes if you visit a cat-owning friend and there happens to be a flea around. Speak to your vet about a treatment protocol that best suits your cat’s individual needs, and you can find out more about fleas and worms in our guides.

Do indoor cats live longer?

On average, a healthy cat can expect to live to around 14 years of age (some even more). Although an indoor cat is less at risk of getting injured from things like cars, as long as your outdoor cat is fully vaccinated and healthy they can live just as long as an indoor cat.

Likewise with indoor cats, they can still develop diseases or illnesses that shorten their lifespan. The indoor environment predisposes to obesity and diseases that are related to a sedentary lifestyle, such as diabetes and lower urinary tract disease. Currently there is limited evidence to suggest that adopting either an indoor or outdoor lifestyle results in a significantly longer lifespan. Both indoor and outdoor cats experience different potential risks to their welfare.

How to cat-proof a balcony for your indoor cat

An open balcony or window may entice your cat to go and explore, but there is also a risk of them falling and severely injuring themselves. Any cat can fall, but young cats, especially under the age of two, are particularly susceptible to ’high rise syndrome‘ when they lack the necessary fear to prevent them from jumping from heights.

Some indoor cats may benefit from having access to the balcony but there are dangers such as your cat becoming entangled in the netting, or escaping through the gaps if it hasn’t been secured properly.

If you do choose to let your cat onto the balcony, you could make it safer by:

  • installing a wire mesh or netting across the balcony from the ceiling to the floor or installing a sturdy window screen designed for cats
  • removing any dangerous plants or household hazards
  • ensuring your cat can return back into the home easily if they want to

It’s important to always supervise your cat when they’re on the balcony. If you notice your cat becomes frustrated or seems eager to escape, we recommend restricting the access.

Keeping your cat safe outdoors

If you decide not to keep your cat indoors but are worried about their safety outside, there are some steps you can take to keep them safe:

  • ensure your cat is microchipped, neutered and vaccinated
  • provide shelter for them outside so they have somewhere to hide if they get caught out in bad weather
  • consider using a microchip cat flap to keep neighbouring cats out of your home
  • keep them in at night to keep them safe during darker hours
  • don’t force them to go out if they don’t want to – always provide a litter tray indoors for your cat
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