A domestic cat’s ancestors are fierce predators, stalking the forests, plains, and jungles for the hunt. Their majestic figures moving silently through the brush, keeping low to the ground and staying hidden from their quarry. Great paws pad silently, and then they stop, and with a great leap, they give chase.
We see similar behaviors in our domestic cats – the stalking, the bum wiggle, and the pounce! But these cats are not the great wild cats – they are domesticated, and as such it is best to keep them indoors. Many of the cats that are rescued are taken in off the streets, and though it may seem cruel to keep a former stray indoors, it is always safer. Not only is it safer for your pet it prevents your cat from hunting and killing the birds that reside in your yard and neighborhood.
There are too many threats that they would face in the open, especially in a city. Between rats, fleas/ticks, cars, the elements, and the general lack of nutrition, the odds are quite stacked against them. Many feel guilty for keeping their cats indoors. Please don’t. Keep in mind that with proper enrichment, these cats can become quite happy at home. What is enrichment? Enrichment is more of an all-encompassing term for keeping a cat mentally stimulated. Cats can get bored just like people, and so it is important to engage them in activities that allow them to use their instincts, and to provide an environment for them that allows them to climb, jump, even hide.
One of the most important things for cats is to make sure that they have a place to hide that is high up – like a tall cat tree or a shelf they can reach. Living in New York City, this can be especially challenging as many people do not necessarily have the space for a cat tree. Thankfully, there are now wall-mounted cat habitats that require little-to-no assembly. You can buy “cat shelves” that can be staggered along a wall so that the cat may perch high above the ground. It is also important to provide scratching posts or emery boards to allow them to scratch, lest your furniture suffer the consequences!
It is also important to devote time to playing with your cat, just like dogs. Do not simply give the cat a treat, make them hunt for it, or toss it into a room and let them search for it. Cats thrive off of the hunt, and you can still provide that for them from the safety of indoors. They also make treat puzzles for cats that require the cat to move pieces to retrieve treats.
In closing, an indoor cat is a safe cat. And with the right enrichment and environment, he/she can be a happy and healthy cat too!