Tips To Keep Your Indoor Cat Happy

Last Updated 19 JANUARY 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarians, Dr Belinda Stancombe BVSc (Hons) and Dr Jacqui Victor BVSc MANZCVS (Medicine of Cats).

The indoor lifestyle has many benefits for cats. It can keep them away from cars, predators, fighting, parasites, and disease. It also keeps their sneaky little paws away from your neighborhood wildlife.

However, despite all these benefits, an indoor lifestyle can lead to boredom or frustration if enrichment is not provided. Unfortunately boredom can lead to issues such as house soiling or spraying, overgrooming, reduced appetite, disinterest in interaction, and aggression.

Thankfully there are many ways to enrich your cat's indoor life.


Food Enrichment

Treat-dispensing toys

Food bowl? How boring! Your cat's wild ancestors had to use their wits to hunt and catch food. It is hardly surprising that feeding your cat from the same bowl in the same place often leads to boredom.

An interactive feeder such as a snuffle mat, KONG wobbler or catit senses food tree will keep your cat motivated and engaged at feeding time. These are perfect for food motivated cats, particularly those who could stand to lose a few kilos!

Mix up the textures

Another form of food enrichment is to provide a variety of textures. Try alternating wet and dry food, swapping it up to keep your kitty guessing. You might also like to treat your cat to the occasional crunchy treat, cat grass to satisfy their chewing urges, or lick mat loaded with a creamy treat for a smooth, longer-lasting food experience.

Explorative feeding

Encourage your cat to work for their food and provide an outlet for their hunting instincts through explorative feeding. Instead of feeding from a bowl, try hiding kibble or treats for your cat to sniff out and find. It is a great way to keep them occupied when you are not home(Just be sure to clean up any uneaten food regularly, to ensure proper hygiene!).

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Build a Catio or Go For a Walk!

Providing a secure outdoor enclosure attached to a window or cat flap, is a great way to provide some extra enrichment for your cat. This lets your indoor cat choose where they wish to spend their time, and allows them to be outdoors without the risk to themselves (such as cars, diseases and other cats) or wildlife. A catio allows your cat to express some of their natural behaviours whilst they experience the ever changing sounds, scents and smells of the outdoors.

Walking your cat on a lead is another great way to allow them to explore the great outdoors safely. As cats aren't huge fans of change, this is a process that will need to be built up to slowly (using lots of positive reinforcement and tasty treats of course!). Start by getting your cat used to the smell of the harness itself for a few days, then place it on your cat and allow them to walk around comfortably indoors, before then attaching the lead and walking them around your home. Once they are comfortable with this, you can then venture into your backyard, gradually increasing the length of time you spend outdoors (remember the big wild world can be a scary place at first!).

Create a 'Smell Smorgasbord'

Stimulating your cat's senses with new or novel scents is a great way to enrich their environment. Outdoor cats naturally encounter new smells on a daily basis. You can replicate this for your indoor cat by keeping catnip around the house or growing some cat grass.

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Simulate Hunting and Play

On average, an outdoor cat spends about three and a half hours every day hunting. To replicate this for your indoor cat there is an easy solution - toys, toys, and more toys!

From Teaser Toys to Interactive Lasers, your choice of toys are virtually endless. For ideas on how to play with your cat, have a look at Games You Can Play With Your Cat.

Keep it interesting!

Just like children, cats can become tired of the same toys. Rotate your cat's toys every day or so to prevent them getting bored. And don't forget to refresh catnip toys with new catnip stuffing or catnip spray every week or so.

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Looking for a Pet Subscription Box to keep the boredom at bay?

Check out our Curious Cat Box - a great value gift hamper bursting with toys and treats!

The Curious Box keeps your cat entertained, happy, and fulfilled - and ultimately enhances their day-to-day life! Each box is designed to be highly interactive, stimulating and soothing by evoking all the 5 senses (sound, sight, touch & feel, taste, smell).

With a fabulous new theme every 6 weeks, and the option to subscribe via Auto Delivery, it's the perfect way to keep your cat's supply of toys and treats fresh, fun, and varied!

For a special birthday, you may want Curious Cat Birthday Box, packed with the purr-fect mix of birthday-themed treats and fun toys

Create Levels and Hiding Places

Go Vertical!

Encourage and nurture your indoor cat's natural instincts to climb up onto high shelves or into cardboard boxes by providing them with extra levels. Cat Furniture is an easy way to achieve this. Cat trees often provide a variety levels as well as bonus scratching surfaces.

Hideaways are a great way to help your cat establish a safe space and can help reduce anxiety. Igloo or pod type beds are a great way to give your feline friend a snuggly little hidey-hole.

Synthetic Pheromones

Feliway is a synthetic version of the odourless pheromone normally left by cats when they rub against objects in their environment. This pheromone is usually released by your cat when they feel happy or content, and is also used to mark territory.

When used correctly, Feliway can help to reduce your cat's stress levels and combat marking behaviours like scratching or spraying.

This product is available in a slow release diffuser, perfect for areas where your cat likes to sleep or spend most of their time, of a spray, which is great to minimise stress during travel.

Visual Stimulation

Cats love viewing the sights of the outdoors, and as cats naturally love high resting places, using an elevated window bed is a great way for them to watch the world go by. You can even place a bird bath or feeder nearby outdoors to provide some extra viewing pleasure for your kitty. Opening doors and windows that have secure fly-wire also provides your cat with some exciting smells of the outdoors, to keep them on their paws.

There are also many videos on YouTube that are designed to appeal to the sights and sounds that attract cats. Their favourite subjects include mice, fish and birds as these creatures help sharpen your cat's natural predatory instincts.

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Choose the Right Litter

It goes without saying that every indoor-dwelling cat needs a clean toilet of their own where they feel comfortable. Each cat has their own unique preference for litter type, and it may require a little "trial and error" to determine what their favourite is. For instance, cats who have previously enjoyed the 'outdoor' life may prefer a natural dirt-like substance such as Catlux Softwood or Catsan Ultra Clay.

Cats are very clean creatures and can quickly become stressed if their toilet is not spit-spot. If you are sometimes guilty of letting your cat's litter become 'a day or two' overdue, a clumping litter such as Rufus and Coco Wee Kitty may be the perfect solution for you. Clumping litter only requires a 'full tray clean-out' every 1-2 weeks. The clumping technology allows you to remove all soiled parts, leaving only clean litter behind - shrinking your daily litter clean from 10 minutes to 10 seconds. Your kitty will thank you for it!

Alternatively, you could go all out and purchase a self-cleaning litter tray, which does all of the hard work for you! The ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Tray cleans itself straight after use, so your kitty never has to wait for their 'human servant' to clean it again!

If you are sharing close living quarters with your cat, odour control is extra important for both you and puss. A hooded litter box teamed with an absorbable and odour-hiding litter such as Scrunch and Sticks Recycled Paper may be just what you need.

Spy on your Cat

Keep an eye on your feline friend whilst you're at work with a kitty cam. There are a wide variety of high-tech cameras available including ones that allow you to communicate and play with your kitty remotely using a laser, and some even allow you to dispense treats for them!

These cameras can help ease your mind whilst you're away, as well as provide some extra enrichment for your feline friend whilst they're home alone.

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Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

New Kitten Checklist

How To Choose the Perfect Cat Furniture

How To Catify You Apartment

What is the Best Cat Litter?

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