It’s a mistake to think that it’s “mean” to keep your cat inside. When you get a kitten, if you keep her inside, it’s unlikely she will be interested in the great outdoors later in life. I’ve met plenty of indoor-only cats who seem to be just as happy as any other cat. My cats, for example, don’t seem to be deprived by remaining indoors. It has undoubtedly increased their lifespan, given the number of coyotes and owls in our neck of the woods. One of my cats is 14 years old, which is far older than the average lifespan of an outdoor cat.
The biggest key to keeping an indoor cat happy is to pay attention to her. If you keep her environment interesting with toys and give her lots of attention, she’ll be just as happy (or happier) than a cat that gets to go outdoors, but rarely interacts with her family.
Realistically, cats sleep a lot, so you need to provide safe areas where the feline can get away from it all and take a nap. A kitty bed strategically placed near a window makes a fine place for some serious snoring in the sun. Kitty trees or condos can be great relaxation spots as well. We made our own kitty tree out of some pieces of downed wood, scrap carpet, and sisal rope. The whole thing probably cost about $10 and the cats love it.
If you have more than one cat, they can help keep each other entertained. Our cats run around and chase each other almost every morning, zooming around the room and up and down the kitty tree. If you only have one cat, you do need to make time to play with her every day, so she gets enough exercise to remain healthy. Toys don’t have to be expensive either. It’s easy to amuse a cat simply by dragging a piece of crumpled up paper tied to an old shoelace. Our cats also are fond of paper bags and boxes.
If you have an indoor cat, it’s particularly important to keep the litter box clean, since the cat can’t use the great outdoors as an alternate lavatory. You also should keep a collar and ID on her, in case she accidentally does get outside. You or people visiting your house can leave doors or windows open. Unfortunately, shelters are overflowing with cats that “got lost,” and the return rate statistics are dismal because so few people put collars on cats. A standard “quick-release” collar equipped with an ID tag is a simple and safe way to ensure your cat is returned to you.
Indoor cats don’t have to be miserable cats. In fact, they often live longer, healthier, and happier lives than indoor-outdoor kitties. With a little consideration on your part, your cat can enjoy life in the comfort of your home.