While there is an increasing trend towards keeping cats indoors, it’s important to do what’s right for your pet in your individual circumstances. Owners who live near busy roads or in flats are more likely to opt to have an indoor-only cat, with other deciding factors being fear of straying, becoming lost or stolen, conflict with neighbours and other cats, and infection. However, owners who live in less hazardous surroundings, and with more space, are often more happy to let their cats roam free.
While there are many valid reasons for keeping cats inside, many behaviourists have concerns about the stress that such lifestyles frequently impose on cats. One of the arguments is that indoor cats can become frustrated and this may manifest itself in behaviour problems.
While the big wide world can be a dangerous place, life indoors is not completely rosy! Pet behaviour counsellor Francesca Riccomini says: "Accidents still happen at home and, unless owners are very clued up, cats can fall foul of poisonous plants and toxic everyday household substances. Physical risk must always be weighed against the advantages that greater freedom of movement provides and the benefits of exploration and exercise that accompany trips outdoors.
"The opportunity to venture outside, away from household pressures produces stress relieving endorphins for cats. Indulging in an intense physical activity and having somewhere to ‘chill out’ are especially important when space is limited and/or cats have to share their indoor environments with people and pets they may find difficult to tolerate, for whatever reason.”
Of course for the best of both worlds you could enclose your outside space with a cat run or secure fencing, at least in part, so that your cat could have access to the outdoors.
Remember, once a kitten has had access to the outdoors he is unlikely to be happy to live an indoor life later down the line. Therefore it is usually recommended that if you want an indoor cat, you get a kitten that has never ventured outside.
Letting your kitten outside
- If you are going to let your kitten out, ensure he is vaccinated and neutered first
- Check your garden is safe for him to explore and there are no hidden dangers, such as uncovered ponds or toxic plants
- Accompany him on his first venture and let him out just before mealtimes so you can encourage him back easily
- Keep a door open so he can run back inside if he feels scared
- Once he is used to going out you may want to invest in a cat flap, but make sure he wears a safety collar and is microchipped
- Ensure your garden is full of climbing opportunities, observation points, hiding places and shelter
- Provide accessible secluded toileting areas, with material that is light and easy to dig a hole in.
- Remember to keep up with worm and flea treatments.
Keeping your kitten indoors
- If you plan to keep your kitten indoors remind family members to keep windows and doors closed and make sure he has lots of toys. Also, make time to play with him yourself every day
- Indoor cats need lots of stimulation and opportunities to perform behaviours they would usually enjoy outside. Providing small, rapidly moving objects that can be hunted, and feeding your cats in imaginative ways can help
- Provide high-up resting places and a feline aerobic centre for exercise. Persians make ideal house cats because they tend not to be too active and generally enjoy being kept inside
- Make sure that you are able to adapt your home to cater for your cat’s needs and to provide a choice of facilities. You should provide lots of refuges in elevated positions — such as multi-tiered cat activity centres and safe access to tops of furniture and shelves — throughout the home, as well as adequate toilet facilities (one litter tray per cat and one spare), several beds and scratch posts.
- You need to control how much your cat eats and ensure he gets plenty of exercise to prevent obesity.
- As indoor cats urinate less frequently, feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is more prevalent
- Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is most common in multiple cat households with shared litter trays as it is spread via faeces
- Feeding the birds and hanging mobiles or ornaments in the garden could also help to keep your kitten entertained, provided he has a perch near a window.