Whether you've just adopted a new kitten, or are considering how best to care for your existing cat, there are many important factors to consider to create a safe and happy life for your feline friend.
Keeping your cat or kitten safely at home (contained within your property's boundaries) and not roaming outside is a great way to ensure this. Cats who are contained to their owner's property are also less likely to become lost, injured, or catch infectious diseases.
If you have just adopted a cat or kitten, it is best to familiarise them with being contained as early as possible. If you have an existing cat who roams, then you can introduce them to being contained gradually, starting by containing them at night and slowly increasing the time they are safely at home. It is important to provide new hiding and resting areas in the house, a variety of toys and extended play sessions every day to help with the process.
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Here are some options to help you create a feline-friendly, stimulating environment for your companion cat or kitten.
Providing a secure outdoor area is a great way of expanding your cat's environment and providing them with choice and benefits such as access to fresh air, sunshine and sights and smells that interest your cat. This is your best option as this allows the cat to escape inside if they do feel threatened.
Attaching a cat flap or window linked to your cat's indoor space (your house) is a great option and it allows your cat to roam freely in the space as they choose.
You could also build a free-standing enclosure outdoors. If you choose this option, your cat will need the same essential resources they have indoors.
A variety of platforms at different heights, hiding places, scratching posts, food, water, multiple litter trays and adequate protection from the weather will make the enclosure a more comfortable place for your cat.
It is important to make sure the enclosure is both escape proof and animal proof (to stop other animals getting in).
Keeping cats indoors with access to an outdoor space surrounded by an escape-proof fence is another way they can truly get the best from indoor and outdoor living while still being safe.
There are specialised fences for backyards that can help stop cats from escaping and if you have a balcony or verandah this can be cat-proofed through the use of netting.
These options allow contained cats to still have access to the outdoors without being able to go beyond their home property boundaries. As with a secure outdoor enclosure, make sure that whatever you choose is escape-proof and prevents other animals getting in.
Keeping your cat indoors only can work well as long as you are able to provide for all your cat's needs within your home.
That means providing enough space, lots of mental and physical enrichment for your cat, positive and consistent human interactions and different areas for toileting, sleeping, hiding, scratching and playing as well as access to food and water. To help your indoor cat benefit from exposure to outdoor sights, smells and sounds, you can install cat-proof fly screens so that windows and doors can be opened without your cat escaping.
Despite keeping your cat contained to your property, it is important to have them microchipped and registered with the council so that if they do become lost they can be reunited with you.
A collar and name tag is also recommended for this reason. Having your cat desexed will eliminate the risk of unintended litters of kittens, reduce the likelihood of fighting, urine spraying and the desire to roam to find a mate.
With all this in mind, you are well on the way to providing a safe and happy life for your companion cat or kitten.