As we head into September and begin winding down summer activities in lieu of cooler fall adventures, it’s the perfect time of year to start spending more time with our feline companions. And as it just so happens, September is Happy Cat Month – an entire month-long celebration of everything that helps keep our cats happy and healthy.
Most cats love to roam and too often search for ways to “hit the open road.” Unfortunately, their safety, and the safety of birds and small mammals, is often compromised when they escape like Houdini out the door. As responsible pet owners, we have to be smarter than they are and figure out ways to keep our feline friends indoors, making it fun for them, while providing the exercise and stimulation they need. Cats live longer, happier lives, and remain healthier when they remain indoors compared to outdoor cats. And neighborly relations fare better when cats are happy and inside.
In celebration of Happy Cat Month, and by implementing some or all of the happy and healthy ideas below, our cats will be more joyful with their indoor lives and with any luck won’t want to bolt out the door for a risky adventure. The tips below are tried and true and can help keep your feline family member(s) inside where they are much better protected from predators, cars, disease, and unwanted litters.
Cats love to play. They also enjoy a challenge. By providing entertaining and mind-stimulating toys and interactive play with family members or another cat, their curiosity will be satisfied and they will be much happier. And all toys don’t need to be purchased. Simple things such as wadded up paper, empty boxes, shoelaces, and other household materials that look or sound interesting can keep your feline companion busy for hours. If family members can consistently interact with and play with their furry friend, the animal-human bond will become even stronger and the exercise will help with fitness and boredom.
Tired is Happy
A tired, worn-out cat is a happy cat. Cats have boundless energy because they are very athletically inclined. With entertaining toys like laser pointers, string attached toys, feathered toys, or devices that move on their own via battery power, cats can entertain themselves while getting needed exercise at the same time. A tired and content cat is also less likely to scratch or soil in off-limits areas.
How About a Walk
Yes, cats can be walked similar to dogs -with practice, of course. Harnesses are available that keep cats secure while allowing them to walk alongside their owners, similar to walking a dog. However, cats will typically take longer to get used to a harness and leash. It’s a good idea to let your cat wear their harness around the house for a while until they get comfortable wearing it. Then try attaching a leash to the harness. It is best to begin working with them on walking on a leash in the backyard or a place with no distractions or loud noises. If this goes well, then additional walking opportunities can be considered.
Bird viewing provides great entertainment for cats. According to the National Wildlife Federation, cats are naturally drawn to birds and small mammals because those animals were the natural prey of their ancestor, a small wild cat species found in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe called the Wildcat (Felis silvestris). Even well-fed cats retain the wildcat’s natural attraction to birds and small animals. You can safely encourage that attraction by setting up a bird viewing area inside. By establishing a Cat Window Perch and putting up a bird feeder or birdbath right outside the window, it will allow your curious feline to enjoy hours upon hours of viewing pleasure – and the wildlife will remain safe. Another benefit of placing a bird feeder or bath near a window is to cut down on bird window strikes, thus saving even more birds.
I’ll Work for Food
Indoor stimulation is important for your cat so he doesn’t want to dash for the door each time it is opened. A good way to satisfy your cat’s curiosity is to hide his favorite treats in various places around the house. Treats frozen in ice cubes will keep your furry friend busy for quite some time, and working for their food is a good thing for house cats sincey they tend to become obese if they don’t receive enough regular exercise. And cat treat puzzles allow your cat to easily find the treat, but then it makes them work to get it. The toys release food in small amounts as a cat plays with it. Some of these same methods are utilized by zookeepers when working with large cats to keep them stimulated and exercised.
How About A Catio
A Catio is an outdoor cat enclosure or “cat patio” according to Catio Spaces. “It is the purrfect solution to solve the indoor/outdoor dilemma and keep your cat safe, happy, and healthy”. Not only does a catio provide a safe and secure outdoor play and lounge area, where many cats naturally want to be, but it also provides cat owners peace of mind, allows cats to enjoy new, outdoor surroundings, and it helps protect local birds and small animals from a cat’s natural tendency to hunt.
Scratch & Climb
Cats love to scratch and they love to climb and sit atop perches. Providing cats a place where they can stretch and care for their claws is a good thing all around. Not only does it provide an outlet for cats to do their natural thing, but it also helps save on marred furniture and upholstery. Providing a scratching post in any position – vertical, horizontal, or angled makes a great tool for keeping cats happy. Since cats are natural climbers - tracking prey high into trees or searching out high places when they are scared – it makes sense that a climbing tower/scratching post combination would be of benefit to both cats and cat owners. Cat trees are another option and come in all configurations and sizes. There are even plans available that allow you to easily make your own.
Who doesn’t enjoy company? Cats certainly enjoy companionship. If you work long hours or are away from home for extended periods, perhaps adding another cat or compatible animal to the mix will give your cat the company he needs while you are away. It can also help keep him out of trouble by providing a natural distraction. Having a companion for your cat to run around and play with can greatly assist an indoor cat in remaining happy, healthy, and stimulated. Shelters can be great places from which to adopt another cat.
Food and curiosity make cats tick. Cats are smart, and by utilizing treats to aid in training, you can teach your cat fun tricks and some obedience commands at the same time. Felines enjoy physical and mental stimulation, and when training together, the bond between owner and pet becomes even stronger.
Preparing a cat for being placed in a carrier can be a daunting task. But, practice makes perfect. It’s important to practice placing your cat in a carrier ahead of the need to do it. This way your cat feels safe, secure, and relaxed in the confined space. Once it is time to go to the vet or on a trip, it’s much easier to convince a cat to go into a carrier if it has been practiced ahead of time.
Lots of Love
This is the simplest, yet most effective way to keep your feline happy and healthy. By paying attention to your cat each day, snuggling, petting, playing, and just being there is many times enough to keep your indoor cat content. Their wild ancestors didn’t need human interaction, but domesticated cats thrive on attention.
It’s important to remember that healthy cats are happy cats. A decent number of cat owners feel it is too much of a hassle to take their cat to the vet and that it isn’t all that necessary. But these days many veterinarian offices cater to cats and have special rooms or amenities just for felines. Yearly wellness checkups, including lab tests, can catch an illness before it progresses too far. And this is important for cats since they often mask illnesses well.
Clean Litter Box
A litter box that is properly maintained is enjoyed by all. Your cat will thank you with better behavior and less potty mishaps, and your home will smell much cleaner. It’s good to have a litter box for each cat and perhaps an extra one just in case. Litter boxes can be open or closed in design. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. You can experiment and let your cat decide which he prefers. There are even self-cleaning litter boxes for a completely different experience. Another twist for litter boxes is a top entry design. Richell has developed a unique Paw Trax Top Entry Cat Litter Box that may be perfect for your home.
Richell Top Entry Cat Litter Box - Top entry provides the perfect private space
Microchipping your cat is another great way to keep him safe and healthy. The combination of a microchip, collar, and identification tags is a winning strategy if your cat gets out and doesn’t come right back. It’s also important to let others know that if found, your cat is up to date on its vaccinations and will not pose a danger to a potential rescuer.
Medications to combat fleas, ticks, heartworms, or mites are important for a cat’s health and well being. Even if your cat is indoors, it can still fall victim to these pests. Preventatives will also help keep your family healthier as well.
Don’t forget about your cat’s teeth and oral hygiene. Regular teeth brushing and checkups when visiting the vet will go a long way toward maintaining your cat’s health. Checking your cat’s teeth regularly also gets him used to being handled in the mouth area and can pay dividends later if a small child or unsuspecting guest puts their hand on or in the cat’s mouth.
Spay and Neuter
To spay or neuter your cat is the gift that doesn’t keep giving, especially if your cat gets out of the house. It’s not a very pleasant experience for the family or neighborhood when a cat becomes a mom unexpectedly.
In summary, a happy and healthy cat is a content and well-adjusted cat. There are so many ways to keep your feline companion occupied, engaged, excited, and happy. And the happier a cat is the healthier it stays. With interactive play and interesting and adventurous play dates and outings, combined with good health habits, your cat will enjoy an exciting and long life. After all, we want our cats to enjoy their nine lives to the fullest.
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