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Create an Environment Your Cat Will Love

The Right Environment for Indoor Cats

Indoor vs. Outdoor

Like most cats, it can be instinctual to roam, climb, and hunt. But, what if you live in a highly urban area or your property is so large, your cat could be outside for days? Whether they are an indoor or outdoor cat, your feline's physical and mental health directly relates to their environment. Talk to your veterinarian about providing the right environment for your cat. Your veterinarian can also evaluate, based on environment, whether your feline will need certain vaccinations or medications. 

The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms that feline emotional wellbeing, behavior and physical health are a result of how comfortable they are in their environment. Understanding how our cats interact with their environment can help us create a space for owners and cats to mutually thrive together. Not only does your feline's wellness rely on her environmental conditions, but also on social interaction between humans.

Indoor Vs. Outdoor

Should you keep your cat strictly indoors or allow it to go outside? Several national associations of veterinarians advocate that domestic cats be kept inside for their health, safety, and the safety of surrounding native wildlife. Pet cats that are allowed to roam freely outdoors are subject to many dangers including, but not limited to:

•    Cars
•    Motorcycles
•    Bicycles
•    Attacks from other animals
•    Possible human cruelty
•    Poisons, traps
•    Feline-specific diseases
•    Zoonotic diseases

Often cat owners that allow their cats to roam outdoors are surprised to find that their cat is continually crossing major streets and roaming far beyond their immediate neighborhood. Lastly, allowing cats to roam outdoors affects the surrounding native wildlife populations. While owned cats do not hunt animals for survival, they will kill and maim animals based on instinct. This predation can have a significant impact on rodent and bird species.

Creating an Enriched Indoor Environment

Without an investment in enriching the indoor environment, indoor cats can suffer boredom from predictability, stress, and obesity from inactivity. This is especially true if your cat was once an outdoor cat and you've transitioned him to an indoor-only pet. The best solution to prevent any of these issues is to give indoor cats what they need to thrive:

•    Keep a litter tray in a private area. Be sure to clean regularly, removing eliminations daily,  so cats will not be reluctant to use the box. Indoor cats will improperly eliminate or hold a bowel movement for days if they feel uncomfortable in their space. Avoid a potential health issue by keeping it clean.
•    While an indoor environment may be perceived as safer, be sure to carefully place potentially toxic house plants and lock cabinets with cleaning supplies. We know how curious cats can be- they'll try to get inside anything left slightly ajar.
•    Provide a scratching post or climbing wall, balls, feathers, or other play toys. Some cats like catnip, and this can be placed inside toys. Cats love to be up high, some people build walkways, close to the ceiling, around a room.  Keep your feline busy, and you'll be their main companion.
•    Be sure to check crawl spaces, attics, washer and dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators before and after use.
•    Consider getting them a companion. At first, felines may be reluctant to welcome another cat, but over time most thrive due to the interaction.

For those cats who refuse to be a strictly indoor cat, there are things you can do to help protect them when outside. If you have a solid backyard fence, you can build an overhang at the top of the fence with piping and netting.  The overhang should be about two feet long, and project inward at about a 45 degree angle, so the cat can not jump over the fence, and it also makes it harder for another cat to jump into your yard. If you do not have a solid back yard fence, you can build an enclosed patio space so the cats have access from the house. 

Sources:

Ellis, SL; Rodan, I; Carney, HC; Rochiltz, I; Shearburn, LD; Sundahl, E; and Westropp, JL. “AAFP and ISFM Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines.” Journal of Feline Medical Surgery, March 2013.

American Humane Association, “Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats.”  

American Association of Feline Practitioners. “Confinement of Owned Indoor Cats Position Statement.” 2007.

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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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