Cat sitting on chair looking at a vase with flowers.

Living Indoors

If you decide that the indoor life will best provide your cat with long-term security and happiness, you must take stock of your home surroundings and lifestyle.

While you cannot make a house completely cat-proof, you will need to take certain precautions. You must also be prepared to organize your cat’s exercise and entertainment.

Indoor Cats

Your cat is likely to live longer and face fewer hazards if he is kept indoors rather than allowed to roam outside. However, indoor life is not entirely problem-free; it will be your responsibility to keep your cat safe, happy, and active.

If you are out at work all day, your cat will need a regular playtime or, better still, a companion. Bored cats grow frustrated and stressed and will constantly pester you for attention when you get home.

Without enough exercise, indoor cats can become overweight and unhealthy, and stress may manifest itself in unwanted behavior.

Hazards in the Home

Cats left alone in the house usually sleep a great deal of the time, but in their wakeful periods they may amuse themselves by  going exploring. Make sure that nothing likely to be investigated by an inquisitive  cat can cause any harm. Most potential dangers to your cat are found in the kitchen.

Never leave anything unattended that your cat could jump on or knock over, such as a switched-on burner,  an iron, or sharp utensils. Keep the doors of washing machines or dryers closed (but first make sure your cat is not inside), and double- check before you switch on the appliance.

Cats are less inclined than dogs to steal food, raid the garbage bin, or chew up forbidden items such as electric cords,  but they still need to be protected from substances that could make them sick.

Keep them away from wet paint and chemical cleaners, which are easily transferred from walls and floors to fur, and then licked off and swallowed. Check that there are no dangers lurking in the carpet, such as thumbtacks, needles, or shards of broken glass or china.

Keep small pet animals and birds out  of temptation’s way, especially while you  are out. A predatory cat may not be able to resist harassing the occupants of a hamster cage or investigating a fish bowl, causing damage and distress for all concerned.

Indoor Plants

Many common indoor plants, including lilies, geraniums, cyclamen, and various potted bulbs such as daffodils, are toxic to cats if eaten. Keep houseplants off the floor and low tables, and cover the soil in the pot with chippings or pebbles to discourage digging.

If your cat likes to nibble your houseplants, buy him his own special cat grass from a pet store or garden center— or grow it yourself from seed—and place it away from other plants. If all else fails, you could try spraying around houseplants with a citrus-scented cat repellent.

Call of the Outdoors

Despite their natural instincts, most cats kept indoors from birth will rarely want to venture out because they see your home as their territory. Once they get a taste for going out, however, they may want to do it more frequently and take any chance to escape.

If so, you will have to be vigilant about closing windows and doors. Be extra careful in a high-rise apartment—despite their balance and agility, cats have died after falling from an open window or jumping over a balcony while chasing birds or insects.

Keeping Active

Physical and mental activity is vital for your cat’s health. If he lives permanently indoors, you will have to organize this for him. Indoor cats need space to play, so they should have access to several rooms if possible, especially if you have more than one cat—like us, cats need “personal space.”

To give your cat a breath of fresh air you could screen off a porch, patio, or balcony that he can access through a catflap. If you live in an apartment, consider allowing your cat out into the hallway for a run-around game.

First check that all doors leading to the outside are closed. Even a cat that spends his life indoors  will retain his natural instinct to stalk and catch prey. Without an outlet for his hunting instinct, a cat may turn to “catching” and chewing household objects.

To prevent this, give him plenty of interesting toys to play with. Toys that allow you to interact with your cat are just as important as those that will keep him occupied when you are out. Set aside some time each day to give your cat your undivided attention.

Unwanted Behavior

Other types of “outdoor” behavior can be  a problem in the home. A cat scratches to stretch and keep its claws healthy and also to make visual and scented territorial markings. To prevent your sofa from being used as a substitute for a tree or  a fence, buy a scratching post  or mat to satisfy your cat’s natural need. Indoor cats may also exhibit stress-related behavior such as biting, spraying, or inappropriate urinating.

Pheromone therapy in the form of a spray or plug-in dispenser uses a synthetic version of natural feline pheromones that may reduce the anxiety that leads to such problems.

Indoor Checklist

  • Never leave heated kitchen appliances,  such as stovetops and irons, unattended
  • Do not leave sharp utensils and breakables within the cat’s reach
  • Shut the doors of cupboards and appliances such as washing machines and dryers
  • Keep your cat away from wet paint or surfaces wet with cleaning chemicals
  • Protect open fires with a guard
  • Ensure that your cat cannot jump out  of upper-floor windows
  • Do not place toxic houseplants where  your cat could eat or brush against them