Rex and I just got back from a walk and I noticed my neighbor’s cat sitting in the window. She is a house cat. Aside from sitting in the window, she never leaves the confinement of her home. Do you think she gets bored? If Rex didn’t have his regular walks, he would certainly be bored. He would get very little mental stimulation just being in the home all day. We’ve discussed many times before how important walks are to a dog’s physical and mental health… What about the house cat?
Do Cats Get Bored Indoors?
The stress of boredom could be the cause of any number of cat behavioral problems. Cats may become destructive – scratching furniture or ruining upholstery. Some cats will begin over grooming themselves, licking certain areas until they are hairless and raw. They can become very anxious or even depressed. Aggression, chewing, inappropriate potty problems, are all behavioral problems seen in cats. Lastly, what about the overweight cat? In 2017, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention said that 60% of cats living in the US are obese. * Do they sometimes overeat because they are bored? Could all of these issues be caused by a boring, non-stimulating, predictable, limiting environment that comes from living their lives totally cut off from the natural world from which they originate?
If you think about it, cats in a “natural” outdoor environment have very active, incredible lives. They explore, they hunt, they hide from predators, they encounter other beings, human, feline, canine, vermin and so on. Yet the house cat has very consistent, monotonous surroundings. Not being able to engage in instinctive activities found only in a nature must be very frustrating for a housecat. Cat owners are great about providing for their cat’s activities, with scratching posts, perches by the window, and lots of fun, interactive toys, but do cats need more than that? Wouldn’t a cat who gets out in the fresh air, with an ever-changing environment, be healthier than one that stays inside all day?
Is your cat held captive in your home?
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that a cat should live its life indoors. It’s much safer for them. Allowing a cat to roam freely outdoors would be irresponsible. Letting them loose outside is very risky, as they will be exposed to things like traffic, wild animals, viruses and many other harmful things. But living a life entirely indoors isn’t entirely conducive to their needs. How can we provide our cats with the environmental enrichment and sensory experiences they need, while keeping them safe, preventing stress, and eliminating the fear that can come from a new endeavor?
At Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, we offer our cats the enjoyment and safety of an entirely enclosed outdoor area called a “Katio”. Cats like Leo, pictured above, adore the sights and sounds of nature. Getting close to nature satisfies their instinctive wild animal inside. The outdoors offers so many opportunities to stimulate your cat’s natural curiosity. Once your cat has had a taste of the outdoors, it will very likely become their most favorite activity.
Many people have screened in porches that are perfect for the house cat! Just make sure that the screening is strong, and the enclosure is secure with no loose attachments or openings that could accidentally let your cat out, or dangerous predators in.
Walking your cat? Whaaat?
If a screened in porch or patio isn’t feasible at this time, why not teach your cat to walk on a leash? Don’t laugh. Taking your cat on a walk could add a new, fun element to both of your lives! Wouldn’t it be great to be able to take your cat with you on outings? It is found that cats who have been trained to walk on a leash look forward to walks and new adventures just as much as dogs do! There are a lot of great “how to” videos and articles online.
How to Teach a Cat to Walk on a Leash
Teaching your cat to walk on a leash needs to be a very gradual process. Patience and persistence is needed. There are actually two steps to this process: 1) Getting your cat to accept and wear a harness (probably the most challenging part of the process!), and 2) Getting them used to being outside. After getting your cat to feel comfortable wearing a harness around the house, start with a simple visit to your front porch. Just calmly sit with him so that he can get used to the sights and sounds of being outdoors. It may be very scary to him at first. Happy, soothing talk is always helpful. Keep it positive. Don’t venture off the porch during the first few trips outside. Wait until you see your cat relax, and maybe even start exploring a bit. For an older cat, this could take weeks. Although your cat may resist somewhat, in the end, it will be very beneficial and enjoyable to them.
Thanks, but no thanks
So what does “resist, somewhat” mean? How do we know the difference between somewhat resisting and flat-out unwilling and scared to death? A resistant cat may cower slightly, but keep his head and ears straight up, eyes wide and alert. He may wag his tail slowly from side to side as he tries to decipher the situation. A cat that is scared to death may flatten or turn back his ears, try to hide, pupils constricted, possibly becoming aggressive and/or vocalized. I don’t want to disappoint, but you may find your cat is completely and totally fearful of the outdoors. It happens. Whatever you do, don’t force it upon your cat. If you find that your cat continues to show signs of stress or fear after several attempts to take him outside, let it go. Not all cats want to be outside, but all they should all be given the opportunity. We are all different. So are our furry friends.
Let’s hope that your cat took to the outdoors like a fish to water and that he/she is now able to enjoy more natural stimulation and increased physical activity. Plus he gets to be with you more often which only serves to strengthen your bond! Here are a few things to keep in mind:
• Once our cat has had that “taste of the outdoors”, we need to be particularly conscious of opening and closing the doors in our home to prevent the cat from darting outside as people come and go.
• Never leave a leashed cat unattended outside.
• Remember that a cat will never walk like a dog walks. More than likely a cat will “meander” and wander around, at least at first. As time goes on, you should be able to progress to an actual planned excursion.
• Attempt to walk your cat in calm, unpopulated areas. Keep an eye out for dogs and loud noises. Your cat could become startled and use you as a climbing tree!
• Make sure your cat is protected from fleas and other parasites, as well as vaccinated against all infectious diseases, including heartworm.
• Micro chipping and/or proper id is recommended.
• Please don’t use a retractable leash. You should maintain a shorter distance between you and your cat so that you can pick him up quickly should a dangerous situation arise.