Should your cat stay at home?
Animal behavioural specialist Karen Wild examines whether it's OK to shut cats indoors.
I am sure you have seen the arguments on social media about cats being kept indoors.
In some countries it’s the norm, but it certainly isn’t over here in the UK. However, it’s starting to increase.
We used to have cats to control vermin populations, but now they are very much companions.
Around 10 per cent of cats in the UK are believed to live permanently indoors. It may be the result of frailty, contagious disease or where busy roads are nearby. It may be a temporary arrangement while your cat is young, or you could be moving house.
I think this comes down to knowing your cat best, rather than just deciding what you want. We don’t want our cats to be unsafe of course!
However, an unhappy cat will end up scratching your furniture, carpets and wallpaper in frustration and toileting/spraying urine around the home. So, whilst keeping a cat indoors can be a contentious issue, if you decide to have a cat indoors-only, you have to put in time and effort.
Cats, just like all animals have a right to display their natural behaviour. Hunting, climbing and stalking are all things that they need to do daily.
Cats must have vertical spaces, since they are naturally great climbers - it is a good way for them to exercise. If a cat needs to feel safe, they will often seek out a high-up sanctuary. Provide cat trees and cat ladders, platforms and walkways, partially enclosed to prevent any falls.
Provide at least one large (at least double the size of a standard supermarket version) litter tray per cat, plus an extra one. Quiet places for these is essential, not all in the same room of course, and they must be emptied after each use - or they may toilet around your house.
Several sleeping areas are essential and must be enclosed on at least three sides for privacy.
Cats need a lot of sleep, but there is a limit. A cat that sleeps excessively may be poorly or may be a bit depressed.
Cats use their claws to mark their space, to strengthen their muscles and sharpen their claws. Scratching posts and toys encourage this, but they might still prefer your leather couch.
You will need to set aside time for interactions with your cat. Play using fishing rod type toys so that they don’t grab your hands! Some owners provide an outdoor cat pen, allowing fresh air and more variety.
Never assume your cat will be happy with more cats sharing their space. Cats do not need to be social (they can be, they just don’t need it). It can often cause far more issues, so think carefully!