helping our feline friends navigate 'indoor' life
Did you know feral cats normally spend eight hours a day just hunting for food and water?
Cats are naturally very territorial and do not like other cats or animals in their space. The same principle applies to our domesticated cats; while their lives are easier and safer, they still have an instinctive need to protect their territory and hunt for prey.
This indoor lifestyle adds up to a lot of STRESS.
They may not look stressed out sleeping all day in that sunny spot. However, their kitty brains are bored stiff, resulting in stress. Add a neighbor cat or dog coming into their yard, or even a bird or squirrel they can’t chase, and now they are seriously stressed out!
Stress manifests itself through bullying, outright fighting, urination and defecation outside the litter box, spraying, hiding, and excessive grooming (giving them that hairless tummy). Many of these signs are subtle, especially the bullying, and are overlooked by most owners.
Cats have an innate need to hunt, so help them out! Put their food dish in a separate location from the water bowl and keep both of these away from the litter box. This forces a few extra steps each day to help keep them more active. Even better, hide the kibble in various spots throughout the house to force your kitty to really put a few hunting skills to use.
If hiding the food is too much each day, you can alternate with toys such as the Pipolino (pipolinousa.com) or homemade games to make them work a little harder for that extra food. Empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls cut to variable heights can be glued to a surface. With a few pieces of kibble dropped into each one, the kitty has to work to scoop them out.
Lasers can be fun for a few minutes but can be psychologically frustrating to cats. They are hunting something they can NEVER catch. So keep play to just a few minutes and follow it up by shining the laser on a small toy they can actually grab. Especially a small toy filled with fresh catnip. Keep the toys in rotation and hidden between use to keep them fresh and interesting.
Multiple Cat Household
While cats are social animals, colonies are generally made up of only related females (mothers, daughters, sisters). Unrelated cats can coexist, but often do not truly bond and therefore have stressful relationships.
Truly bonded cats will occasionally sleep while actually touching (sleeping on the same bed but not in contact doesn’t count).
If your cats don’t appear to be bonded, there are a few things to try to help keep the peace:
- Provide plenty of spread out litter boxes, food, and water
- Provide multiple sources of primo resting spots, hiding spaces, and elevated climbing surfaces.
- Consider using Feliway pheromones to help with anxiety
If one cat is a bully, put a bell on them so they can’t sneak up on the other cats as easily.
Our indoor cats are often overweight from lack of exercise that hunting and territorial defense would provide. They also tend to be eating dry foods which are high in carbohydrates.
For this reason, canned Fancy Feast is preferred. It is the best balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Other canned foods may not be as well-balanced. If Fancy Feast makes up the primary food source, then a bit of dry kibble may be used for hunting purposes.
Other Tips and Tricks
Train your cat to a single treat every day. Sounds like a pain, right? But if your cat is trained to receive a small, bite-sized piece of pill pockets or butter, it is much easier to administer medication when necessary. Stick with only a small sampling to avoid weight issues and stay away from standard hard treats that can’t be wrapped around a pill.
Teach them early that the cat carrier is their friend. Leave it out in a quiet, out of the way, warm location so your cat might like to nap inside of it. Put treats, grass or catnip in it frequently. They may not like the ride to the vet, but at least they won’t be afraid of the carrier itself!