With new cat confinement laws and legislation currently on several local councils’ agendas, some kitty owners are understandably worried about how these changes will affect their pets.
Here at RSPCA South Australia, we support cat curfews because keeping your fur-ball inside – especially overnight – protects them from a myriad of dangers.
But how can you keep cats happy and stimulated indoors?
‘When they’re indoors, they’re safer’
RSPCA South Australia cat expert Jacky Barrett sees many benefits in keeping cats indoors.
“It prevents them from getting into fights with other cats, where they’re at risk of developing abscesses from infected scratches,” Jacky said.
“It also keeps them safe from the feline disease FIV, which works the same as the human disease HIV and has no cure.
“When they’re indoors they’re safer from poisons or being caught in traps, and they also won’t upset birds, wildlife or mice, or be defecating and urinating in people’s yards.”
Are you aware of the dangerous items in your house?
But you’ll need to be aware of indoor hazards that could jeopardise your cat’s safety inside.
Make sure all rodent poisons and insecticides, medications, toxic foods like chocolate, onions and garlic, and common plants including lily species are not kept within reach.
Keep your kitty entertained for hours with simple toys and short games
According to Jacky, keeping cats entertained and enriched inside is actually easier than you might think.
“Have different types of toys and scratching posts, and think of different games to play,” Jacky said.
How to use everyday items to save you some coin
Effective ways to exercise a cat can be as easy as creative use of everyday items such as newspapers, laundry baskets and bubble blowers.
Newspapers can be scrunched into toys and shapes, while simply placing balls underneath an overturned laundry basket can keep those cheeky kitties entertained for hours.
Games and exercise should be kept as short as five minutes, making it easy to fit into busy lives.
Cat-proof your entire house
Ms Barrett said giving your kitty the run of your entire house is fine, as long as you trust your cat and unsafe items like poisons are out of reach.
You might start them off in one room and introduce them slowly to other rooms and animals.
Another great option for enrichment is the use of a CatPad. This is a custom-built enclosure attached to the back of your house allowing cats to have a run of the garden without venturing far.
“It’s great to have an outdoors aviary as the cats can get the sensory benefits of being outside, such as the smells and sunshine, but in a way that’s safe for them and for wildlife,” Jacky said.
But which option is best for your furry friend?
You can keep your feline friend at home through three main ways.
The easiest and cheapest is to keep them totally indoors at all times.
Try installing cat-proof fly screens so that your fur-machine can benefit from exposure to outdoor sights, smells and sounds without escaping.
This will work best with a brand new kitten. The sudden confinement of older cats who are used to roaming outside freely is highly likely to stress them.
To ease your cat into containment the second option may be best for them: this involves keeping your cat indoors but with access to an outdoor enclosure or run, giving them the choice of where they want to spend their time.
Having an outdoor run linked to the indoors means less risk of your cat trying (and perhaps succeeding!) to escape.
If you have a balcony or veranda, you can easily make an escape-proof enclosure.
When building an outdoor enclosure be sure to locate it somewhere out of reach for other cats or dogs. This will help your curious kitty feel safe and less tempted to roam.
Build your cat its own playground
The third option gives your cat the best of indoor and outdoor living spaces while still being safe.
A cat can be allowed to live indoors and roam in an outdoor space surrounded by an escape-proof fence – such as a CatPad.
The best escape-proof fence is at least two metres high, with rolling cylinders and smooth metal or plastic sheeting on top, making it impossible for cats to get a good grip while climbing.
Don’t forget to check for anything that might lead to an escape, such as gaps in fences or overhanging trees.
10 things to remember to keep your cat’s life enriched
Here at RSPCA South Australia we’re always thinking of you. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of these super easy considerations that everyone can do.
- Provide plenty of cat climbing spaces like cat castles, hammocks, cat condos and cat ladders to keep the environment interesting and challenging.
- Toys are another must as they can help to keep your cat amused. We recommend safe toys like plush, feather and fishing pole toys, although be careful to avoid small, detachable objects that could be swallowed.
- Provide plenty of hiding areas. We’ve all seen the videos circulating of cats climbing and hiding in anything and everything, so recycle cardboard boxes into hide and seek boxes for a great bonding game.
- If you’re worried about your cat ruining indoor furniture then be sure to provide several scratching posts so they can keep their nails in good condition.
- Exercise your cat with lots of daily playtime and attention.
- Cats truly are sun worshippers so make sure your cat has access to a sunny spot to bask in.
- Consider having two cats as they are social creatures by nature and will benefit from company. This also prevents naughty behaviour while human owners are away, as the pair will keep each other entertained and busy.
- Litter trays are a must to keep your environment healthy – locate litter trays away from eating and sleeping areas. You don’t like to sleep next to a toilet and neither do they!
- Always get your kitten de-sexed to make sure they’re safe from unwanted pregnancies!
- If trained from a young age, cats will enjoy walks outside with a harness and leash, giving them the opportunity to explore safely.
Make sure your family member can’t get lost
Even once your cat is contained to your property boundary, they must by law be microchipped and registered with your local council, so if they do accidentally get out and become lost they can be reunited with you.
We also strongly advise that you have your cat desexed, as this will reduce the likelihood of accidental pregnancy, as well as fighting, urine spraying and the desire to roam to find a mate.
Cat confinement is not mandatory yet, but stay up to date with your local council by-laws around cat management in your area.
Want more tips and info on how to best care for your furry friend? Check out more stories here.