Many of us keep our cats indoors, but they are missing out on fresh air, sun, eating grass and chasing prey. It can be depressing being the same environment all the time. One easy way to increase enrichment is by providing your indoor cat with safe opportunities for sunshine and fresh air.
Give your Cat Spots in Windows
Use an elevated space so your cat can see outside. You can use a cat tree, chair or the back of a couch so your cat can see what's going on outside plus enjoy the fresh air and sun. Cats love options and choices, so one spot is not enough, particularly in a multi-cat home. Provide as many options as possible in different windows. The best windows will be ones that get a lot of sun and where wildlife might be such as facing trees, grass or bushes. In a multi-cat home, a cat tree might be the best option so the cats can share a window amicably.
A skinny window ledge is not enough since cats cannot lie down and rest. And, if your cat is large, they may not even be able to sit on it at all. Wide ledges are great, but you can increase the attractiveness with a folded towel or a warm mat.
Provide fresh air
Even if you use central air, open the window daily so your cat can have fresh air and smell what's going on outside, even if it's for a short time. Smelling novel things is a form of enrichment and cracking the window is an easy way to utilize a cat's superior sense of smell. Use a strong screen so that your cat stays inside and does not fall out, or just open it a inch if the screen is not secure.
Being able to see what's going on outside can be wonderful enrichment, particularly if you live near green spaces and there is wildlife. Even where I live in NYC, pigeons and squirrels are entertaining. There's nothing more exciting for my cats than when a pigeon lands on our airconditioning unit. But we're also fornutate enough to have big trees right outside and my cats can see lots of birds and squirrels from our windows. In the winter it gets a bit boring and that's when I'll turn on a YouTube channel for cat entertainment a few times each week.
Want to go even further? There area safe ways to let your cats enjoy the outdoors
If you own a house with outdoor access, you might consider getting a catio. A catio is an enclosure that is right outside your home. Some catios can be accessed from an inside window or cat door. Some are small and fit in a window. Others are large enough that you can hang out in there too.
Harness & Leash Train
This might be easier for confident cats who are looking to go outside, but even a shy cat might be open to going outside if your area is quiet. The first step is harness training your cat. You want to go slowly as cats are not used to having anything on their body. Make positive assocations with wearing the harness.
Another alternative is to take your cat outside in a pet stroller. Depending on your cat's disposition, this might take time to get them comfortable with the stroller and then going outside. Baby steps. Set small achievable goals.
The enjoyment of fresh air, sunshine and watching wildlife should be something every cat has access to, even if they are confined to our homes.
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About the author: Jennifer Van de Kieft, CAFTP, FFCP, PNCC is located in Brooklyn, NY. She is certified in feline behavior and pet nutrition. She owns Cat Advocate, a feline behavior consulting company. She provides cat guardians with the strategies, tools and knowledge needed to address their cat's behavior issues. Jennifer provides virtual consultations throughout the United States.