Keeping your cat happy at home

"The fact is, the more time a pet cat spends safe at home, the less risk of injury or death from road accidents, fighting, and disease. A pet cat kept safe at home can live up to four times longer than a cat left to roam."

- Australian Veterinary Association 2016

More and more cat owners are realising the advantages of keeping their cat at home. 

Your cat is safe

Your home is the safest place for your cat. Free roaming cats have an increased risk of injury and infection from cat fights, being injured or killed by cars, being attacked by a dog, or getting lost; and a much greater risk of catching contagious diseases.

Lower cost

By keeping your cat safely at home, you reduce their chances of being in a road accident or being exposed to serious diseases such as Feline AIDS. This means that you are likely to have substantially fewer vet bills in relation to these sorts of issues.

Happy neighbours

Roaming cats often cause community disputes as they wander onto neighbouring properties and spray, fight, defecate, annoy dogs and kill wildlife. Stay friendly with your neighbours by keeping your cat within your property.

Protecting wildlife

Outdoor cats (even ageing ones who are well fed) can cause considerable injury and death to wildlife as they instinctively hunt. Prey that is not killed is likely to die later from shock or infection. Scientists tell us that a roaming domestic cat can kill up to 186 animals a year, 115 of which are native animals. By keeping your cat at home, you are actively protecting our native wildlife.

Owners get to spend more time with their cat

Enjoy quality time with your cat and building a bond with them. Your cat will be there when you return from your day's activities; you will not need to wait around until your cat comes home or wonder where they are and whether they are safe.

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Cat behaviourists and vets agree that cats don't need to roam to be healthy and that it is in the best interest of your cat to keep them safely at home. Download our factsheet and find the answers to the common questions and misbeliefs about roaming cats.

What you need to provide to keep your cat happy and healthy

Resting and hiding places

Cats love resting places with plenty of variation in height, location and privacy. They like to perch up high as it allows them to survey their surroundings without being disturbed, but they also like enclosed spaces where they can hide away, feel safe and have a quiet sleep. Cats spend lots of time sleeping so make sure you provide bedding in several quiet places around the house.

Food and water

Always provide fresh food and water for your cat, in separate locations. Cats love choice, so providing more than one source of water is a good idea. Try offering your cat a variety of bowl types and see which one they prefer; many cats don't like eating or drinking out of plastic bowls. Water fountains made for pets are also a great way to provide your cat with both fresh running water and enrichment.

Making feeding time fun by giving frequent small amounts of food, introducing different textures and flavours, and placing food in different locations, will keep your cat in good shape of body and mind.

Litter boxes

Every cat has their own preference for which type of litter tray they like to use, including different sizes, shapes and locations. The rule of thumb is that one cat needs two trays and each additional cat needs another tray; all in different quiet places away from their food and water. Most cats prefer sand-like, clumping and non-perfumed litter, but you can test different litter types to see which one your cat prefers. Always make sure the litter is at least 3 cm deep to provide opportunity for digging and covering. Cats do not like to relieve themselves in dirty litter trays and soiled litter should be removed daily and trays washed weekly.

Places to scratch

Cats need to scratch to sharpen their claws, stretch their muscles and leave their scent mark. A scratching post should be tall and sturdy enough for your cat to stand on their back legs and stretch up to scratch without tipping over. Some cats prefer to scratch horizontal services, such as carpet or sisal mats.

Playtime

Each cat should enjoy several short bursts of play each day, adjusted as necessary for their age and health status. Cats thrive on routine and having set times for play will be reassuring for your cat. Cats are most active at dawn and dusk, so this can be a great time for play. Provide them with a few toys and rotate them regularly to prevent boredom.

Create opportunities to explore, stretch and play such as:

  • Hunting games (balls, fishing rods, pull toys, or feathers on wands).

  • Provide your cat with a play tunnel to explore and hide in.

  • Leave some empty cardboard boxes around for your cat to explore.

  • Leave a few ping pong balls around – including one in the bathtub.

  •  Provide them with food puzzles such as plastic bottles with holes cut in them.

DO NOT leave string, ribbon or plastic bags out for your cat to play with while unsupervised– cats can easily get into trouble with these.

Social time

One of the most important enrichments in a cat’s life is interaction with humans at a level they are comfortable with – time spent playing, sitting, and sleeping with your cat will create a special bond and help fulfil their emotional needs (as well as your own). This could include gentle grooming.

Territory

Make sure there is plenty of room and enough resources for all of your pets. If you have multiple cats, it is very important that you ensure they each have their own core territory and plenty of resources and escape outlets (hidey-holes or high places). Cats like their own “stuff” and don’t often like to share. Providing each cat with lots of choices of resting places, toys, food and water bowls, and litter boxes can help avoid potential relationship issues between your cats.

If you want your cat to spend some time outdoors on your property, there are a number of outdoor cat containment solutions to choose from that will keep your cat safe from wandering off. Click here to find out more.

Behavioural issues

Sometimes your cat might start to display a behaviour you might find problematic, this can be caused by a number of things such as illness, lack of basic provisions, boredom or a change in their environment. We have created a booklet about the five most common cat behavioural issues and tips on how to solve them.  

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For more great ideas on how to keep your cat happy at home watch Kingborough Council's Inside with Cats series. Inside with Cats is a collaboration project that introduces six cats (along with their humans), who are embracing life on the inside. Inside with Cats is not just about containing cats inside a house, it also explores the various options these owners have used for outdoor enclosures or walking harnesses, and how they keep their cats safe, happy and healthy. Visit the Kingborough Council website to watch all five episodes of Inside with Cats.

Thanks to Kingborough Council for their Inside with Cats series and Good Cat SA for the great information.

© Tasmanian Cat Management Project 2019

TassieCat is a state-wide initiative to promote and facilitate responsible cat ownership and management in Tasmania. The project is supported by Cradle Coast Authority NRM, Kingborough Council, and NRM North through funding from the Tasmanian Government.