Indoor life is best for cats’ longevity, but ‘catios’ are fun and walking on a leash is doable – Pasadena Star News

With kitten season in full swing, shelters across Southern California are overflowing with adorable, adoptable cats and kittens looking for new homes. During our adoption counseling sessions, we are often asked if cats should live strictly indoors.

For the health and safety of cats, as well as wildlife, we recommend that cats are kept indoors and only allowed outdoors if on a leash or in an enclosure.

I know many of you are thinking, how am I going to get my cat used to a leash, and are my neighbors going to think I’m crazy?

Well I assure you, walking your cat is totally fashionable. My friend Bonnie walks her cat Monsieur every day. Luckily for fashion, our Pasadena Humane website has a simple instructional video on leash training your cat.

Sir, a trained cat on a leash, likes to walk with his mistress, Bonnie. Walking your cat on a leash and in a harness is a safe way for cats to experience the outdoors. (Photo courtesy of Pasadena Humane)

And just google “catios” to see wonderful images of outdoor cat enclosures, from simple to sublime. Outdoor cat playpens are another option for giving your cat some safe and fun outdoor time.

Keeping your cat indoors or locked up helps it live longer. According to some estimates, indoor cats live an average of 10 to 15 years, while the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is only three to five years.

Outdoor risks for cats abound – cars, predatory wildlife, people who are not nice to cats, cats who fight with other cats, communicable diseases, parasites, toxins, and the list goes on.

Indoor cats can avoid these outdoor dangers, but the downside is that they are more likely to be overweight and bored. This is why physical activity and mental enrichment are just as important for cats as they are for dogs.

The good news is that in addition to leash walking and outdoor enclosures, there are plenty of easy ways to provide enrichment and activity for your indoor cat.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Get vertical: Cats are natural climbers. Give your little Tigger vertical space by providing climbing and scratching surfaces such as cat trees and wall mounted cat shelves.

Indoor gardening: Bring the outdoors inside by growing catnip for your feline companion. You can get pre-grown grass or seed mixes at your local pet store. No green thumb? No problem. Get some dried catnip to sprinkle around your cat’s play area.

Sir, a trained cat on a leash, likes to walk with his mistress, Bonnie.  Walking your cat on a leash and in a harness is a safe way for cats to experience the outdoors.  (Photo courtesy of Pasadena Humane)
Sir, a trained cat on a leash, likes to walk with his mistress, Bonnie. Walking your cat on a leash and in a harness is a safe way for cats to experience the outdoors. (Photo courtesy of Pasadena Humane)

To play: Indoor cats get most of their exercise from play. It is important to provide your cat with a few daily 10-15 minute play sessions. Most cats love chasing a magic wand. Make it look like prey by vanishing the toy around the corner and watch your cat pounce. I recommend these types of toys, over laser pointers, so your cat can have the satisfaction of “catching” something tangible.

Take sunbath : Cats love to nap in the sun. Provide your cat with a variety of comfy beds, window perches, and window-level cat trees so they can soak up some rays, while indulging in wildlife-friendly birdwatching .

Scratch that Scratching is normal and healthy cat behavior and should be encouraged. Cats scratch to express their emotions, mark their territory, keep their nails healthy and to stretch. To prevent your cats from scratching furniture, provide them with a variety of appropriate scratching options. Try a combination of vertical and horizontal scratchers made of different materials to find out what your cat likes best.

Despite the jokes we’ve all heard — especially during the pandemic — about cats being antisocial and wanting less time with their humans, cats can be wonderfully social and great fun.

Please consider bringing one, or another, into your family. And if you’re looking for more cat care tips, visit Pasadena Humane’s new behavior and training resource library at pasadenahumane.org/behavior

Dia DuVernet is President and CEO of Pasadena Humane. pasadenahumane.org

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