Yes, there are many benefits to keeping your cat safe at home (contained within your property boundaries). Contained cats are less likely to become lost or injured (hit by a car or attacked by a dog). They are also less likely to get into cat fights and have cat fight-related injuries (abscesses) or catch diseases such as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). Containment also increases the opportunity for owner-animal interaction and reduces the impact of hunting by cats and disturbance caused to neighbours.
Where cats are contained, steps must be taken by owners to ensure that adequate exercise and environmental enrichment are available. Contained cats do not have to live totally indoors – access to an outdoor escape-proof enclosure is highly recommended as this greatly increases the opportunity for activity and stimulation for contained cats. There are also specialised backyard fences that rotate inwardly and these can be a great way to enable contained cats to still have access to the outdoors without being able to go beyond their home property boundaries.
Some cat owners also like to take their cat into the backyard under their direct supervision so they can have some time outdoors. Make sure your cat is safe and won’t jump over the fence and get lost or hurt. If you don’t have an escape-proof backyard then you can train your cat to walk on a harness and lead – this can be a good solution if you live in an apartment and have access to a shared courtyard area. Avoid walking your cat in places that may cause them stress, such as near roads, in busy areas or where dogs are also being exercised.
A kitten/cat that has only ever been contained to the owner’s property is likely to cope better with living in this way as they have never known any other lifestyle. Start training kittens to be contained early on!
A cat that has experienced living outdoors beyond the owner’s property boundary may become distressed if suddenly kept totally indoors. In these cases cats may begin to display behavioural problems due to the stress of confinement and their health and welfare may be compromised. For these cats extending their access to the outdoors via an escape-proof enclosure or specialised backyard fencing is highly recommended. Enclosures and fencing should not be electrified. A gradual reduction in the amount of time that the cat spends beyond the property will also allow them to adjust to containment to the owner’s property over time.
Cat containment tips
Here are some measures you can take to ensure that your home is a feline-friendly, stimulating environment where your cat is unlikely to get bored.
- Provide plenty of horizontal and vertical climbing space. Cats generally like to gain vertical height to view scenes from above and they also tend to feel safer that way. Cat ladders/trees, window hammocks, cat condos and cat castles are just some of the products available to help provide an enriched environment.
- Provide plenty of safe toys to keep your cat amused – it is a good idea to have a variety of toys hidden away so you can give your cat different toys to play with on different days. Ensure all toys are safe for cats, for example avoid string toys or smaller objects that may be swallowed as these can become an intestinal obstruction, which can be fatal.
- Provide hiding areas. Cardboard boxes with holes cut into them are great for hide and seek games. Your cat’s favourite games will be the ones that involve you as they will be able to use their instinctive pouncing behaviour and release pent up energy by chasing.
- Provide several scratching post as cats love to scratch to keep their nails in good condition (this also helps to prevent any unwanted scratching of furniture). If you have any plants make sure they are safe for cats (check with your vet first if you’re unsure) and be aware that certain common plants, such as lilies, are fatally toxic to cats, so make sure these are not present on your property.
- Play with your cat daily and give them plenty of attention and company.
- Cats love to bask in the sun; make sure your cat has a nice sunny spot to lie in and window sills to sit on so they can keep an eye on the outside world and watch scenes outside which provides entertainment for them.
- Cats are often social animals so we recommend considering having two cats that get along well with each other and can keep each other company while their human owners are out. The RSPCA recommends considering purchasing two cats together, e.g. a sibling kitten pair, two kittens of similar age, or any two cats that are known to get along well.
- Contained cats should have a few litter trays available for each cat and these should be kept away from eating and sleeping areas. Provide separate food, water bowls and sleeping areas for each cat. Ensure clean fresh water is available at all times.
- Research shows that pheromones can help to calm stressed cats. If your cat appears stressed, talk to your vet about pheromone sprays or diffusers.
Despite keeping your cat contained to your property boundary you will still need to have them microchipped and registered with the council so that 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, fighting and urine spraying and the desire to roam to find a mate.