There are myths and conflicting advice surrounding indoor cats and what is best for their health. Though cats have been domestic pets for more than 9,500 years (and so well-loved they were buried in human graveyards!), keeping cats as “indoor-only” pets has only risen in popularity in the last 100 years or so. As our cities expanded, so did urban and sub-urban dangers to free roaming cats, and caring cat owners learned the best way to keep their cats safe was to keep them indoors.  This may be one reason why what is best for an indoor-only cat’s health is still the subject of differing opinions and debate.  One of the biggest concerns potential pet parents have about cats they adopt is their health. We were fortunate enough to have the chance to ask a well-credentialed expert, Dr. Mary Beth Leininger with the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program, frequently asked questions about adopting pets’ health, including about indoor cats. Dr. Leininger is a former President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and co-owned a successful, American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited companion animal hospital in Michigan for nearly 30 years. Read on for the 3rd and final installment of our short series of shelter pet health Q&A articles, here’s the 1st article, and here’s the 2nd. Click the more link to read what Dr. Leininger has to say about indoor cat health, and along with some indoor-cat health tips from some other cat experts too!

Question: If I adopt a healthy cat and keep her indoors only, does she ever need to see a vet?

Dr. Leninger’s Answer: “Even if your cat is strictly an indoor cat, it’s very important for all cats to receive regular veterinary care, including a complete checkup and screening tests at least once yearly. One important factor to consider when determining your cat’s vet visit frequency is its age or stage of life. If your cat is a senior (11 years of age or older) or experiencing ongoing health issues, visiting the vet twice a year should be common practice. This allows the vet to assess your cat’s overall health and catch any conditions that often surface as a pet ages before they advance. Particularly when a cat is young and healthy, it’s a great idea to have a cat insurance plan to help lend a hand with a cat’s care over his or her life.”

Indoor Cat Health & Happiness Tips

There’s no question that cats who live indoors-only live longer, healthier lives.  Since health is directly related to happiness and lack of stress, and it is up to us cat caretakers to always be adding new hunting, watching, chasing, pouncing, sniffing, hiding, and listening enrichment to their indoor environment. Here are four ideas for doing just that!

  1. One way to keep your indoor-cat entertained is to give them lots of interesting and changing things to look at from their safe haven. Here’s a few ways you can give your cat a view.
  2. Some cats are “alpine explorers” who like to climb and get up as high as they can! They are the ones you’ll see at the top of the cat trees in a shelter’s communal cat room, who can nap on the back of the couch or on the narrowest bookshelf edge way up above your head. You can celebrate their mountaineering skills by creating indoor alpine kitties skyways and penthouses for their (and your!) enjoyment. Here’s one idea: a DIY sisal pole & perch video.
  3. Some cats are “cave dwellers” who like to hide in closets, under beds, and in cardboard boxes. Well, pretty much every cat I’ve ever met likes cardboard boxes! You can enrich your indoor cat’s life by helping a friend move and then recycling those boxes, or be inspired by this amazing video of a caring cat owner creating a cardboard box cat castle in this video.
  4. Some cats love treats and really enjoy being treated for doing tricks! Tricks-for-treats training is a great way to provide mental stimulation for an indoor cat. Some tricks cats enjoy doing are coming when called, jumping up onto something on command, sitting, and sitting up. See one kitty (who’s for adoption!) do these cat tricks in this video.