Owning an indoor cat is becoming an ever more increasingly popular option for many cat-lovers. Perhaps you live near a very busy road? Or maybe you have marked concerns about your cat getting into ever-increasing numbers of scraps with its neighbours? Or it may even be that your cat has specific needs that mean your vet has recommended you keep your cat indoors? Whatever the reason, it is a well-known fact that indoor cats are increasing in popularity and diversity.
Levels of obesity within the pet population are ever-increasing, with one recent report indicating that 39% of UK cats are overweight or obese. A sedentary, indoor lifestyle, unfortunately, will only add to that risk. Therefore, it is vitally important that you encourage your cat to exercise and this can be through play and the use of toys. Even outdoor cats will benefit from these engaging activities as they not only help in maintaining your cat’s trim figure, they will also help to develop the bond between you and your feline companion.
Another way to encourage activity in your cat is through the use of “puzzle feeders” so your cat has to work harder to receive its meals. Puzzle feeders are clever devices that you can fill with your cat’s normal dry food – they will only release the food as your cat plays with them! You should easily be able to find out more about these from your local pet shop or by looking on the internet.
Indoor cats generally live in a smaller environment than outdoor cats, ultimately meaning they have a smaller living space with which to interact and also resulting in an increased risk of them experiencing boredom. Other than the obviously detrimental effect of boredom on your cat’s mental welfare, boredom can also increase the likelihood of your cat over-eating and over-grooming, thus predisposing to obesity and hairballs. However, there is no reason to worry about this, as there are many ways to help your cat.
One of these ways is by seizing every opportunity you can to utilise vertical space in your cat’s indoor environment. By providing features such as shelves, ropes, cat trees and climbing poles, vertical space can be enhanced, offering your cat vantage points, environmental complexity and the opportunity for active behaviour, as well as the chance to rest and retreat at different heights. This will only result in one thing – an active cat that feels more confident and stimulated within its environment
It is also very important to avoid switching your cat’s diet all the time. Many owners perceive this dietary change as necessary for keeping their cat “interested” in its food and preventing “dietary boredom”; however, it has been shown that this can actually predispose your cat to excessive weight-gain. It may well be perfectly normal for your cat to seem to “pick at its food”, as this grazing behaviour forms part of your cat’s natural instincts, similar to cats in the wild hunting small prey and having multiple small meals per day. For indoor cats it is more important to choose a diet specifically designed to reduce the risk of overeating whilst keeping your cat feeling full. And don’t mistake your cat asking for your attention as meaning they want to be fed! It may just be that they are craving your company and want you to play with them!
Recognise other risk factors
Finally, don’t forget neutering (or sterilisation) should also be considered as a lifestyle factor, which may, in fact, further increase the risk of obesity again. Don’t be afraid to speak to your vet if you have any concerns about weight-gain in your pet.