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The Happy Indoor Cat

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2009

According to the American Veterinary Association, cats that are kept indoors can live up to three times longer than cats allowed outside. April is National Cat Care month (a Fresh Step/ASPCA partnership), established to alert cat owners to keep their felines indoors for safety reasons -- cats allowed outdoors can contract diseases, get ticks or parasites, become lost, get hit by a car, or get into fights with other free-roaming cats and dogs.

Many people believe that a cat is content with just food, water, and a nice spot to nap, but that's not true. You have to make your environment as stimulating to a cat as the outdoors is, and that requires more than just food and the occasional time spent sitting on your lap or getting a few rubs on the head. Adopting an indoor lifestyle for your cat is simple -- create a stimulating play environment with toys and things for him to scratch and climb, provide nutritious food, and develop a proper cat-litter regimen.

To avoid boredom, you need to provide proper stimulation for your cat. Jo Sullivan, senior vice president for the ASPCA, suggests the following ways to make your cat's indoor environment as stimulating as the great outdoors, but also safe and healthy.

Litter Box and Litter Mat
Experiment with different litter boxes to find out which kind your cat likes better -- some prefer a covered environment while others, an open one. You might even get a mat to place right outside the litter box to ensure that your cat doesn't track excess litter throughout your home.

Make sure the opening to the litter box is nice and large so even a larger cat can get in easily. A cat should not have to struggle to fit into the litter box -- if your cat can't fit inside the box, it will surely find somewhere else in your house to do its business. Covered boxes are great if you have dogs in the house, who often consider cat poop attractive. It's also important to use one litter box per cat -- they, like humans, prefer privacy when using the facilities.

Litter boxes are available at catsrule.com/litterboxesandscoops; litter mats are available at catsrule.com/litter-mats.

Litter
It's important to keep your cat's litter box as clean and odor-free as possible. If your cat's litter box is not pleasant to the cat, it could lead to house soiling, which is a leading cause of cats being returned to shelters. There are lots of different litters on the market -- some are clumping (also known as "scoopable"), and some are non-clumping. It is important to find a litter that controls odor, like Fresh Step, which contains carbon. Carbon works to continuously eliminate odors, helping to keep your cat happy and your litter box smelling fresher. Scoop litter daily. For more information, visit freshstep.com.

Scratching Post
Cats need to scratch! It's a natural instinct to them. When a cat scratches, its old outer nail sheath is pulled off, and the sharp, smooth claws underneath are exposed. Provide a sturdy scratching post, at least 3 feet high, which will allow your cat to stretch completely when scratching. The post should also be stable enough that it won't wobble during use, and should be covered with rough material such as sisal, burlap, or tree bark. Many cats also like scratching pads. A sprinkle of catnip once or twice a month will keep your cat interested in her post or pad.

It's also important to cut your cat's nails every two to three weeks so they will be relatively blunt and less likely to harm the arms of both humans and furniture. Scratching posts are available at esmartcat.com/shopping/ultimate_scratching_post; scratching posts with a perch are available at esmartcat.com/shopping/ultimate_post_perch.

Climbing Tree
Similar to a scratching post, a cat climbing tree can be a great source of enjoyment for your cat. Cat trees usually include several resting platforms atop the "trunks" and can be covered in tree bark or carpeted. Placement near a sunny window or patio door guarantees enjoyment. Cat climbers are available at esmartcat.com.

Bunk Bed and Playroom
An all-inclusive toy with two spring toys and a comfortable quilted bed that your kitty can hide, sleep, and play in. The bunk bed and playroom is available at esmartcat.com.

Puzzle Toy
This wooden toy with holes will keep your cat mentally and physically engaged while it tries to find the treat hidden inside. Puzzle toys are available at esmartcat.com.

Catnip Toys
Cats love catnip -- more than 50 percent of felines go wild when they smell it. Catnip comes from the leaves of the Nepeta Cataria plant, and even scientists don't fully understand why felines respond to it the way they do. What they do know is that the reaction is caused by a chemical in the herb called transnepetalactone. A sprinkle of catnip once or twice a month will also keep your cat interested in his scratching post or climbing tree. Catnip toys are available at aspcaonlinestore.com.

Balls with Bells
Cats delight in stalking imaginary prey, so the best toys are those that can be made to jump and dance around and look alive. That way, your cat can safely act out his role as a predator by pouncing on toys instead of people's ankles. Many toys appeal to one or more of a cat's senses, entertaining the animal through movement and sound. Cat spinner ball toys are available at aspcaonlinestore.com.

Tunnel
Cat tunnels are great options for keeping your furry friend entertained. If you live in a small space, find one that folds up for easy storage. Cat play caves are available at aspcaonlinestore.com.

Resources
Special thanks to Jo Sullivan, senior vice president for the ASPCA, for sharing this information and giving gift bags to our studio audience. Special thanks to Fresh Step for giving boxes of cat litter and various cat goodies to our studio audience. Special thanks to Cats Rule and Smart Cat for providing items featured in this segment. For more valuable tips, click through these top tips for pet owners, and visit marthastewart.com/pets.

Comments (2)

  • MieshelleCatWhisperer 30 Sep, 2011

    We recommend staying away from covered boxes because of the porta-potty effect trapping smells causing litter box aversions. If you have dogs, a pet gate that has a kitty door at the bottom will allow your cat to get to the litter box, but not the dog. Food based litters create conflict for cats (not instinctual to eliminate in a food!) and are the top litters that cause the most litter box aversions. We recommend staying away from corn or wheat based litters to keep kitty in the litter box!

  • katgin 15 Apr, 2009

    Will you be posting the video segment of this portion of the show?