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Veterinary Viewpoints

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Veterinary Viewpoints

Celebrating Cats as Pets

While life outdoors is more unpredictable and some might argue, more interesting for cats, it is also clearly more dangerous.  Outdoor cats are at risk for predators such as coyotes, birds of prey, rattlesnakes and free roaming dogs.  Outdoor cats can get into fights with other cats or wildlife and spread diseases to one another. 

Cats can be taken for walks on a harness or ride in a cat stroller to give them some outdoor time.  They can also play in fenced areas or be given access to your screen porch. 

Like humans, cats can also be interested in creative indoor play activities.  I am told cats will watch TV, but my own cats only show an infrequent interest in television. 

Indoor living is far more predictable and safe. However, just as we know when we are cooped up indoors due to the weather or an illness, it can become monotonous. 

Bored cats may become mischievous chewing or climbing curtains, nibbling on house plants or scratching screens.  Cats like to hunt and pounce and perch. 

Here are ways to enrich a cat’s indoor environment:

  • Make or purchase a cat condo or cat tower.  Cats enjoy climbing up and viewing the world from their perch above the action.  These perches often provide scratching areas as well as sleeping pads.  This may also allow them to look out windows that are normally out of their reach.  Many of these cat towers offer a place to hide when the house activity is too much for your pet.
  • I usually keep cat toys in a basket and get them out for play time.  Just like children, cats can become bored with a toy that is available all the time so rotate the toys.
  • There are many interactive toys on the market.  Many cats like laser toys.  We have a “fishing pole” with feathers attached that our cats really enjoy.  Catnip filled mice that can be tossed across the room or hidden are interesting to many cats.  From a cat’s point of view those stale mice toys have already been killed—put them away for periods of time and get them back out again in a few weeks.
  • An empty box can create weeks’ worth of fun for cats.  Boxes can be placed upside down with “mouse holes” in the sides for cats to reach inside for hidden treats.  Move the box around the house and consider placing small amounts of catnip or toys in the box.
  • Cats are equally delighted with paper bags.  You may need to expand your grocery shopping to include stores that still provide paper bags.
  • My cats entertain themselves with pieces of egg crate.
  • My cats loved to chase ping pong balls across the wood floor.  They also like to play with the plastic tops from milk jugs.
  • Outdoor bird feeders can provide entertainment for both the humans and the cats in the house.
  • Rather than putting all the dry food out once a day, reserve some of the dry food to hide in their box, on their perch or toss across the floor for cats to chase.  Food dispensing toys are available for cats as well. 

Cats were born to chase, pounce and capture.  However, no toy you leave on the ground or hanging from a door knob is as interesting as toys you move about in unpredictable ways. 

Play is good exercise and an appropriate emotional outlet for your cats.  Play enhances our bond with our pets.  Play sessions do not need to be long but try to make time to play with your cats daily.  Remember to wind down your play time so at the end your purr machine chooses to snuggle up on your lap.

by Elisabeth J. Giedt, DVM


Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital.  Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species and 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year.

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