Indoor Cats

While exclusively living indoors is generally safer for our feline friends with less risk from viruses, vehicles, and vermin, it is not equivalent to living in a bubble. Woman with her two catsThe world inside four walls still contains many risks and health issues for our cats.

If keeping your indoor cat indoors is a challenge you may want to consider:

  • Safety Collars
  • ID tags
  • Microchips
  • Electronic fences- these can also be used indoors to designate what areas are off-limits inside your home.

The following are a list of things we have surgically removed from the gastrointestinal tract of cats. Do what you can to prevent your cat from ingesting small objects!

Common foreign bodies or ingestion of non-food objects are:

  • Nuts/pits
  • Strings/thread with sewing needles
  • Pieces of plastic
  • Carpet fibers
  • Parts of toys

Pills and house plants are also something cats might eat if given the opportunity. Acetaminophen, for example, is very toxic to cats. If you think your cat has consumed a pill call your vet or an emergency line with the drug information to determine what actions should be taken. Lilies are very toxic to cats and can cause severe illness and even death if ingested.

Annual exams are critical and consist of a head to tail examination, up to date weight, and looking at specific functions such as:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Teeth

Prevention is key. Yearly blood work, fecal, and urinalysis are beneficial in the early detection of organ function and other abnormalities. Cats specifically are good at hiding symptoms when they aren’t feeling well.

Close up of a flea on paper towelParasites such as fleas can become an issue for your indoor cat by coming in on other pets, such as dogs or outdoor cats, or can even come in on the clothing or belongings of people whose pets have fleas in the form of eggs or larva. Flea prevention should still be considered for indoor cats.

Your cat can get tapeworms from ingesting a flea or eating a rodent. The best way to avoid your cat contracting tapeworm is with flea prevention and routine deworming.

An initial vaccination series is administered to kittens before being spayed or castrated. To determine which vaccines are suitable for your pet, you should talk to your veterinarian as it will depend on your individual cat’s lifestyle.

Also, rabies vaccinations should be strongly considered for all pets. In North America, there have been several well-documented cases of indoor cats being exposed to rabid bats that travel indoors. While in Nova Scotia there is considered to be only a low level of rabies in our bat population, low risk is not any risk and rabies is a 100% fatal disease to anything that is infected by it and it is transmissible to people.

Cat in a cat play structureIf you have a cat, you already know the joys of cat hair. While I can’t tell you anything that will eliminate cat hair from every corner and every horizontal surface of your home, frequent brushing will help, as does bathing if your cat will allow it. Making sure that your cat is on a good quality diet and considering the addition of a good quality fatty acid supplement that contains omega three and omega six can also help improve coat and quality.

Regular nail trims are also necessary, as your indoor cat’s nails won’t wear on their own. The nails can become very overgrown and can even grow into the adjacent paw pad causing pain and infection.

By deciding to keep a cat indoors does limit that cat’s options for activity and stimulation. Indoor cats are more prone to issue like obesity, over grooming (hairballs), urinary tract and aggression/behavioural. There are various ways we can enrich the environment of our exclusively indoor cats such as:

Cats like options, give them a lot of options, for example, several places to hide, climb and sleep. Senior cat’s mobility becomes an issue, using the stairs and accessibility to areas may change.

Two cats playing together on a play structureAll cats will scratch. Your best option is to provide them with several scratching posts for designated scratching areas such as cat trees, shelves secured to walls, and windowsills. Cats also enjoy places to hide, like boxes, under beds, or behind couches.
Scratching posts are great for their nails and allow cats to stretch and to leave scent markers.

Mental and physical exercise is essential such as playtime, hunting for treats or puzzle toys. Toys can be on springs and strings for solo play.

Some stress reducers are Feliway sprays, diffusers, dark and/or quiet places.

As it turns out, litter boxes are a common reason for us seeing indoor cats. We recently placed some information about urinary issues. The general the rule is that you should have one more litter box then you have cats. That means if you have one cat you should have two litter boxes. Outdoor cats don’t always use the same place as their litter box. It’s all about options for your cat. Placement of your litter box is also important. You may think that the utility room is kind of a quiet private place for your cat litter box. What about when your pump has to run, or the central vac is turned on. If you were in there and in a compromised position when either of those loud noises started? I think you might be a little bit hesitant to go in there next time you needed to go.