6 ways to keep your indoor cat safe and happy

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Gray cat lounging on window ledge | How to keep your indoor cat happy and safe
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Mar 31 2015

A few weeks ago, I was awakened by a panicked text from my neighbor—her cat, Zipporah, had slipped out the front door unnoticed the night before and was missing. Now, in many situations, this wouldn’t be a super big deal. We live on a quiet cul-de-sac with very little traffic and no real predators. BUT, my neighbor’s cat is 15 years old and she’s a tiny little thing—and newly diagnosed with hyperthyroidism to boot. And have I mentioned how bitterly cold it’s been lately?

Whenever a pet is lost, my first question is: are they microchipped? This permanent form of identification saves lives and reunites families on a daily basis. Alas, Zipporah was not microchipped.

Just to make matters worse, the whole family was due to fly to Orlando for their first trip to see Mickey Mouse before sunrise the next day. As the sun began to set without a sign of Zipporah, I watched helplessly as hope turned to fear and sadness. And I have to admit that even though I kept a cheerful disposition, I was as worried as they were. The weather forecast was grim for the overnight hours and I was losing hope, too.

The next morning, the family set out for the happiest place on earth with an empty place in their hearts, and my own heart broke for them. Fifteen years of love were replaced with questions: Where is she? Is she ok? Is she scared?

Because cats are complicated creatures with their own agendas, Zipporah showed us all a thing or two when she turned up later in the day, just as my neighbors were wheels down in Orlando. She was hungry, but defiant—as if she were insisting to me that it was her idea all along to be outside for two very cold nights. I settled her in and made a very happy call to a very happy family.

This story has a happy ending (phew!), but so many do not. Zipporah serves as a perfect example for why indoor cats should be microchipped, too. Here is a cat who, for 15 years, lived a perfectly happy existence indoors but has now developed a wanderlust.

Did you know? By choosing a Petplan cat insurance policy with $15,000 or more in annual coverage, you can get reimbursed for the cost of advertising and a reasonable reward paid if your pet strays during the policy period. See policy terms and conditions for full details and limitations. 

The perks of keeping cats indoors

It’s natural for some cats to long for outdoor adventure, but if you’re a long time reader of this blog, you know that I really advocate for cats to live indoors. On average, indoor cats live longer, and since my business is helping your pet live longer, I’m rather a fan of keeping them indoors. Besides, just think of all the danger that lurks out there:

1. Predators (including dogs!)

2. Poisons and toxins (anti-freeze, for example)

3. Cars

4. External and internal parasites

5. Other cats—I’ve seen some nasty fight wounds over the years!

I do realize that there are some cats who are simply happier outside. Indoor cats can become bored, complacent, destructive and overweight. While I prefer all cats to be indoor cats, I concede that, despite the risks, a happy outdoor cat is better than a miserable indoor cat who urinates all over your belongings.

For these cats, and for all cats, microchips are a must. Breakaway collars are important, too, but if your cat gets into trouble and loses a collar, there goes his home address.

Create an enriching environment

You can do some things to enrich your indoor cat’s environment and stave off the boredom that might lead to deviousness:

1. Install a window perch/bed to bring your cat closer to nature.

2. Institute a daily exercise period. Five or ten minutes with a laser pointer will do wonders for you both.

3. Look for interactive toys—those that seem to move on their own will tempt your cat to play more often.

4. Cats love watching the world from above—try to create spaces in your home where your cat can perch above the fray.

5. Cats also love to scratch—make sure there are appropriate vertical or horizontal places for them to carry out this instinct.

6. Keep the litter box clean.

Even if you have the hippest cat joint ever, some cats will still want to wander. Zipporah reminds us that it only takes a split second for a pet to slip out the door and be lost forever. Don’t take it personally, but do be proactive—do everything you can to ensure a reunion should this happen to you.