How To Keep Indoor Cats Healthy And Stimulated

Indoor cats can get all the exercise and stimulation they need. Here’s how.

A kitten on a scratching post for a piece on how to keep indoor cats stimulated and happy

(Photo: iStock)

If you think indoors cats are somehow missing out, think again. With proper attention and stimulation, indoor cats can get all the entertainment and exercise they need. Plus, experts agree that keeping cats indoors is the best thing for them and the environment. Indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats, and they don’t pose a risk to birds and other native wildlife.

So whether you already have an indoor cat or are transitioning an outdoor cat to live indoors, here’s how to keep your kitty fit and stimulated.

Give your cat supervised outdoor time

A cat doesn’t have to be free-roaming to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, a cat can be just as much an outdoor companion as a dog is.

“There are lots of ways for cats to get to enjoy the great outdoors without free-roaming or being destructive or being at risk from significant accidents,” says Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury, a veterinarian in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Make a catio

A “catio” (cat patio) is an enclosure that lets your cat enjoy the outdoors in safety. You can buy a catio, have one custom made, or build your own. Access can be through a window, a door, a wall cut, or even a tunnel. You can also turn an existing porch into a catio by enclosing the space with a screen. Jazz up your catio with perches, scratching posts, fountains—anything to make the space fun and interesting.

Walk your cat on a leash

Leashes aren’t just for dogs—you can train your cat to walk on a leash. Whether your cat wants to laze about on the grass or go on an adventure, a leash and harness opens up a whole new world for you and your pet. In fact, some people are taking their “adventure cats” on trips all over the world.

“Wear” your cat in a cat backpack

You can take your cat just about anywhere in a cat backpack. Made specifically for cats, these backpacks have ventilation holes, leash clips, and lots of space. This is a great option for long hikes or trips, and if you have your cat on a harness and leash, they can hop out and get some exercise when the opportunity arises. Some backpacks have screens, little bubble windows, others are completely clear, so your cat gets a first class view…Here are some tips for getting your cat used to a cat backpack.

Take your cat for a stroll

If kitty would rather chill, a pet stroller is a great way to give your cat a change of scenery and some fresh air. Cats can be trained to sit in the stroller, and many quite enjoy it. Plus a top zips up to keep kitty from hopping out. Many pet strollers have large storage compartments, so you can even take kitty grocery shopping with you.

Enrich your indoor environment

“There are ways to make the inside of your house interesting enough for your cat that they’re not missing out by not going outside,” says Brown-Bury.

Puzzle feeders

Don’t just pour kibble into a dish—make feeding fun for your cat with a puzzle feeder, a contraption that challenges your cat to “hunt” for food without killing a thing. Puzzle feeders come in various shapes and sizes—balls, eggs, wheels, tubes or boxes with multiple compartments. You can buy puzzle feeders online or reuse items around the house to make your own puzzle feeder.


There are enough interactive cat toys on the market to keep your cat entertained for a lifetime. There are wands, teasers, ball chasers, battery-operated toys that move around and light up, and even lasers. For something eco-friendly you can find handmade toys fashioned out of natural materials like cork, wool and corn husks. And you can’t go wrong with plush toys and mats stuffed with catnip. Cats can express their hunting instincts without killing a thing.

Scratching posts

Cats have a natural urge to scratch. Scratching keeps their claws sharp, stretches their muscles, and marks their territory. Once they find a favourite spot to scratch, they will keep returning to it—so better a scratching post than your furniture. There is a cat scratcher for every personality, from posts to loungers to wall-mounted boards.

Cat trees

Cats love to be up high where they can survey their territory, and cat trees offer a place to perch—that isn’t on your kitchen counter. Cat trees also promote exercise from climbing and jumping, and they give cats a place that’s all their own. (Cats need space too.) Cat trees can be as simple as a platform or as elaborate as a cat condo, with several levels that offer variety or accommodate multiple cats.

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