Keeping cats inside can help them live longer safer lives by avoiding hazards, such as animal attacks, being hit by cars and dangerous diseases, like Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.  

According to UC Davis, indoor cats live an average of 10-15 years, while outdoor cats live an average of 2-5 years. 

However, sometimes cats express normal feline behaviors inside the house such as spraying, scratching furniture and climbing which can cause stress in the home.  

There are several ways to modify your cat’s home environment to make it as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

A common complaint some cat owners have is inappropriate elimination, or using the bathroom outside of the litter box.  Some medical issues can cause this so your cat should always see your veterinarian first if this a concern.  

Non-medical recommendations include:

Spay or neuter your kittens to reduce the likelihood of spraying later in life.  

• Offer one litter box per cat plus one extra (i.e 2 cats = 3 litter boxes).  

• Put litter boxes in quiet, private, convenient locations.  Cats will often avoid using the litter box if there is excessive noise (i.e. running washing machine) or if there is a chance someone will bother them while they are in the box.  

• Keep a litter box on every floor of your house, especially for older cats that may have arthritis.  

Generally, cats prefer large litterboxes without a top and fine-grained, unscented litter, but since this can vary offer your cat multiple types of boxes and litter to see what they prefer.  

Scoop the litterbox at least daily and do a full litter change and wash the box with mild detergent at least weekly.  

Provide plenty of fresh, clean drinking water.  Offer multiple water bowls, running water (i.e. cat fountain), and/or filtered water to encourage more water intake.  Chronic dehydration can lead to bladder and kidney issues which may cause inappropriate urination as well as other health problems.

Another common complaint is that cats scratch furniture. Scratching is a normal behavior for cats, so they need appropriate scratching surfaces.

Most cats prefer vertical scratching posts that are very sturdy (think similar to a tree) with material they can shred.  Other cats prefer to scratch horizontal surfaces so it is helpful to offer both options.  

Scratching posts should be in an easily-accessible area in which your cat enjoys spending time. Several scratching posts in different locations are helpful for multiple cat households. 

Sometimes stress can lead to behaviors such as hiding, scratching and urine spraying.  

Adding feline pheromones such as Feliway to the environment can help.  Feliway is available as a diffuser plug in, spray and wipe.  The wipe can also be used in your cat’s carrier during stressful events such as car rides.  

Opportunities to look out of windows, watch animals on television or look at a fish tank can help lower stress at home.  Make sure the fish tank has a secure top that your cat can’t open.  Cats also enjoy playing with a variety of toys.  Ensure there is nothing they could accidentally swallow, including string or ribbon which can be especially dangerous. 

Providing cats with a safe place to sleep is also important. Some cats prefer to sleep up high in cat trees while others prefer comfortable beds or blankets.  

For more information on prolonging your cat’s life by keeping them safely indoors and providing the best indoor environment for your feline friend, please visit indoorpet.osu.edu or consult your veterinarian.  

Dr. Barbara C. Harris works at Animal Medical Center of South Boston, a full-service small animal clinic that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.