The at-home lifestyle every cat needs

Condos to catios, the many options for a safe-at-home lifestyle

“Did you know two in three cat owners have lost a cat in a roaming-related accident?”

Do you and your cat share a cottage, caravan, apartment, share-house, duplex, house, or farm? No matter what your situation, there are many different practical and affordable options to keep your cat safe at home.

You can protect your cat from being hit by a car, from catching disease and parasites, from getting lost or stolen, or injured in cat fights and dog attacks by preventing them from roaming away from home. The good news is you can meet all your cat’s needs at home! Your cat’s at-home lifestyle can be full of enriching activities that keep them happy, healthy, fit and active.

While it’s easiest to start from the very beginning when you first bring home a new cat or kitten, any cat can transition to an at-home lifestyle with some patience and planning. Find out more here.

The three main options are:
1) exclusively indoors
2) indoors with an outdoor enclosure, or
3) indoors with an outdoor space surrounded by an escape-proof fence.

 

 

  1. Exclusively indoors

Keeping your cat exclusively indoors is often the easiest and cheapest option. Even a small home can be fun and interesting for your cat by making the most of vertical space and offering opportunities to interact and play.

You can provide for all your cat’s needs within your home, including different areas for eating and drinking, sleeping, hiding, toileting, scratching, and playing. You can create different levels for your cat using furniture, shelving and scratching posts. If you install cat-proof fly screens, windows and doors can be opened for your cat to safely enjoy outdoor sights, smells and sounds without escaping.

Make sure you can check all these boxes:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Scratching posts
  • Litter trays
  • Hideouts with soft bedding, including some that are up off the ground (e.g., cupboard, box, open cat carrier)
  • Chances to climb (e.g., shelves, on top of furniture, climbing posts and platforms)
  • Play time including opportunities to stalk, chase, pounce and catch toys and treats
  • Human-cat interaction (e.g., patting, grooming)

Download our handouts What your cat needs at home and Enrichment for more information.

  1. Indoors with an outdoor enclosure

Providing a secure outdoor enclosure is a great way of keeping your cat happy and safe at home. An enclosure (e.g., a catio) can be attached to your cat’s indoor space (e.g., via a window or cat flap) allowing them to choose where they spend their time. If you have a balcony or veranda which can be made escape-proof, this is a great option. Alternatively, if you have the space, you could build a free-standing enclosure (e.g., cat condo).

When designing an outdoor enclosure, you want to make it an attractive and comfortable place for your cat. In the enclosure, your cat will need essential resources including food, water, more than one litter tray, a variety of platforms at different heights, scratching posts, and adequate protection from the weather (e.g., sun, rain, wind, extremes of heat and cold). Providing places for your cat to hide in the enclosure is essential as it will help them feel safe and secure.

To keep your cat and other animals safe, any type of outdoor enclosure needs to be escape-proof (to prevent your cat getting out) and animal-proof (to prevent other animals getting in). It needs to be located somewhere safe, where other animals (e.g., dogs and other cats) will not be a threat. Ideally, your cat should be protected from seeing other animals that may scare them (e.g., dogs over the next-door fence). It is also recommended to keep bird feeding stations away from the enclosure – watching the birds but not being able to get to them can be very frustrating!

 

Need inspiration? Visit catnets.com.au

 

  1. Indoors with an outdoor space surrounded by an escape-proof fence

There are many ways of escape-proofing your backyard including fence products and systems that can be retrofitted over an existing patio or backyard.

  • Modify an existing fence – If you have an existing continuous solid fence around your backyard, you can modify the top of the fence to stop your cat gaining purchase and climbing over. You can achieve this using rolling cylinders, smooth metal or plastic sheeting, or inward-inclining wire. To prevent other cats coming into your garden, you will need to install these on both sides of the fence.
  • New fence – Alternatively, you can set up a new solid fence with an escape-proof top or use netting to create an escape-proof and animal-proof space.

While you still need to take steps to reduce risks that your cat might face in your backyard, escape-proof fencing allows your cat the best of indoor and outdoor living.

Mind the gap. Regularly check for potential escape routes (e.g., gaps in the fence, around gates, where fences meet buildings, overhanging trees). If you have any trees close to the fence, a simple way to stop cats climbing is to fix a smooth metal or plastic band around the trunk at least two metres off the ground.

A cat contained in a backyard may still kill or injure wildlife. You can reduce this risk by fitting your cat with a bell or ‘scrunchie’ collar, keeping your cat inside when wildlife is most active, and minimising wildlife attractants (e.g., plants, food or water sources that may attract wildlife).

  1. Supervised play time and Adventures on a harness might not suit every cat, and will require some careful training and time to get used to, but can be very enriching for some cats where a catio is not an option.

 

For more information, speak to your veterinarian and visit:

RSPCA NSW and Zoos Victoria Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife ‘Cat Hacks’ (2018)
RSPCA Australia guide ‘Keeping Your Cat Safe and Happy at Home’ (2019)
Our downloadable resource – Enrichment: Help your cat live their best life at home

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Keeping Cats Safe at home Project FAQs

  • Keeping Cats Safe at Home a ground-breaking RSPCA NSW project running over four years
  • It will work with 11 councils across NSW to provide cat lovers with the inspiration, motivation and information needed to help their cats live long, healthy and enriched lives
  • Keeping Cats Safe at Home aims to encourage and support cat owners to prevent their cats from roaming away from their properties both to keep cats safe and to protect native wildlife.
  • The project will create tailored toolkits for 11 partner council areas across NSW as well as resources to equip cat lovers everywhere with the knowledge and skills to help their cats live their best life at home
  • Social science and ecology research will be undertaken to monitor the effectiveness of the campaign so we can apply what we learn in other locations in NSW and further afield
  1. Blue Mountains City Council
  2. Byron Shire Council
  3. Campbelltown City Council
  4. City of Parramatta
  5. Hornsby Shire Council
  6. Kyogle Council
  7. Northern Beaches Council
  8. Shoalhaven City Council
  9. Tweed Shire Council
  10. Walgett Shire Council
  11. Weddin Shire Council