Keeping your house cat and your home happy

Three and a half years since the passing of our last cat, and four years of living between houses with dogs, I was eager to welcome a cat to the family again. My father lives alone and has a limited social life. He confessed he had been considering adopting an older female cat and this was the birth of Project Surprise Feline!

After a few questionable communications with owners looking to rehome their cat, and the inability to arrange visits with the RSPCA, I made the decision to buy two female kittens. This was greatly influenced by the fact that my father has a long working week – the kittens would keep each other company during the day. A week after placing a deposit on two healthy balls of fluff, I arrived home with them. My dad was overjoyed when he saw them frantically swatting at the toys hanging from their scratch post!

This experience was unlike any we’d had before; not just because we had two young cats join the family at the same time, but also because we wanted them to be house cats. Our house is close to a busy road in the town centre, and giving them free reign wasn’t an option for us. Having a house cat does come with its challenges – furniture can take the brunt of climbing skills development, woodwork can be scratched and the animal is at risk of getting bored of its surroundings. The following advice can have a very positive impact on issues that might arise.

Entertain your cats curiosity
Cats, especially young cats, need a lot of stimulation. Although they can and do find plenty of ways to entertain themselves, keeping their attention focused on dedicated playthings is important if you want to keep your home in check. Our cats loved climbing the doors and defying gravity by using the beams in the ceiling as a climbing wall! Introducing large platforms with several levels and hanging toys is essential for deflecting this kind of behaviour. Creating platforms from stacked storage boxes and laying sheets or blankets over them is a great option for those on a budget or anyone living in a smaller property. Boxes and blankets can be reorganised into hide and seek dens. Regularly changing the placement of toys, scratch posts and platforms keeps them interested in their surroundings. More ambitious and DIY savvy owners can create platforms by attaching them to the walls.

Protect your belongings
Keeping wires tidy is essential if you want to make your house safe, especially for kittens. Kittens explore their surroundings with their mouths in the same way babies do and dangling wires are always a desirable play option for a cat. Provide them with soft toys to chew on. Many new owners worry that furniture will become covered in hair and scratched up. This can be kept under control by covering soft furnishings in blankets that are washed regularly and keeping scratch posts nearby. Consider replacing long curtains with blinds – these are much harder to climb and don’t require a curtain rail.

Enjoy outside inside
Just because you have a house cat, you don’t need to deprive them of all the benefits of the outside world. Our cats love to sunbathe! Giving them access to a conservatory or sunny windowsill keeps them happy. Cats love to observe what’s going on around them, so let them people watch from the window or a platform on the landing near the stairs. Make sure you can’t trip over it! It’s also important for both you and your cat to get enough fresh air, so make sure you air rooms when they’re off on an adventure in another part of the house. Creative owners have even built contained platforms that sit on the outside wall and are accessed by the cat from the inside.

Keeping your cat healthy
Don’t assume you can bypass health precautions by keeping a house cat – always keep vaccinations up-to-date and make sure parasite prevention is renewed every month. It’s possible other pets or animals that visit the home will bring fleas or infectious diseases with them. Keep treats in a secure place – one of our cats is highly skilled at slicing open the packaging! I once woke up to find an entire bag of catnip evenly scattered across the living room carpet!

Embrace their personality
Cats, like people, have varied and unique personalities. One sister is more boisterous and energetic, the other is calmer and prefers softer strokes. What amazes me more are the similarities; both wants lots of attention, enjoy being picked up, clean each other and rub their faces against ours as a sign of trust and affection. When they’re anxious, they lick their lips repeatedly. Know your cat by dedicating time to bonding. Respond to their body language. This will help your cat gain trust and feel comfortable in their new home. Work out your cat’s favourite places and exploit them. If your cat is timid, don’t push them and force your affections on them. Our quieter cat came out of her shell when we gave her some space to explore and familiarise herself with her surroundings. Always allow for a quiet spot they can run to if they get frightened.

Keeping a house cat can seem a challenge at first, but it can be made much easier by making simple changes. Adopting a new cat is an adventure for both you and your pet – let your surroundings reflect that. Prepare the home for them before they arrive and you can be sure you’re already well on your way to having a very happy cat and a very happy home!