How to create a cat-friendly home
Creating the perfect environment for your cat is really important for their health and happiness. There are lots of things you can do to make your house cat-friendly and safe for your four-legged friend.
We all know how important our homes are, only it’s much easier for us to make changes than it is for our cats! Sometimes, if your cat is unhappy with their home or surroundings, they may well choose to live elsewhere. Cats have very particular requirements which is why it’s so important to make sure you’re providing for all of their needs.
Because our cats can’t tell us if something is wrong, we have put together some advice on creating the best home for your cat to keep them happy and stress-free.
What do cats need to be happy?
At the very least, you’ll need to legally provide for your cat’s 5 Welfare Needs. This includes:
- Health. You’ll need to make sure your cat is healthy at home. This means keeping an eye on them to make sure they aren’t showing any signs of becoming unwell and keeping stress to a minimum. Make sure you’ve budgeted for veterinary treatment in case the unthinkable happens. We would always advise insuring your cat so you know you are covered as it takes a huge weight off your mind.
- Behaviour. Your cat should have lots of opportunities to be able to express their natural behaviours (e.g. scratching and ‘hunting’).
- Companionship. Cats love routine, so they prefer the company of a small, familiar group of people. We wouldn’t recommend keeping more than one cat together as this can be stressful for them.
- Diet. You’ll need to feed your cat a complete, commercial diet that is right for their weight and age. This will help to keep them the right weight and prevent them from getting obese, which increases their risk of certain diseases.
- Environment. Obviously, giving your cat the best home possible is really important for their health and wellbeing! Cats need lots of space to explore and play and plenty of toys to keep them occupied. They also need a safe, quiet place where they can cat-nap to their hearts content.
As a general rule, one of the most important things to keep in mind to keep your cat happy at home is their ‘resources’. By this, we mean their food, water, bed and litter tray. Your cat should have one of each of these, plus one spare, which also applies if you have more than one cat. The easiest way to think of it is one item per cat in the household, plus one spare. If cats have to share their resources with other cats, this can be a serious cause of stress for them. This stress can make them poorly. Just think of how frustrated you might get if you had to wait for the bathroom or drink from the same glass as somebody else. Also, cats are naturally clean animals and really appreciate their litter tray being fresh, clean and again, one litter tray per cat, plus one! Your cat’s environment should be a safe haven for them, comfortable and suitable for their needs.
Providing the perfect cat home – the basics
There are several things you can do to make sure your home is somewhere your cat feels at home, too. Where you put their things is just as important as making sure they have enough of everything so keep this in mind.
Where to put your cat’s resources
Where your set up your cat’s feeding, water, toilet and sleeping areas is very important to them. Firstly, these should all be in separate places (after all, you wouldn’t want to go to the toilet near your food and neither does your cat!). Ideally their food will be somewhere away from any doors to the outside, so they don’t feel threatened or worry that another cat is going to come in and steal their food. Their water needs to be kept in a separate place to their food, because in the wild they wouldn’t eat and drink in the same place and our domestic cats also prefer to have these resources separate, too.
Your cat’s sleeping and toileting areas should be separate (for obvious reasons!) and should each be in a different place from their food and water. Both spaces should be fairly quiet areas of the house and their sleeping areas should be somewhere fairly warm and out of any draughts. Remember, cats often like to be high up, so they may prefer a sleeping area set up on wall mounted cat shelves or on the sofa, where they can feel safe and keep an eye on their surroundings.
Playtime and toys
You should make sure you provide plenty of toys for your cat and rotate them regularly so they don’t get bored. Cats are natural hunters, so the more you play with them the better (and if you have an outdoor cat, more playtime inside may deter them from bringing you ‘gifts’!). Make sure you provide a couple of good quality scratching posts for your cat to redirect them from clawing your furniture – scratching is a natural behaviour for cats so they need somewhere they can do this safely.
Playing with your cat is really important for their health, too, because it keeps them active and stops them gaining weight. It will also help the two of you bond and is especially important if you have an indoor cat. A bored cat is an unhappy cat, so playing with them will provide lots of stimulation to keep their brain active. Naturally, cats are at their liveliest at dawn and dusk, so it may be a good idea to schedule playtime in then.
You’ll also need lots of levels for your cat to explore. In the wild, jumping and climbing is part of everyday life for cats and our domestic moggies love it just as much. If you don’t want your cat to jump in certain places, you can help to redirect them, but always make sure they have an alternative. Multi-tiered cat scratchers can provide a great place for your cat to survey their kingdom from, with the added bonus of providing extra posts they can scratch.
Access to the outdoors
Most cats love being outside – there’s lots to explore, new things to sniff, space to run around and plenty of opportunities to keep themselves entertained. You may find that outdoor cats will often get a lot of their exercise when they’re out and about exploring, so it really helps to keep them fit and healthy.
If you can, you should install a cat flap to allow your cat to come and go as they please. This will give them the independence all cats love and make sure they’re free to come inside if and when they need to. If you’re worried a cat flap will encourage other neighbourhood cats to come into your house (and potentially steal your cat’s food or cause them stress) you can install a microchip cat flap that only your cat can use.
We understand that it’s not always possible to give your cat free range of the great outdoors. You may need to supervise your cat’s outdoor activities or you may have to keep them indoors for medical reasons. If this is the case, it’s still really important that your cat gets enough exercise. You may want to consider installing a ‘catio’ or something similar where your cat can explore outside in a secure environment.
Their own space
Cats are solitary animals and very independent, which is why it’s important that your cat can have their own space. Setting up quiet areas for your cat can really help them and give them somewhere to escape to if they need a bit of alone time.
Although your cat will enjoy your company, you need to let them come to you for fuss and attention. Cats very much prefer things ‘on their terms’ and won’t appreciate being cuddled if they’re trying to have quiet time. It can be hard not to make a big fuss of your cat, but if they go to their quiet area it’s really best to leave them alone.
Your cat may also be aloof with unfamiliar people. Again, don’t force them to spend time with new people if they don’t want to – it may take them a while to get used to them and accept them as part of their little social bubble.
Anyone who owns a cat knows they are creatures of habit! Cats love routine and familiarity. Often big changes and new situations can be stressful if they’re not introduced slowly and your cat isn’t given time to get used to them.
If you can, it’s best to keep your cat to the same routine every day. Try to keep feeding times the same every day and during holidays when you’re at home more. Although your cat will like familiarity, you’ll still need to provide them with new objects and toys to explore so they don’t get bored. Leave empty cardboard boxes out for them to explore before you recycle them to give your cat a bit of easy entertainment.
A safe home
Cats are very curious and will explore everything they can physically get to. While this shouldn’t be discouraged because it’s normal cat behaviour, you need to make sure they can explore safely. Anything that may make your cat ill should be locked away securely so your pet can’t get to it.
Your garden will need to be safe for your cat, too. Make sure any hazards are removed and pay close attention to the flowers and plants because not all of them are safe for cats.
Our top tips for a cat-friendly home
- Make sure your cat has enough food bowls, water bowls, sleeping and toilet areas that are all set up away from each other in quiet and secure areas.
- Keep any cleaning products or things that could harm you cat out of paws’ reach.
- Give your cat a few quiet areas they can go when they want some space.
- Try to keep to a regular routine as best you can.
- Playtime can be really important for your cat’s mental and physical health.
- Natural behaviour shouldn’t be discouraged – if they are scratching or jumping on the wrong things, give them a cat-safe alternative.
- Provide lots for your cat to explore so they don’t get bored.
- A microchip cat-flap can be a good way to make sure unfamiliar cats can’t come into your house and upset your cat.
- Don’t forget to cat-proof your garden by removing plants that could harm your cat.
- Keep an eye on your cat for signs of stress and visit your vet who can help you both with reducing stress.