7 Ways to Keep Your Indoor-Only FIV Cat Stimulated
7 Ways to Keep Your Indoor-Only FIV Cat Stimulated
If you have an FIV cat, then you’ve probably been told by a friend, a shelter staff, or perhaps your veterinarian that it’s best to keep them indoors. It’s true! Although most FIV cats are capable of living normal, disease-free lives for years, they’re still more vulnerable to sickness compared to other cats. Allowing them to go outdoors exposes them to all sorts of harmful pathogens that may not only cause severe health issues but also significantly shorten their lifespan.
What’s the main reason why cats want to go outdoors, anyway? To run, hunt, explore, and play, right? That’s why environmental enrichment is very important for cat owners with indoor-only cats. It keeps them physically active and mentally sharp, preventing behavioral issues, obesity, heart problems, and even age-related health concerns, like dementia. For FIV cats, the combination of staying safely indoors and the health benefits of proper stimulation can add months, even years, to their lives!
Do You Have a Cat Tree?
A cat tree is probably the best thing you can get your FIV cat. Aside from being basically an all-in-one product, cat trees provide cats something that most households don’t: vertical space. If you often find your cat scaling bookshelves and knocking stuff over in the process or chilling out on top of the refrigerator, then that’s because there’s not enough vertical space indoors.
Having an area where only they can reach is important for a cat’s well-being. It allows them to get away from any stressors, like rowdy kids or playful dogs, that may be present at ground level whenever they need to. For an indoor-only FIV cat, knowing there’s a cat tree they can retreat to anytime can make them feel safer and more comfortable, preventing feelings of fear, stress and anxiety. It also serves as an indoor playground where they can climb, play, and scratch without causing any trouble with the human family members. Additionally, in a multi-cat household, having the extra vertical space can help lessen territorial aggression between the cats.
What About Cat Shelves?
Cat shelves are great for widening your FIV cat’s vertical space. If you’re someone who likes interior decorating, then you’ll definitely enjoy adding these to your home. Cat shelves come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and styles, so there’s no need to worry about your home looking like a jungle gym. There are floating ones, too, if you have a limited amount of horizontal living space.
Outdoors, cats love climbing on top of tree branches, fences, and even rooftops. It’s in their nature. To keep an indoor-only FIV cat happy and contented, they should have everything that they need without needing to go out. That means it’s important that you mimic the outside environment, in short, bring the outdoors to them.
Having cat shelves in various areas around your home will encourage your FIV cat to be more active. You’ll see them climbing and jumping from one shelf to another, playing, and comfortably lounging above you. Plus, now that they have their own vertical hangout, they’ll probably leave your kitchen counter alone.
Don’t Forget About Scratching Pads and Posts!
Like climbing, cats need to scratch. It’s as natural to them as breathing. Outdoors, cats use their claws to mark their territory, and they’ll do it indoors, as well. If you find that your FIV cat often goes Wolverine on your leather couch, it’s not because they’re a bad cat—they’re simply doing it out of instinct.
Another reason why cats need to scratch is because it’s how they stretch and loosen up their muscles. They also do it to remove the worn-out layer of their claws and reveal the new, sharper layer underneath. Since scratching comes naturally to cats, it’s not something you can (nor should) stop. Instead, you can provide your FIV cat with the appropriate surfaces to scratch on and redirect the behavior accordingly.
Once you get a scratching pad or post for your feline friend, they may not use it immediately. However, with a little creative planning, and possibly a lot of bribing, they eventually will.
Use Interactive Cat Toys
Cats are natural-born hunters, and because of that, “hunting” is a very important kind of stimulation for them. Being able to hunt allows cats to release pent up energy, which helps curb behavioral issues, like biting and scratching. However, since outdoor hunting isn’t safe for your FIV cat, indoor playtime that involves interactive cat toys, like feather teasers, puzzles, tunnels, exercise wheels, or remote-controlled toys, is crucial to their overall well-being.
According to PetMD, it’s important for cats to have at least 10 to 15 minutes of playtime daily. If your cat has a lot of energy, then you can certainly go over 15 minutes. Interactive playtime sessions will not only help regulate your FIV cat’s temperament but will greatly improve their physical health and cognitive function.
Consider an Outdoor Enclosure
An outdoor enclosure will allow your FIV cat to go outside while remaining safe from harmful environmental factors. There are lots of outdoor playpens and enclosures to choose from online, but if you want to be more creative, you can also simply DIY your own catio. For inspiration, you can check out CatioSpaces.com or CatsSafeAtHome.com. If you want a custom-made catio but don’t want to build it yourself, both sites also offer catio construction services.
Do Some Training
Contrary to popular belief, cats are very trainable! They’re very intelligent creatures and with the right treats, they can learn some pretty awesome tricks. Training your FIV cat can help stimulate them mentally and keep their minds sharp and alert. You don’t have to teach them to jump through hoops (well, unless you want to) but just the mental stimulation of having to remember and associate words with the right movements can help improve your FIV cat’s brain function. You can start with something simple, like sit or come, then move on to something more complex as your cat masters more tricks. Using a clicker helps, too.
Adopt a Playmate
If your indoor-only FIV cat is a lone feline in the household, then getting them a playmate can certainly help keep them stimulated. You can adopt another cat, even one without FIV. Since FIV can only be transmitted through deep bite wounds, and not through casual activities, like grooming, sharing food bowls, or even play fighting, it’s not likely that the new cat will contract the virus as long as the two get along (and are fixed!).
However, if you don’t want to risk it, then adopting a canine companion for your FIV cat is also a great option. Just make sure that the two animals are friendly towards each other and that none of them are uncomfortable living together.