In years gone by it was normal for Australian pets to live outdoors – dogs had a kennel in the backyard and cats were free-roaming. These days our pets are very much part of the family and typically spend most, if not all their time indoors.

I’m a big supporter of keeping cats indoors, they’re the perfect pet for smaller spaces like apartments and it’s an easy way to keep them safe and healthy. Confined cats tend to live longer because the risks associated with infectious diseases, fighting with other animals and motor vehicle accidents are reduced. Following are some of my favourite strategies to keep indoor cats happy.

Cat-friendly Spaces

There are a number of structural features that help make a space work for cats. These include contained inner courtyards & atriums, access to direct (but not unavoidable) sunlight and enclosed balconies. Some balconies can be easily modified with a screen or netting to enclose them, enabling cats to have free access in your absence.

Maximise Space

Quality of the space is more important for cats than the quantity.  Quality doesn’t mean luxury, it means a comfortable, safe, enriched space. Ideally cats should have access to as much of your house or apartment as practicable.  The more space there is the more choice there is for the cat to decide where they want to be and to make themselves comfortable.  More choice = happier cats.

Create an indoor garden

Bring the outdoors indoors by providing a few cat safe potted plants for your cat to enjoy – be sure to include Cat Grass and Cat Nip – most cats love it.

Provide climbing opportunities

Cats love to be elevated and love to climb. Partition walls or cut outs in walls can provide great climbing opportunities and increase available three-dimensional space. Simple shelves can create a cat ladder or furniture can be strategically placed to allow a cat to access higher spots.


Many cats enjoy a vantage point such as a sunny window ledge where they can sit and watch the world go by. If your window wills aren’t wide enough try placing furniture alongside the window to provide a view.  Or attach a shelf to the existing narrow sill – a simple structure with a shelf and angle brackets can work well.


Like humans, cats benefit from exercise, so don’t forget to provide a scratching post, plenty of toys and play with your cat regularly. Try teaching your cat from a young age to walk on a harness, this can provide a safe way to spend some time together enjoying the outdoors.

Written by Dr Katrina Warren

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