"… somebody or something can only be "at home" when the profession lies outside" – Konrad Lorenz (on cats)
In the old days, people allowed their cats almost unlimited access to the great outdoors. These outdoor cats had a lot to learn and lots to keep them busy and on their toes – if they were to thrive and survive. They had to:
By necessity, the daily tasks of an outdoor cat riveted his attention and exercised his mind. An indoor-outdoor cat returns from outside excursions to "crash" in front of the fire or sleep it off in the master bedroom. Then, once his batteries are recharged and he has consumed a square meal, he departs again in search of adventure.
But there are dire consequences of this way of life. Outdoor cats are constantly exposed to danger and unneutered ones contribute to the unwanted feral kitten problem. Outdoor cats also run the risk of contracting serious or fatal diseases, or they may fall victim to trauma or predators.
Fortunately, well cared for cats are usually fully vaccinated, reducing their risk of picking up infections. They are also neutered or spayed, curtailing their wanderlust and stopping them from contributing to the unwanted cat population. But trauma and predators remain as significant risks, so many cats today are simply not allowed out at all. When denied access outside, cats do not have to run the gauntlet of mortal risk each day and live longer and healthier lives.
All this is very well for the doting cat owner – but what of the cat? Don't indoor cats lose something that only an outdoor life and independence bring? Not necessarily, it turns out, depending on the owner's savvy, energy and creativity. Confinement needn't be a barely tolerable imposition, as long as owners understand the challenges of their cats' indoor existence. Regarding indoor life for cats, owners have to ask themselves one question: "What's missing from this picture?" … and then they should set about replacing or recreating the missing elements.
The first step is to consider which aspects of an outdoor life an indoor environment fails to provide. Neutering totally eliminates reproductive urges, but there are plenty of other issues that need to be addressed if indoor cats are to find themselves suitably challenged and mentally stimulated.
Bringing the Outside Indoors
Kittens exercise themselves, but cats slow down as they mature. Make sure your indoor cat engages in a level of activity similar to that of an outdoor cat. Running, jumping and climbing are all activities that outdoor cats take in their stride. Providing indoor cats with climbing frames and encouraging them to chase moving toys are excellent ways to keep them lean and limber.
It is a cat owner's duty to provide mentally-stimulating environment for their pet(s). If they fail to do so, psychological problems can and do arise.