How to ‘catify’ your house to make it cat-friendly

grey cat sits on a cat tree indoors

Danny Baggs

Posted June 07, 2022

Is your cat as confident and happy as it could be at home? Here’s how to catify your home to keep it cat-friendly and ensure your kitty is having the time of its life – and not scratching at the couch.

According to Animal Medicines Australia’s 2021 report, Australians cared for 4.9 million pet cats last year: up 8 per cent from 2019. ‘Catification’ – adjusting your home to accommodate your cat’s needs as well as your own – is the key to keeping your household cat friend and your cat happy. Originally coined by cat behaviour expert Jackson Galaxy, catification allows your cat to safely and happily eat, drink, sleep, climb, play and perch throughout your home. It also positively affects cat-to-cat and cat-to-human relationships.

The best way to catify your house is to think about bringing the outdoors inside, according to Australian veterinarian and TV presenter Dr Katrina Warren, who we caught up with at Melbourne's annual Cat Lovers Show. “Think about things that a cat is going to do naturally when they're outside, such as climbing, perching in high places, or chewing on grass and how they do their toileting,” Dr Katrina said.

Proper catification can make an indoor cat’s life just as entertaining and stimulating as an outdoor cat’s. “I’m very big on indoor confinement for your cat’s own safety,” Dr Katrina explained. “So many outdoor cats get hit by cars, get into fights, get injuries... the lifespan of an outdoor cat is greatly reduced compared the average indoor cat. Making your cat indoor-only is the number one thing you can do to help your cat live longer.”


cat playing with a toy mouse on a cat tree

Cats need enrichment items like toys and scratchers to stay happy indoors. Image: Getty

How to make your home cat-friendly

Understand your cat’s personality

“There's a wide variety of personalities that you can get with cats,” Dr Katrina said. “Some are very outgoing, very active; others are pretty quiet, maybe a little lazy; some are very timid.” It’s important to understand and accommodate your cat’s unique personality to keep it comfortable and happy. “If you have a shy or timid cat, don't try and force it to come out with visitors. If you have a very outgoing, busy cat, then you need to keep it very stimulated,” Dr Katrina explained.

Create verticle progression

Cats love climbing up high and moving through rooms off the ground. Create instant roaming and perching space for your cat by installing floating shelves that create pathways along a wall. You could also rearrange your furniture so that your cat can make a continuous path around the room without having to jump down to the floor.

Give your cat a window view

Just like humans, cats love a good view. Indoor cats especially love the chance to watch the outside world. Pop a comfy blanket or cushion on your window ledge if it’s wide enough for your cat; if not, position their cat tree by the window. You could even invest in a cat perch window seat with suction cups, available from many pet shops. For bonus fun, install a bird feeder just outside the window and watch your cats chitter away at them.


gray cat sitting in windowsill

Cats love watching the world go by out a window. Image: Getty

Invest in a quality cat tree

“A quality cat tree satisfies a lot of ‘outdoor behaviour’ needs,” said Dr Katrina. These include a high place to perch, a covered section to lounge in privacy, a scratcher to work their claws on, and often a dangly toy to bat around. Note that ‘quality’ doesn’t have to mean ‘expensive’. Just look out for these features:

  • Tall – cats love perching up high and watching all that goes on in their kingdom. Many cats also like to stretch up to their full height for a good scratch. Ensure that your cat tree is taller than your cat at full height a flat section at its top for nesting.

  • Sturdy – climbing, jumping and intense scratching can topple flimsy cat trees. If the tree falls over or leans precariously during any of these activities, cats will avoid the potential danger. Make sure your cat tree has a wide, weighted base and sturdy attachments holding its parts together.

  • Scratch-friendly – “The right scratching posts are made from a rough material that they can scratch on,” said Dr Katrina. Cats have individual preferences when it comes to scratching: some prefer to scratch vertically, some horizontally, and some at an incline. Find out too whether your cat prefers to scratch at thick or tight sisal, jute, carpet, cardboard, cork or wood – you can purchase swatches to test. Buying a scratcher that matches your kitty’s preferences will encourage them to scratch appropriately – rather than at your couch.

Follow the litter box rule

The litter box rule is simple: get as many litter boxes as you have cats, then add one. That means two litter boxes for one cat, or three litter boxes for two cats.

“To create a comfortable litter box environment, test out some litter types and use a litter that your cat likes,” advised Dr Katrina. Choose litter that is soft, natural and unscented – crystals can hurt cat paws, and scented litter can be overpowering to sensitive cat noses. 

Other litter box tips include:

  • Avoid plastic liners so that your cats can freely scratch in their box to cover their waste. 

  • Place your litter boxes where there are multiple escape routes - cats will not want to go back to a box that they felt trapped in by a dog, child or another cat waiting for them at the entrance.

  • Scoop out solid waste once or twice a day with a poop scooper (one per box). Don’t make your cats walk over a minefield! You can purchase the kitty litter equivalent to a Diaper Genie if you don’t want to make the trip out to the rubbish bin every time.

Cat-proof your house

Cats are like toddlers that can scale walls. To keep your cats safe, make sure to keep the following toxins and dangers away from your cats:

  • Toxic plants – many common houseplants and bouquet flowers are highly toxic to cats. These include lilies, tulips, daisies, hyacinths, holly, poinsettias, rhododendrons and sago palms. “Lily plants are the number one no-no for cats,” said Dr Katrina. “All parts of the plant are toxic: leaves, flowers, pollen...and cats only need a little bit for it to be deadly.” Alternatively, spiky plants like cactus, aloe or Christmas tree needles (real or fake) can spear through a cat’s digestive system if ingested. Play it safe and stick to the cat grass!

  • Human food – cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they must eat meat to meet their nutritional needs. Their digestive systems are so specific that many human foods are considered toxic to cats – just like dogs. While most cat owners know not to let their cats sneak or beg human food, cats are very good at getting into places they shouldn’t go. Make sure never to leave food out on benches or tabletops. Secure your food away in cupboards that can’t be opened by your cats.

  • Medications – whether you have vitamins, over-the-counter medications, prescription meds or recreational drugs, these chemicals are formulated for adult human consumption. Keep your medications in a secure cabinet – secured with a child lock, if you need to.

  • Household chemicals – any kind of cleaning supplies, insecticides, auto products and so on can be deadly to cats. Antifreeze is a particularly insidious product, because it tastes sweet to animals. Stay away from rat poison too: your cat is likely to ingest it, either directly or by catching and eating an infected rodent. Keep all hazardous products locked away.

  • Electrical cords – aside from the obvious threat of electrocution, cats gnawing on electrical cords could also ingest the plastic insulation, which wreaks havoc on their sensitive digestive systems. To solve this issue, run your cords through cable management sleeves or PVC tubing, or book a licensed tradie to hide electrical cords behind your walls.

  • Blind cords – “When you have a kitten, you need to be super careful of cords that they can get tangled up in and strangle themselves,” said Dr Katrina. Gather up blind cords and knot them near the top of the window. Halfway down might protect human toddlers but is a dangly temptation for cats.

  • Ingestion hazards – like many animals, cats are prone to accidentally eating things they shouldn’t. While bits of ribbon, yarn, string and feathers are typical cat toys, they are dangerously ingestible. It’s fine to play with your cat using these types of toys; just put them away afterwards in a drawer or cupboard. Look out too for rubber bands, hair ties, nails, buttons and other tiny objects that cats might put in their mouths.

  • Unsecured furniture – cats jump and climb all over the place. If your furniture isn’t secured, you risk it falling on top of your furry friend if a jump knocks it off-balance. Try wall anchors or earthquake straps for instant protection. As a bonus, you can attack breakables displayed on shelves with museum putty to keep them in place when a cat is running past.

  • Heat sources – cats love warm surfaces, and sometimes they don’t think before they leap. Burner locks and burner covers can protect your cat from singing its paws on your stovetop. Make sure to check washing machines, dryers and dishwashers for snoozing cats before you turn these appliances on. Similarly, check the bonnet of your car a few times before you get in to scare out any feral or neighbourhood cats that have snuck into the engine for a warmer sleeping spot.


cat chewing on christmas tree needles

Christmas tree needles can be deadly if eaten by cats. Image: Getty

Spread their scent around

Cat paws have scent glands on their pads that leave a reassuring scent on soft objects like blankets and cat beds, or scratchy objects like scratching posts and carpet tiles. By spreading these ‘scent soakers’ around your house, you will increase your cat’s confidence as he constantly smells his own markings around his territory.

Avoid plastic food bowls

Plastic is porous, so it catches all kinds of bacteria. Many cats suffer from ‘chin acne’ thanks to rubbing against germy plastic bowls: itchy chins that they will rub and scratch raw to relieve. Stainless steel, ceramic or glass cat bowls are much more hygienic because they are all non-porous.

Get a water fountain rather than a water bowl

Does your cat attempt to drink from running taps? Many cats are drawn to running water, because their instincts tell them that running water is less likely to be contaminated than still (stagnant) water. Grab a water fountain to encourage cats to stay better hydrated and keep water stations away from food bowls and litter boxes to avoid any cross-contamination.


black and white cat snuggling in a blanket on a couch

Cats love to be warm and snuggly, so get them some of their own blankets. Image: Getty

Look for toys that mimic hunting

Remember that each cat will have its own preferences and therefore will prefer certain types of toys. Try getting an inexpensive multipack of toys and see which your cat always goes for. The best cat toys encourage your cat’s natural hunting instincts – spotting, catching and defeating their prey. These include:

  • Toy wands – also called ‘cat fishing rods’ or ‘cat teasers’, cat wands consist of a rod/wand and a string/tail, sometimes ending with a little mouse or fish. Cat wands are an excellent way to bond with your cat, as it requires both of you to play. Plus, the long tails keep your hands away from painful claws!

  • Cat tunnels – tunnels are a great dual-purpose toy that allows your furry friend to hide and cocoon as well as play in. You might even find that cats use them to ambush your feet or other cats!

  • Puzzle boxes – puzzle boxes stimulate your cat’s mind as well as their hunting instincts. Small toys or treats are hidden in a box covered in small holes; your cat has to figure out how to remove their prize without dropping it back inside. If your cat is an overly fast eater, you can pop their dry food inside to slow them down.

  • Roller circuits – these toys consist of a covered track with a ball inside that cats can poke their paw in to bat at, but not remove. Every bat will send the ball rolling around the track, in and out of cover. This design mimics a prey animal running and hiding, which cats may find very exciting.

  • Laser pointers – cats go crazy for darting laser lights. You can get inexpensive handheld laser pointers or high-tech automatic lasers with random movement patterns. It encourages cats to run all over the room, which makes it an excellent way to keep indoor cats fit and healthy.


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