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Sep 05 2014

Environmental Enrichment for Cats

black and white cat playing with a toy

September is Happy Cat Month, and we want to dedicate this time to celebrating our cats, especially those that spend most or all of their time indoors. While they remain protected from dangers such as cars, weather, disease, and predators (Did you know that indoor cats live an average of 15 years longer than outdoor cats?), their instincts still tell them to play and hunt as they would do in the wild. Without the proper enrichment, these inquisitive creatures are prone to becoming bored, depressed, or sick. They may even decide to take matters into their own hands (er, paws) in ways such as scratching on your furniture. With the following tips, however, you can help keep your feline friend bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for years to come!

The Basics

Make sure to bring your cat to the vet for regular exams. Healthy cats are happy cats! As cat guardians ourselves, we understand that a trip to the vet can be stressful for both you and your cat, but having the peace of mind that your cat is just as healthy on the inside as they seem to be on the outside definitely outweighs the hassle of the visit. (If you have trouble getting your cat into their carrier, check out our article “I Can’t Get My Cat Into Their Carrier!”)

At home, make sure to always provide adequate space, food/water, and litter box accommodations as well.

Enrichment

Bring in the Outdoors

  •   Cat Grass/Catnip – Place a few pots of cat grass and/or cat nip around the house for your cat to enjoy. Just be sure to avoid any toxic plants.
  • Perches – Provide perches by windows and on shelves (via cat furniture). Cats enjoy sitting in high places not only because they’re predators but because of their survival instincts as well. Having the option to rest on top of a cat shelf (or cat furniture) allows them to survey their territory and makes them feel safe.
  •  Outdoor Enclosures – If your home allows for it, consider building a secure outdoor enclosure (or, as we like to call them, “catios“). This can be done with existing structures, like a screened-in porch, or you can build one of your own. Typically, your cat could gain access to it through a cat door or window.

Create Solo Diversions

  •   Scratching Posts – Place scratching posts and/or scratching pads around your home for your cat to scratch. This is especially helpful if your cat has a current favorite, but inappropriate, spot to scratch (i.e. your sofa). If this is the case, try placing a scratching post in the place that she is used to scratching in order to retrain her to use the scratching post. You can even make the change more enticing with a sprinkle of cat nip.
  • Toys – Offer a variety of toys and rotate them every so often to keep your cat interested in them. The pet store offers an array of great products, but if you like DIY’s, then you can make your own too.
  • Exploration – Provide opportunities for exploration. Cats are curious creatures, and they love to discover new things. You can appeal to this trait by creating lots of ways for your kitty to explore around your home. Even simple items such as paper bags and cardboard boxes (as well as many types of cat furniture) can help keep her entertained.
  • Hunting – Cats are hunters, and just because they live indoors doesn’t mean that they can’t take advantage of their natural instincts. For example, rather than just allowing your cat to graze on their food throughout the day (which can lead to overeating), let her “hunt” for a portion of it. You can invest in some food dispensing toys or just hide food/treats in areas throughout your home for her to find.
  •  Water Fountains – Introducing a pet water fountain can not only help them from becoming dehydrated but add some environmental enrichment too, especially since cats tend to prefer running water. (Ever catch your kitty drinking out of a facet or the bathtub?) Also, ensuring that your cat is well hydrated promotes kidney function, cushions and lubricates the joints, helps internal temperature regulation, and speeds recovery time.

Rest and Relaxation

  •  Resting Areas – Make sure that your kitty has a peaceful and comfortable place to rest where she will feel safe (i.e. out of reach for small children, etc.)
  • Feliway – Available both in a diffuser or a spray, Feliway is an odorless vapor that mimics a natural calming pheromone that all cats produce. It helps keep your kitty calm and relaxed and is especially helpful in reducing urine marking and scratching as well as during times of change within the home, travel, or going to the veterinarian or groomer. (Have you ever noticed that here at Cat Care Professionals, we use Feliway in all of our rooms?

Interaction

The best kind of enrichment for your cat is the time that you spend with them. Spend at least 20 minutes a day playing, petting, grooming, or even training your feline friend. This not only stimulates them physically and intellectually, but it helps to strengthen the bond between you two. Whatever you choose, it’s one of the best ways to care for your cat and keep them happy.

If you have any other questions about your cat, then we’d love to hear from you at our Portland area cat hospital and boarding facility. Just give us a call at (503) 968-6000, email us at info@mycatsvet.com, even schedule an appointment online!

Cat Care Professionals | Uncategorized

One thought on “Environmental Enrichment for Cats”

  1. Billy Vee says:

    Outstanding information. Cat’s are so easy to care for that maybe we sometimes forget what can we do to be sure their happy. This article gave me an awakening not to forget they need fun and love too.

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