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Create a Fear Free Environment by “Catifying” Your Home

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When I first became aware of the concept of “catifying” a house, I fell in love with the idea of my cats having a place to not only live, but to thrive. I asked two experts in cats and design for their tips on making a house that’s comfortable for and welcoming to cats.

“Catification and Fear Free go hand-in-hand, because catification is all about creating a home environment that reduces fear, anxiety, and stress for cats in a way that is visually appealing and satisfying for the humans who live there, too,” says Kate Benjamin, founder of Hauspanther and coauthor with cat expert Jackson Galaxy of New York Times bestsellers Catification and Catify to Satisfy.

 “The main elements of Catification include climbing, playing/hunting, hiding/resting, scratching, and resources (food, water, litter). Providing your cat with places to climb allows them to get a better view of the environment, which can help to reduce their stress,” Benjamin says.

Rest and Relaxation

Stress reduction—kitty R&R—is an important element of a catified home. Anyone who knows cats know how they love to seek out and hide in boxes. Studies have shown that providing them with enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces can help to reduce their stress level.

The corollary is play. Toys serve to trigger their hunting instinct and encourage physical activity and mental stimulation.

Physical activity includes natural behaviors such as scratching. Rather than thinking of it as a destructive action, recognize that it’s one of the ways cats communicate and express themselves.

“Scratching is a natural behavior for cats. They scratch to groom their claws, get physical activity, and mark their territory with scent, which can help them feel more at home,” Benjamin says.

Climbing is another favorite feline pursuit. Bob Walker, owner of Bob Walker Photography, says cats love heights and looking down on us. In his own home, rightly described as a feline fantasyland, he used common building materials such as 2” x 6” lumber, plywood, particleboard, and sisal to construct cat-friendly elements such as steps and stairs.

“Most of the parts could be made by most handy purr-sons. In fact, our sweeping spiral stairs were built with cutoff pieces of particle board leftover from prior projects. I did the construction,” he says. Walker’s artist wife, Frances, brought the kitty playground to life with vivid paint colors.

A home remodel offers the opportunity for more major changes, such as creating overhead cat passageways through walls, says Walker, but adds that there’s nothing wrong with simple DIY projects.

“Feline enrichment products are available in a wide variety of price ranges. For the budget conscious, recycle cardboard boxes into creative playgrounds with multiple openings and layers of activity,” he says. “Inexpensively make fun-shaped structures, and decorate with decorative papers and paint. When parts wear out, make more interesting and challenging elements with one’s new, improved cardboard skills.”

Benjamin says that Catification doesn’t just mean big, complicated installations of cat superhighways and climbing shelves. Countless products require minimal assembly or none at all.

“Simply adding a few of these items to your home can have a significant positive impact for your cats,” she says. “You can easily add beautiful elements to your home that help your cats feel more at ease, which will give you peace of mind as well. Furthermore, your house does not have to look like a crazy cat person lives there in order to give your cats what they need to thrive. Everyone can benefit from a few simple modifications.”

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Sandra Toney has been writing about cats for over 25 years and is an award-winning member of Cat Writers Association and Dog Writers Association of America. She has written for many print and online magazines about cat health and behavior as well as authoring eight books. She lives in northern Indiana with her cat, Angel.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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