More people than ever are maintaining their cats indoors only, and that’s great; life for cats is far safer inside, with no coyotes or cars to put them at risk. But cats require an enriched environment for their physical, mental and emotional health.
When is an environment enriched? It’s a fine line. Change a cat’s environment up too much, and you may see behaviors resulting from anxiety caused by unexpected change, but don’t offer cats natural outlets at all, and they may suffer stress or even idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease. The best ways to enrich your cat’s environment are to draw on his natural interests.
Cats Like Movement
From birds or butterflies flying by to cars moving down the street or people walking down the sidewalk, cats are mesmerized by motion. Instead of live entertainment, other cats prefer TV. There are DVDs of birds and lizards that some cats enjoy watching as we do Game Of Thrones.
Cats Like To Hunt
An increasing number of animal behavior experts now support the notion of feeding cats from puzzle toys and even teaching them to search and “hunt” for their food indoors. It’s a way cats can utilize their hard-wired prey drive, even when indoors. Increasingly research has begun to demonstrate that animals (at least those species studied, ranging from captive zoo bears to laboratory rats) actually prefer to “work” or “hunt” for their meals than to have it placed in a bowl. Also, the notion of free-feeding, or leaving food out 24/7 is increasingly antiquated. While some cats do seem to control their food intake, most do not. Depending on the source, around half of all indoor cats are overweight or obese. One new product, created by Dr. Liz Bales, is a feeding system for cats, called Doc & Phoebe’s Feeder, which promotes natural feline feeding behavior.
Cats Like To Get High
No, not like that! Unlike mere people, cats use vertical space as well as horizontal. You add to the space in your home, from your cat’s perspective, by providing cat trees, tables where the cats are allowed, or window ledges or perches. Providing vertical space offers confident cats a good view of all that’s going on, and that feeling of control that cats apparently crave. Often, quieter cats may use these high spaces to get away from dogs or children. Also, they may be a great place to sun worship.
Cats Like to Scratch
Cats are writers, and their scratch is their prose. They leave visual and scent messages with their claws. Even if there aren’t other felines in the home and you can’t really decipher this communication, it doesn’t matter; cats are hard-wired to scratch. Most cats prefer vertical and horizontal scratching options. While studies haven’t been done to verify how many posts per cat, having an excess of resources is always a good idea. Vertical posts ideally should stand tall enough for the cat to stand on hind legs and give a good scratch, and they must be sturdy. No tipping over on kitty’s head! And as with all great real estate, location is important. Cats scratch at various times and for various reasons, including excitement. As family members come, the cat may run away from the people to scratch. In case you didn’t know, that’s a kitty hug. So a post near the front door may prevent cats from scratching on the sofa near the door. If a cat is scratching at items you deem inappropriate, realize the cat has no way to know that your beloved speakers are off limits. Talk with your veterinarian about behavior modification and ask about a pheromone product called Feliscratch (to be released toward the end of 2017) that will entice cats to scratch where you desire.
Cats Like To Hide
Cats do best when given the opportunity to hide if they feel insecure. While under a sofa or bed will do, a better idea is to provide a cat tunnel (available online and at pet supply stores), create your own tunnel by taping together some empty paper bags, or simply leave out an empty box or two.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT
Published August 9, 2017