Activities & Enrichment Cats Fears & Anxieties Life at Home

On The Up And Up And The Down Low: What Cats Need In The Way Of Physical Space

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Cats don’t care if you live in a studio apartment or a vast mansion. A cat doesn’t need a lot of square footage to be happy. What a cat does need from us is a special understanding of how he or she interacts with the physical world.

Every cat parent knows that cats are predators: they need to hunt. But it may not be so obvious that cats can also be prey. In the outdoor world, your cat could be dinner for a coyote, an owl or a hawk. And even though there is no coyote or hawk in your living room, your cat still has the defensive instinct to climb to high places and hide in safe places throughout the day. Your cat may retreat to these safe places when she encounters loud noises, new smells, strangers, and other feline stressors.

Your cat will want to find cozy places to hide. Some cat beds are enclosed and have a door where your cat can peek out to observe household activity. An inexpensive option is an old-fashioned cardboard box with or without a pillow inside. Many cats love a brown paper shopping bag. Often cats prefer the packaging that the bed comes in to the bed itself! Veterinarians think this is because cardboard and heavy brown paper are good insulators and warm up to a cat’s natural body temperature without getting too hot.

Additionally, cats like to climb and perch in places that give them a good vantage point to survey the room below. You can meet this need by placing climbing trees in various locations throughout your home. You can also make sure that the perches your cat already uses—such as bookcases and shelves—are safe and secure. Help increase your cat’s ability to hang on tight in these high places by securely covering them with carpet or sisal.

While veterinarians agree that it is best to keep your cat indoors, we also recommend that you provide a place where your cat can observe the outdoors. You can put a cat perch on a windowsill or place a cat tree in front of a window.

From a simple cardboard box to an elaborate climbing tree, if you enrich the physical space in your indoor environment to meet her innate climbing and hiding needs, your cat will thank you.

Cats like to get up high and to hide in the dark; they need places in the home that allow them to do both.


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

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