We all hear about the lazy fat cat who just sits in the sun all day, but is that what they really want? Being the lazy cat is not the positice experience they are looking for and there are many ways you can enrich a cat's environment! In an enriched environment, cats have the opportunity to create a positive experience on their own and may even help correct naughty behaviors, especially for the indoor cats. Here are a few tips on how you can enrich your cat's environment.
To maintain good mental health, indoor cats need stimulation and recreational opportunities. Environmental enrichment can be accomplished by providing your cat(s) with a variety of toys and opportunities to play. Toys should be rotated on a daily basis so that they maintain novelty. Cat nip may foster or renew interest in “old” toys. Novel items to investigate such as a paper bag can provide recreational opportunities.
Set play sessions with people using toys such as a feather teaser (wand and feather on a string toy) allow for physical exercise, mental stimulation, and social needs. This is important for indoor cats who often do not get enough exercise. You will know if your cat enjoys these sessions by his or her desire to interact.
Clicker training can be mentally stimulating for cats. Cats can easily be taught to ‘sit’ or ‘go to a spot’ on cue. While some cats will respond to food rewards, others are more interested in toys.
A home with multiple climbing trees and perches allow for cats to use the entire three-dimensional space. This increases territory and can reduce social stress. From an elevated position, cats are more likely to feel secure and can survey the entire environment. In multi-cat households, trees and perches provide havens to sleep, perch, and hide. Consider adding windowsill perches and climbing trees to the home.
It is also important that cats have a place that they perceive as safe to eat, drink, sleep, and eliminate. Providing each cat with their own feeding/watering station, resting location, and litter box can reduce social stress. Foraging toys such as a puzzle feeder can be used for enrichment and make cats ‘work’ for their food. A few (2 to 6) treat dishes may be randomly filled with 1-2 small tasty treats and hidden in the cat’s environment to foster exploratory “hunting” behavior.
Cats should be provided with a scratching post (vertical or horizontal arrangement pending your cats preference). The scratching post should be located in a ‘lived in’ area of the home or near the cat’s favorite resting spot. Objects to scratch typically are made of carpet, cardboard, or natural sisal. Your cat may have a individual preference for the surface to scratch.
Environmental enrichment can be accomplished by providing your cat(s) with trees, perches, bags, beds, toys, and secure places to sleep, eat and use the litter box. It is important for your cat’s mental health and creates a happier experience for both you and your cat.