Cats tend to be very independent animals, but they are also quite social. It may seem like they are always sleeping; on average 12-16 hours of the day. When awake, felines need some environmental and social enrichment to stimulate their minds and encourage exercise to keep them happy and healthy. We’ve compiled a list of activities and additions to their environment that can help fight obesity, anxiety, and other undesirable behaviors.
Note: Cats are creatures of habit and don’t always appreciate change. It is wise to introduce new items or activities slowly, and one at a time, to determine whether the cat enjoys them or is stressed by them.
Providing your cat with a good view of the outdoors is like giving them a television. Supply them with a special perch next to the window. Offer different “channels” by installing a bird or squirrel feeder, bird bath, or other nature inviting element.
There are so many products on the market, narrowing down one that your cat will actually use and enjoy can be difficult. Different activities and toys appeal to various natural instincts and characteristics. Food motivated cats may like toys or puzzles with treats inside. Cats who enjoy the hunt may like moving toys, wands, balls, etc. Some cats may prefer toys that make noise, crinkle, or squeak. And remember, cats can get bored with their toys, be sure to rotate them occasionally.
Channel your inner crafter; some household items can become DIY toys. Simple things like a cardboard box, paper bag, and paper towel rolls can be entertaining. Try before you buy; borrow toys from your cat owner friends to see if your cat will play with them. If you do buy something that your cat doesn’t end up liking consider donating it to a shelter or rescue.
Enjoy the Outdoors Safely
Cats are safest indoors but getting them outdoors for protected and supervised outings is a great way to both stimulate their mind and promote exercise. Cat specific harnesses are a great way to take them for a leashed walk. Not all cats will walk on a leash, therefore a stroller or backpack may be more their style. If you have the space and ability build them a “Catio”. These outdoor play areas are usually enclosed with fencing or netting to keep cats in and other critters out.
Plants & Herbs
Cats often like to chew on indoor plants. Choose house plants that are not only non-toxic, but ones that cats enjoy and are edible. Plant some cat thyme, rosemary, parsley, mint, oat or wheat grass, or bean sprouts. Catnip is popular, but not all cats enjoy it.
Cats enjoy sitting high upon their thrones and watching over their kingdoms. Give cats an opportunity to climb and provide a higher perch (cat trees, sturdy shelving, etc) to watch the happenings of the household from above. This helps cats feel more secure and safe when they can get away from stresses such as dogs, kids, vacuums, etc.
Scratching posts fill the innate need to sharpen claws, stretch out, and mark their territory. Providing both vertical and horizontal options can help deter cats from using inappropriate items such as your furniture. Placement, texture, and scent are important for cats to use the scratching posts. A product called Feliscratch® from Ceva Animal Health can be applied to surfaces to encourage them to us it as the preferred scratching spot.
Other options are available to deter cats from scratching at the wrong spot. Nail caps, double sided tape, and natural sprays are all helpful alternatives to declawing. Declawing is an amputation of the end of the cat’s toe. It is an elective procedure and is discouraged by most Veterinary Associations due to common complications such as pain, arthritis, lameness, and limb disuse.
The Best Enrichment Available= You
Nothing is better than your time, attention, and love. Enjoy some one-on-one time together with your furry feline friend doing whatever they enjoy.
- Take a nap together
- Brush or pet them
- Play with them
- Read to them
- Teach them a new tricks
If your cat is having behavioral issues, it may be worth your time to try some environmental enrichment. Boredom can be the cause for mischief and misbehavior. A few new toys, some outdoor time, perfectly placed cat furniture, or structured play time could be the remedy.