How to enrich your cat's life

Author: Amanda  

ENRICHMENT FOR CATS – KEEPING YOUR FELINE FRIEND HAPPY

While cats confined to an indoor environment generally live longer and are at less risk of contracting infectious diseases or injury due to trauma, they are at greater risk for a variety of behavioural problems.  These problems include urinating and defecating outside the litter box, anxiety, attention seeking, inter-cat aggression, boredom-related and stress-relieving behaviours such as over-grooming, chewing inappropriate items, retreating into isolation, over-eating, self-mutilation, compulsive behaviours and loss of appetite.

                                                          

Providing an enriched environment can increase activity, decrease mental stagnation and prevent many of these issues.  All cats need mental stimulation, but this is especially important for indoor cats.  An enriched environment allows cats to express their natural behaviours including scratching, chewing and playing.  Many of these behaviours, although normal, can be considered undesirable by cat owners when they are displayed on valued household items such as plants, furniture and decorations.

There are many types of enrichment you can provide your cat:

1. Food Enrichment

2. Environmental Enrichment

3. Social Enrichment

4. Play Enrichment

Cats were designed to hunt and use their sensory abilities including sight, hearing and their problem-solving minds.  Cats need to be challenged to keep their body and minds healthy.  An excellent way to do this is to use food enrichment tools.

Instead of just leaving a bowl of food out all day for your cat why not try an automatic feeder that can be timed to offer your cat small meals at prescheduled times.  Try the Automatic Pet Feeder

For cats that are ‘food driven’, treat dispensing puzzle feeders are a great idea.  A puzzle feeder in its basic form is a plastic ball with a hole where the dry food randomly falls out as the cat rolls it around.  Try the Kong Cat Wobbler, Kong Cat Treat Ball, Kong Cat Treat ConeHoleyTreat Ball for Cats or SmartCat diner.

These toys can be filled with yummy cat treats such as Feline Greenies, Next Generation  treats or Trouble & Trix cat treats.

 

 

 

 

ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICHMENT

Cats need to be able do express their natural investigatory and communication behaviours (e.g. Scratching, chewing and elimination)

VERTICAL SPACE

By providing environmental enrichment we can reduce stress that the cat may experience.  Cats love to climb and perch up high.  Cats don’t see their environment in two-dimensional space as we do, they see it three dimensionally and are always looking for ways to use all the space in their environment.  Cats often seek out high spots for napping.  An elevated location can also become security for a cat, especially in a multicat home.  The more vertical space, the more territory the cats have to share.  An elevated spot can also be refuge for a timid cat.  She know she is safe their because no one can sneak up behind her.  Create vertical space with a large cat tower/tree.. Perches such as The Lookout can be attached to windows to give your cat a safe place to sleep and also watch the world around them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIDEAWAYS

Cats love to hide.  Provide your cat with objects such as boxes, Igloo Beds ( Rogz Igloo or United Pets Cat Cave) or bedding such as the Zeez Cat pod or Zeez Pop up Beds,  which allow them to have a safe hideaway.  No matter how confident your cat may be, always make sure there are options for hiding in the environment.

SCRATCHING POSTS

Scratching is important to cats to provide good claw health and is a form of visual and pheromonal marking.  Preferred substrates for scratching can vary for individual cats.  Substrates such as sisal-covered posts like the United Pet Cat Pole, Ultimate Scratch n Play Post or the Smartcat combination scratcher may appeal to some cats because they can hook their claws in the material.  Cardboard scratchers treated with catnip are an economical alternative also.   The Catnip Scratching Post or Scratchy Mat Door Knob Hanger are great ways to keep your cat away from scratching at your furniture. 

If space is an issue the United Pets Cat Scratcher is a great option to place around furniture legs to save your furniture from descruction.

*TIP: Scratching posts vary in quality and price and as a general rule – you get what you pay for.  The best ones are made from solid timber and covered in durable carpet.  Cheap scratching posts from the ‘two-dollar’ shops generally don’t last longs and cats don’t like to use them much anyway because they are not study and therefore do not make them feel safe.

Why not try one of the Zeez Fun Houses which combine a lounging, scratching and play area in one.

 

CHEWING

Undesirable chewing can be avoided by providing your cat with Cat Grass and Cat Nip.  These plants are inexpensive to buy.  Why not try Mr. Fothergill’s Cat Grass Kit complete with soil, seeds and tray.

SOME OTHER SUGGESTIONS:

  • Allowing your cat to sit at the windowsill and watch the birds outside is socially enriching to them.  Why not place a bird feeder outside your window where your cat can spend time observing the birds coming and going.  Specially designed DVDs  often transfix cats to the changing images on the screen.
  • Particularly for indoor cats – why not harness train them so you can take them outside to explore all the new sights, sounds, smells and textures present.  This will mean you can take them beyond your yard without having to worry about them running away or chasing wildlife.  We have  Adjustable Cat Harnesses in a range of colours
  • If you want your cat to have access to the outdoors but worry about the potential dangers, why not have a kitty enclosure installed, where they are in a safe outside environment?
  • Social contact with humans is also very important.  Spend quality time with your cat through play and also relaxation and petting.
  • Provide a safe, secure food and water station and a safe secure litter box location.
  • Provide consistency – cats feel most comfortable when his daily routine is predictable.  Consider using a natural pheromone called Feliway – it is a synthetic version of calming feline pheromones.  This helps to tell your cat the environment is safe and non-threatening and cat work in conjunction with environmental enrichment to reduce stress related behaviours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLAY ENRICHMENT

Play is a fantastic way to bond with adult cats as well as kittens.  Studies have shown when a cat is hunting, a brain chemical (dopamine) is released that creates a feeling of eager anticipation.  This release is initially triggered by the sound or scent of prey.  Cats enjoy being in hunting mode.

When in this mode it makes sense that a cat would be less anxious, depressed or bored.  Opportunities to experience eager anticipation and exploration are important.  Of course we don’t want to allow our cats to hunt our native wildlife and birds so that’s why providing them with toys is so important.

Cats benefit from several types of play including interactive, self play and object play.  Interactive play involves you holding a fishing pole-type toy (Mojo Maker Air Wand with ToyBliss Cat or Go! Cat! Go! Wands) so your cat can concentrate on being the hunter.  Move the toy like prey so your cat can practice her hunting skills.  To trigger the prey drive, move the toy across or away from the cat’s visual field.  Don’t dangle the toy right in front of her. 

Self-Play toys are great for cats that are left at home while you are away.  The Frolicat laser toys Frolicat teaser toys are fantastic options for kitty fun.  The laser toys emit a laser that your cat can pounce, jump and chase.  The Teaser toys engage your cat by allowing them to stalk, pounce and try to capture its prey.

Object play involves furry mice, crinkle balls and other small toys.  Toys that hang on doorknobs or windows are a great option to keep cats occupied when you can't be there to play with them: Try Catapult Door Hanger, Catfish Door Knob Hanger with ToysCataction Door Knob Teaser or the Kong Window Teaser

A lot of toys have catnip inside to stimulate play behaviour.  You can also purchase catnip sprays  or flakes such as Cosmic Catnip spray or Kong Cat nip  to renew their toys and scratching poles.

Remember a cat who has positive experiences usually has more confidence.  A fun, safe environment = a happy confident cat. 

 

 

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