Let’s start with our first cat discussion for June: is your cat’s indoor habitat enriched enough, and if not, how can you improve it?
Most cats spend their lives indoors with their humans. This means that indoor cats will get most of their stimulation from their indoor environment. This includes your entire house, apartment, mobile home, etc. It includes the rooms of your home: kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom, laundry room, closet, etc. It even includes your kitty’s toys, kennel, and other enrichment items. Cats use their environment to boost their moods and explore the world around them. Cats are naturally curious, and they need to be able to have the freedom to experiment and recognize their surroundings.
An enriched indoor environment allows cats to express their natural behaviors, including scratching, chewing, and playing.
These natural behaviors keep your cat healthier, both physically and mentally. Your relationship with your cat will result in more positivity if your cat can relate their actions back to their primal origins of the wild.
Some positive behaviors from properly enriched environments include happiness, calmness, and more energy.
Indoor environments that are not enticing enough for your cat include a habitat with a lack of toys, limited access to windows, and a lack of climbing and scratching surfaces.
Boring surroundings can lead to negative behaviors such as excessive grooming, aggressiveness, lethargy, destructiveness, and anxiety. These overall damaging behaviors can be detrimental to your cat’s physical and mental well-being.
To prevent your cat from becoming too bored with their surroundings, let’s go over each natural behavior and how you can enrich your cat’s environment for that specific behavior.
Cats have retractable claws, which means that cats can move their claws into and out of their paws when necessary. Cats scratch surfaces for many reasons. Cats use the natural act of scratching to strengthen their muscles and to condition and sharpen their claws for better use. Cats also enjoy scratching to visibly mark their territory. This is also an important scent marker for cats. Cats also use scratching to express their emotions, such as joy or relaxation.
Owners should NOT under any circumstances try to stop their cats from scratching. Owners can manage how much their cats scratch so that it does not become entirely destructive. As mentioned before, it is a natural behavior for cats, and cats should have the proper environment for scratching. If not, other items such as couches and carpet may be targeted as a release.
To help with your cat’s scratching, try a cat scratching post. These posts are a great way for your cat to channel their scratching into a non-destructive form. Try to use separate carpet pads or rugs for your kitty to scratch as well. These areas can teach your kitty to scratch in the right places.
If you want something a little more creative and freer, try bringing in a log or stick from your yard or from outside. These can also be a great way for your cat to scratch something natural, and it includes curious smells from the outdoors that they might enjoy.
Cats can chew a lot of things: food, treats, toys, etc. Indoor cats are more prone to chewing habits due to their specialized lifestyle. Cats that frequently chew on things have better overall dental health. Cats have a reduced amount of stress in their lives when they chew on specialized toys. Cats are no longer bored when they chew, so this will help them maintain happy emotions and positive behaviors.
Owners should not limit any chewing behaviors, as it is natural for their cats. An enriched indoor environment should include tantalizing cat treats that promote cat chewing and good dental health. If you have a kitten, try teething toys for controlled chewing. You can also try treats with a training clicker and make your cat’s chewing more fun and interactive. Your cat will be trained to only chew on the treats, and this training can limit your cat’s boredom. Your kitty will know to chew the food, not the furniture.
Anytime your cats play, it brings them immense joy. Whether it’s by themselves, with their owners, or another cat, kitties will be relaxed and better suited to their lifestyles when they wrestle, run, hide, and leap. Cats will have a noticeable amount of reduced anxiety, depression, and anger. Playing needs to be interactive, and an enriched indoor environment will satisfy your cat’s attention and energy.
To create a more enriched environment for playing, try using old carboard boxes to make an obstacle course. This will excite your cat, as they can exhibit necessary behaviors such as jumping and hiding. A forage box is also a good idea; it can include old pillows and blankets, or grass and sticks from the outside. These items will stimulate your kitty’s curiosity and allow them to be interested in the world around them. In addition, try having a sun box for your cat in a window. Cats love to watch their surroundings when they play to relax. If your cat can look outside at the events of the world outside of your home, then this will peak your cat’s curious nature and allow them to feel relaxed.
Also, invest in a lot of toys! Cats will be better stimulated with fun things to do. String toys, ball toys, and stuffed animal toys will assist in flourishing your cat’s curiosity. Battery operated toys are also a fun way to make playtime more creative! Cats have instant joy with anything that moves, and this may be a new way for your cat to experience playtime behaviors.
You as an owner can also help with your cat’s playtime! Try getting down on all fours and using your own voice to interact with your cat. This will mimic similar cat behavior and strengthen the bond between you and your cat.
If you must leave during the day, try leaving some music in the background for your cat’s enjoyment. Soft, classical music may help to relax your cat and enhance their emotions.
Lights are also a great way to enrich playtime. Natural light shining through windows is a great way to stimulate your cat. Flashing lights also spark a bit of curiosity.
To conclude, cats should have a stable, enriched environment that allows them to express their natural behaviors. These include scratching, chewing, and playing; these natural behaviors will result in positive emotions and controlled kitty behaviors. Negative behaviors such as anxiety and depression may occur if your cat is not in a properly engaging habitat. There are many examples of how to stimulate each natural behavior in your home, but it is up to the initiative and motive of the cat owner to provide the necessary enrichment for their kitty. Make sure to visit your local pet store or online pet website for enrichment items and take the first step to improve your cat’s lifestyle and happiness.