Feline Enrichment

Enrichment for the indoor cat

The decision to move our cats indoors comes with an obligation to provide an environment that sustains good health and welfare for these cats.  It is important to help our cats retain their natural behaviors of chewing, scratching, feeding and elimination.  Often these behaviors are in conflict with our wants, therefore it is important to help them find other ways to express these behaviors.  Enrichment of the indoor environment allows cats to express theses natural behaviors. 

Indoor cats need to have unrestricted access to resting areas.  Adequate perching areas need to be maintained throughout the house as cats are both prey and predators and they naturally climb for both safety and observation.  Many times, in multiple cat families, cats will guard these resources and not share, hence the reason to provide multiple areas. 

Although most standard cat food provide adequate nutrition, feeding our cats in bowl does not provide for their normal hunting behavior.  Rather we should consider food puzzles, or containers that they must played with to get the food out, or hollow toys stuff with canned food.  The failure to provide for predatory behavior may contribute to obesity and a more sedentary lifestyle as well as depriving our cats of both mental and physical stimulation.  When bowls need to be used place the bowls in quiet areas and if you have multiple cats please move them out of sight of each other to decrease the stress of competition. 

Litterboxes are often a source of frustration for cats – remember one per cat plus a spare.  Like the food bowls the litterboxes should be in a safe area, separated for one another, and in a quiet area.  Again, in multicat households it is important to monitor for guarding.

Providing vertical objects that your cat can scratch on will help your cat to express their scratching behavior where you want it.  Play behaviors for cats also often include predatory behaviors of stalking, chasing, pouncing and biting therefore playing with items that keep your hands at a distance are helpful.  The rotation of toys every few days will help prevent boredom and keep the toys fresh and new.  Games that stimulate hunting, i.e. laser lights should always end with your cat getting a reward.  Window perches for wildlife observation are helpful, putting a bird feeder by the window may also increase the interest.  Interactive games on a tablet or cat-oriented movies on the television may also help prevent boredom.

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