Everyone knows that dogs need enrichment in their environments. We provide dogs with multiple toys, training, and walks to keep them happy and less destructive, but what about our feline companions? Most indoor cats live in poorly enriched environments, which leads to stress and behavior disorders such as urinating or defecating outside the box, overgrooming, and aggression towards other cats or their owners. You can add some simple things to your house to make it more enriched and stimulating for your cat.
Cats should have multiple scratching posts, either horizontal or vertical. Scratching is a normal cat behavior that leaves visual and scent signals and removes the cuticle from the nail. The scratching posts should be placed where the cat spends most of its time and catnip and food can be used to attract the cat to use the post. Hiding and resting are also normal feline behaviors, and cats should be provided with multiple hiding and resting spots such as tall cat trees, vertical shelves, and cardboard boxes, which should be placed in each room that the cat spends time.
In addition, the litterbox environment is very important to the health of cats, and there should be at least one litterbox per cat in the household plus one additional box. In general, cats prefer clumping litter with large boxes, (33 x 15 inches), placed in quiet, easily accessible locations in the house. The dirty litter should be scooped out daily and the entire contents of the box should be changed every month. Every cat should also have its own food and water dish in easily accessible locations in the house.
Hunting and play behavior are very important to the welfare of cats. Hunting behavior can be stimulated by dividing the cat’s food and feeding in multiple places in the home, hiding food under furniture, and using food dispensing toys, such as the kitty kong (kongcompany.com) and pipolino (pipolinousa.com). Cats should have a wide variety of toys that should be rotated regularly so that each cat receives three different toys per day. Smaller toys and mobile toys with complex surfaces increase play and cats greatly benefit from play sessions with owners. Some examples of inexpensive toys include a ping pong ball in a bathtub, egg cartons with treats hidden inside, and balled up pieces of paper. Laser pointers can be great toy too; if your cat becomes too aggressive or reactive when playing with it, point the laser at a toy that they can “kill” before turning the laser off.
If you would like more information or have any questions please contact us. If you have any concerns or questions about your feline or canine companion’s behavior, Dr. Laxen is now offering behavior consults.
Reference: Radosta, Lisa, DVM DACVB, “Environmental Enrichment for Cats,” Clinician’s Brief, September 2014, volume 12, number 9