Did you know? Behavior problems are the number one reason pets are relinquished to shelters. And, indoor cats often experience behavior issues because their needs aren’t being fully met.
Food, water, and a cozy bed aren’t all your indoor kitty needs to be happy and healthy; her environmental needs should be considered as well. These sometimes-forgotten needs encompass a cat’s indoor and outdoor surroundings as well as their interactions with people and other pets.
There are five key components to providing appropriate environmental enrichment for your indoor feline:
- Provide a safe place. Every cat needs a safe and secure place to hide or rest. Your cat’s safe place should only be big enough to fit one cat at a time, and it should have two entrances so your kitty doesn’t feel trapped. Ideally, your cat’s safe place should be elevated off the ground so she doesn’t feel threatened by other pets or children while inside. Examples include a cardboard box, cat carrier, or raised perch.
- Provide multiple resource areas. In multi-cat households, timid cats can become stressed if they do not feel safe accessing food, water, litter box, play, or resting areas. Try to have multiple locations throughout your home containing these resources to prevent guarding or bullying.
- Provide opportunities for predatory behavior. Cats have predatory instincts and need to fulfill their hunting needs. Hide treats throughout your home, or invest in toys that your cat can chase and catch, treat puzzles, or a no-bowl feeding system to help your feline friend exercise her inner hunter.
- Provide positive human interaction. Cats have different needs concerning human interaction. Some may love to snuggle, while others will only suffer a quick pat before darting off.
- Provide positive animal interaction. Some cats may prefer being an “only child,” while others might enjoy feline or canine companions. Be sure your pet is comfortable with adding a new member to the household and monitor their behaviors to minimize stress.
Problems caused by lack of environmental enrichment
Boredom can create major behavioral problems in animals. It can be seen in all species, which is why such extensive environmental enrichment projects are undertaken for animals housed in zoos. In cats, their boredom can manifest as:
- Destructive behavior
- House Soiling
- Aggression toward other cats
- Aggression toward humans
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Bullying other pets
Behavioral issues can be difficult to treat. Before adding a new cat to your household, determine if you can meet her mental and social needs. Dogs aren’t the only pets that like to play. Provide your indoor cat with activities, toys, games, scratching posts, and a stimulating environment to help stave off bad behavior.
Environmental enrichment ideas
Fun activities for your feline friend don’t have to be an expensive investment. Many cats enjoy rooting through cardboard boxes filled with rustling paper, watching nature shows while curled up next to you, or sitting in front of a favorite window to stare down the sparrows snacking from the bird feeder. Try a variety of toys and games, and change them out on a rotating basis to help battle boredom. Check out this list for some feline friendly boredom busters:
- Install a bird feeder outside your cat’s favorite window
- Place a cat tree next to a window for perching and watching
- Build a “catio” or enclosed porch
- Hide treats in various locations throughout the home
- Utilize puzzle feeders
- Switch out boxes every week with tissue paper or something fun to rustle in
- Purchase a ball track with scratching pads
- Use catnip
- Investigate adding kitty companions
- Play with feather toys
- Invest in scratching posts
- Create tunnels
- Build wall shelving to create more vertical space
As humans, we live in a horizontal space. Cats prefer a vertical space. Offering a variety of tall cat trees or resting places high off the ground is ideal. This will help timid cats feel safe and diffuse tension in a multi-cat household by providing more territory to share. Each cat will have her own preference on her favorite toys, treats, and resting areas. Try a wide variety to determine what your cat prefers.
Is your indoor cat acting out? Are you looking for other recommendations on how to enrich her environment? Call us at 615-383-1000.