Environmental enrichment for cats

A Cat Friendly Home!

It is imperative to provide a stimulating environment for your cat’s well being and in order to avoid many behavioural and health problems. It is particularly essential for cats exclusively kept indoors or with a restricted access to the outside. Here are a few simple steps to follow.

1-Litter boxes

Elimination is a basic need for cats and when we house them indoors it is crucial to provide them with an attractive place to fulfill that need. Most cats are meticulously clean. They like to cover their waste and try to eliminate in areas that have never been used before. It is also important to keep in mind that cats also eliminate to mark their territory. A good rule to follow is to provide at least one litter box per cat. There should be at least one litter box on each floor of the house, in a quiet, easily accessible area.
There are many sizes, shapes and styles of litter trays available on the market. Make sure the litter tray you choose is deep and big enough for your cat to burry his waste and move around easily. Also ensure there is an easy entry and exit to the litter tray.
Uncovered boxes have a better accessibility but offer less privacy. Some cats will prefer the privacy of a covered litter and other cats dislike them as they feel vulnerable to an ambush. The best thing to do is to offer both and observe which one your cat prefers the best.
There are many different types of litter on the market. Most cats prefer dust free, fine grained and unscented litter such as scoopable litters. A lot of cats are put off by perfumes and deodorant litter and for that same reason it is advised not to put any room deodorizers or air fresheners near the box. It is important not to change litter type abruptly as it might result in refusal from the cat to use the litter tray.
As cats likes to bury their wastes you have to make sure you provide a nice thick layer of litter. Preferences can change from one cat to another but one way to find out is to put a thick layer at one end of the litter tray and a thinner layer at the other end and observe which one your cat uses the most.
Litter boxes need to be placed in areas that provide safety, easy access, privacy and clear escape route. They need to be placed in a quiet area, away from appliances and air ducts that could come on unexpectedly.
Like mentioned before, cats are meticulously clean animals. For that reason the litter tray must be scooped daily and entirely cleaned once a week with water and unscented soap. A thin layer of baking soda placed at the bottom of the box will help absorb odours without repelling your cat.

2-Water and Food

Cats naturally hunt for food and search for water on separate occasions. For that reason they prefer to eat and drink in different places. Make sure that food and water bowls are not next to each other. Use of double bowls with water on one side and food on the other side is not recommended.
Make sure there is enough fresh water available at all times. Ideally place a bowl of water on each floor of the house, in a quiet and easily accessible area near where the cat likes to sit or sleep.
Usually cats prefer drinking from ceramic, metal or glass bowls. Plastic bowls should be avoided. Ensure the diameter of the bowl is large enough as cats don’t like their whiskers touching the side of the bowl as they drink. Make sure the bowls are full to the brim as they usually don’t like to put their head down in their bowls. Some cats like to drink moving water and pet water fountains can be provided to encourage water consumption.
Cats would naturally spend 6 hours a day hunting, foraging, stalking, catching and consuming their prey. It is important to keep a certain level of activity and hunting as it comes to feeding your cat. For example dry food can be made available all over the house in various locations both on high and ground level. Toys where you can hide the food are also available and very helpful. The possibilities are endless so use your imagination !

3-Scratching

Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats. They scratch to stretch their muscles, sharpen their claws and leave scent marks. Scratching post are ideal to stimulate your cat’s instinct to scratch while saving your furniture and carpets.
Most cats prefer posts made of rough material they can shred. Sisal (a coarse natural fibre) is ideal but some cats will prefer other material. Vertical and horizontal scratching posts are available in a variety of sizes, materials (sisal, carpet, cardboard). If you choose a vertical scratching post make sure it is high enough for your cat to stretch up while scratching. Cats that scratch chair legs and corners of couches usually prefer vertical posts. If your cat prefers scratching carpet and rugs it might prefer a horizontal post.

4-Resting area

Cats are at their most vulnerable when they sleep so they prefer to do so in safe and secure areas. Usually they prefer quiet, comfortable places where they can get away from other members of the family. Cat beds can be purchased but blankets and towels are all as appealing. Wherever your cat chooses to rest it is important not to disturb him.

5-Perches

Cats like to climb and watch what is going on around them. A perch provides a safe and private place to watch the action from above. It has to allow your cat to sit, lie, sleep or even look outside. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are a must have for your cat.

6-Toys and games

Every cat is an individual but most prefer toys and games that resemble natural prey. Fishing rod toys are ideal to simulate the movement of a prey and to stimulate your cat’s agility and fast movement.
Some cats will prefer toys that resemble mice, especially the ones that move and vibrate as it stimulate their stalking and hunting behaviour.
Balls are another great toy as they stimulate the chase and capture the instinct of your cat.