As pet sitters, we see a lot of happy cats and we often see some “cat-itude.” Have you ever thought about what makes your cat happy?
First, we must understand that cats are both predator and prey, and they need a home environment that supports both natures. Think about it from your cat’s perspective. They are confined to a home, with limited choices on what they eat and where they use the bathroom. They have no trees to climb, few places to seek refuge and minimal activities to stimulate their natural instincts to hunt. They are often living with other carnivores, like dogs, or other cats that compete for their resources. All of this can be a confluence for creating a stressed environment and may lead to behavioral or health issues for your cat.
So, what is a cat lover to do? Observe your cat and think like your cat. How does your cat play and what does your cat do when he/she is startled? Work on creating an environment that makes them feel safe and stimulated. Here are some ideas that might make your feline friend healthier and happier:
Give Your Cat A Place To Retreat – Both High & Low
Cats climb primarily for two reasons. One is to be higher up where they can survey their surroundings. The other is to retreat from what is below them. Whether it’s a cat tree or the top of a bookcase, cats need a place to get above their environment. Consider the location of these places to launch. Access to a window gives your cat visual enrichment by looking at the world outside and watching the birds, other wildlife, cars and people.
Additionally, make sure your cat has a place to hide — under the bed, behind the sofa, or in a closet, where they can find the safe refuge they may require.
Make Mealtime Safe & Interesting
As prey, cats need a safe place to eat where they don’t feel threatened. Place your cat’s feeding station away from the wall so they can eat while facing the room. If you have multiple cats, place feeding stations in separate areas of your home and, if you have dogs, consider placing it in an area where the dogs don’t have access and your cat can eat in peace. Consider encouraging your cat’s hunting instinct by purchasing a food puzzle feeder that stimulates these instincts.
Give Your Cat A Place To Scratch
Inappropriate scratching is a common complaint about cats. Cats scratch to stretch and mark their territory, so give them a safe place to do this and encourage appropriate scratching. Most cats prefer a sturdy, upright post made of rope that is about three feet high.
Play With Your Cat
Stimulate your cat’s instincts to hunt with Interactive play that mimics the hunting experience. Move their toy like a prey animal would move to get your cat stalking, pouncing and mentally engaged. You might find that a good wand toy will be a fun bonding experience for you and your cat.
Help keep them interested in their toys by regularly relocating them to different rooms throughout the house. A sprinkle of catnip on an old toy can reengage your cat’s interest.
Make Litter Boxes A Priority
Cats are clean creatures by nature, so take time to clean litter boxes at least once daily. If you have a multiple cat household, consider placing litter boxes on each level of your home and put at least one litter box down for each cat in the home.
Consider A Cat’s Need To Forage
Cats love to forage so think about giving them something to nibble on like catnip, mint, or grass from oat, rye, wheat, or barley seeds. Many plants are toxic to cats (another subject for a future blog) so make sure you only give them plants and herbs that are feline friendly.
We should all try to do a better job of observing and trying harder to think like a cat. Having a better understanding of your cat’s nature and environmental needs will lead to a healthier and happier cat and a happier cat owner.