Environmental Enrichment

For Cats - Part 1

Cat Environmental enrichment Pt 1

Choosing to keep your cat indoors is an increasingly popular choice for many cat owners, one made for reasons of health and safety of the cat and, importantly, for any native animals found in the environment. Usually cats are kept mentally and physically healthy by the stimulation of the constantly changing outdoor world. However, the indoor cat has a special set of needs—and it is up to you to provide adequate stimulation within the walls of your own home so that problem and nuisance behaviours resulting from boredom and lack of activity are less likely to occur. Indoor cats also need outlets for normal behaviours such as sharpening their claws, climbing and / or stalking which you may not find so appealing on your most recent furniture purchase

This is where environmental enrichment comes into play

Environmental enrichment is anything that makes your cat's world more interesting and complex. This includes activities such as training and exercise, as well as toys and games. There are hunting and foraging type activities, chewing activities, and methods to vary their environment such as sights, smells, shapes etc, as well as interactions with people

High resting places

Improving the quality of the space may be more appropriate for many indoor cat owners than improving the quantity. Cats are naturally climbers. Provide a range of resting places by extending vertical spaces with shelves, tall scratching posts or access to the tops of cupboards. Also by frequently changing internal structures and contents you can keep your cat's life interesting

Food

Cats naturally spend up to 6 hours a day hunting, foraging, stalking, catching and consuming prey. Food foraging activities that are interesting and stimulating can be used to increase your cat's daily activity levels. Try interactive food puzzles or make your own by putting holes in cardboard boxes or toilet rolls and hiding food inside. Hide food around the house for your cat to find throughout the day or scatter it across the floor. You can stuff Kongs with different types of food too. Cats also like to chew to maintain oral hygiene, so bones and other chews are necessary to keep their teeth and gums healthy. You do not need to spend a lot of money buying toys for you can have fun and be creative making your own

Scratching

Cats need to scratch to sharpen and maintain their claws as well as mark their territory. To avoid your cat scratching on the furniture, buy or make a scratching post. Cats can prefer different coverings so try different materials on your scratching post to discover which one your cat prefers. Some cats actually prefer horizontal scratching mats. Reward your cat if he uses the scratching post and provide more than one around the house

Training

Cats can be trained. So keep your cat's mind active by regularly training them to 'Sit', 'Come', 'Drop' and 'Stay' and any tricks. Have short, fun and interesting/varied sessions using their favourite food treat or toy for the reward

Family Time and Games

Most cats enjoy social contact and love routine. Try and set aside time for petting, grooming and play every day. Encourage appropriate games and interactions that can be an outlet for natural behaviours such as predatory behaviours where your cat can hunt, chase and pounce. Time outside with your cat can be enjoyable for both of you. Train your cat gradually to wear a harness or build an outdoor cat enclosure. Your cat may also like cat grass, cat mint or cat nip grown in pots inside your home

Other

Consider tunnels, crinkly cat sacks and toys hanging from door knobs for your cat to explore. Play with balls, stuffed toys, squeaky toys or interactive toys such as the "Flying Bug Jar for cats" or the "Cool Cat Jungle Gym" which you can purchase online. Rotating toys can keep them new and interesting for your cat

Remember you may need to teach your cat how to interact with its new toys and always supervise your cat with new toys to ensure they are safe. Finally, if you are giving your cat lots of treats throughout the day, make sure you consider your cat's total intake so that your cat doesn't get fat