Enrichment strategies for your cat- more ways for a cat friendly
home
, copyright 2010- 2017 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved

Cat lovers when was the last time you made sure your cat was happy at home? Your
feline companions stay indoors all the time; make sure to create an environment for
them that is both enriching and comfortable.

Begin with your personal relationship with your pet.  While the perception of
the cat as a solitary being may persist, new research continues to show that cats are
social creatures with affiliates and relationships that allow for extended family
situations raising young and hunting. Cats benefit from time spent with select other
cats and the same holds true for time spent with people.   Interaction with humans is a
key component of your cat’s environment and may help to substitute for interactions
with the outside environment and other cats.  The closer your relationship with your
cat the longer and more pronounced your contact.  Studies show that when cats
initiate the communication the duration is much longer than when initiated by a
human.  Get closer to your pet by offering petting (focusing on the head just as another
cat would), grooming or playing.

Interactive play is an incredibly bonding experience between owner and cat. Play is
also both rewarding in its own right and necessary as an activity that just might
satisfy a cat's natural predatory instincts.  John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis writing
about how cat play mirrors hunting behavior note:  "This overlap between play and
hunting opens up the intriguing possibility that owners may be able to satisfy cats'
predatory instincts simply by playing with them."  Use fishing wand toys, “cat
dancers” or pieces of string, etc. all with a human on the other end.  Offer play for at
least 5 minutes in the morning and in the evening.

Cat toys and catnip Toys are important for cats too, cat nip scented toys appeal to
some cats while fur mice are a universal cat hit requiring only a paw to propel.  Loose
cat nip can be rubbed onto scratchers, cat towers or beds.  Do not forget to also leave cat
toys such as fur mice that rattle, balls and other objects for solitary play when you are
not around.

Provide puzzle food feeders for problem solving, fun and to indulge natural
behaviors.  Feeding a portion of your cat's diet this way is a huge positive for your cat's
activity budget spent on the things cats want to do, offers choice and control over
environment, stimulates neural activity and is intrinsically fun and satisfying.  
Studies show that cats who have access to food on an ongoing basis are less likely to
exhibit stress related behaviors such as pica or ingesting foreign objects.  

When it comes to water, make sure it is fresh, away from food bowls and think about
cat fountains.  In a natural environment cats avidly prefer running water -one of the
reasons an open faucet is such a cat magnet.  Cats also drink away from prey they are
consuming or storing.  This serves as a built in instinct not to contaminate water
sources.   

Remember, cats being cats need to scratch.  Scratching feels good, flexes muscles
and sharpens claws.  Confine scratching to acceptable areas by providing scratch
boards for your pet in areas they will likely use them in.  Corrugated cardboard cat
scratchers are intensely satisfying, think of at least two or three, one in every other
room.  Rubbing in dried catnip or applying catnip spray to the scratchers will increase
their cat appeal.

Cats spend a good part of their day time sleeping so make sure to provide soft,
comfortable areas such as fleece pads or cat beds; of course, nothing may match a
favorite spot on your very own bed.  Cats, like dogs, have a highly developed sense of
smell and the scent of their favored human guardian is particularly comforting
(making your linens particularly attractive for your cat).   In multiple cat families
cats may share preferred resting spots, either by taking turns or at the same time if
their relationship is a friendly one.

Your cats resting spaces should have at least three sides at ground level and
be at a higher vantage point to provide your cat comfort and security.
  The
natural behavior of a cat is to seek higher spaces to survey their environment or to be
concealed.  Allow this with cat baskets or beds, perches, window seats and cat towers.  
Think at least two different resting areas per cat for maximum contentment and to
lessen stress.  Cats are not known for reconciling conflict through negotiation strategies
preferring retreat and time to develop tolerance.  This predilection leads to solitary
down time or at least time out of each other’s line of sight.

Increasing horizontal and vertical surface area for a cat to utilize amplifies
and enriches your pets living area.
 Cat towers offer multiple levels for cat
interaction but finding floor space for cat furniture in tight quarters may be
unrealistic in a city where space is at a premium.  Cat shelves offer a space solution
that maximizes additional vertical cat resting areas without using precious floor
space.  Placing a cat house, or cat bed on a dresser can also be a great solution.  Do make
sure to survey the area for the most cat friendly access and placement.  Next to a
window, in a corner of a room are usually ideal.  Think how easily the cat can get to the
raised area along with where a cat might have the best vantage point for looking out as
well as feel the safest and least exposed.

Classical music. Studies have found that exposure to classical music is beneficial for
many animals including cats while exposure to rap, heavy metal and other discordant
music is not.  Play classical music at a level slightly lower than you would find
comfortable keeping in mind the cats superior sense of hearing.  Leaving a classical
radio station on especially when you are not home adds in the soothing voices of those
velvet toned announcers for comfort.
"Interaction with humans is a key
component of your cat’s environment
and may help to substitute for
interactions with the outside
environment and other cats.  The
closer your relationship with your cat
the longer and more pronounced your
contact." 
(Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen) A cat in a vulnerable
position of total abandon is a cat who feels at home
(copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen) Approach from the side and pet
your cat  in the areas cat prefer, behind the ears and along the muzzle
Ask me about a consultation
(copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen) Cat tower and bench placed next to a
window with extended and carpeted window ledge
(Elliot Amiel) Cats love feeling secure in their dens or the bathroom sink,
why a cat bed with at least three raised sides is preferred
(copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen) Cat shelf over a couch for easy
just-a-leap access

How to make a
cat friendly home
info@animalbehaviorist.us
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

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