Enrichment strategies for your cat to use at home, (c) 2010- 2016 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 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. 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. 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. Plus, a hardwood shelf with a cat cushion displays your cat in purrfect comfort and looks amazingly rich. The accompanying photos show just how attractive and space efficient the right cat shelves can be (and how at ease your cat can be on them too). 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 placement. Next to a window, in a corner of a room are usually ideal. Think 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.
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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
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copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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