Enrichment strategies for your cat- more ways for a cat friendly home

By Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved.

What are the best ways to create a cat friendly home? Cat lovers when was the last time you made sure your cat was happy at home? Your feline companions spend life indoors, make sure to create a home 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.

Always, always avoid any sort of punishment with cats – this includes spraying with water, scolding, lecturing or physical force of any kind. Punishment serves only to create fear and distrust. Think what you would like your cat to do instead and make sure they have the set up/places to do them. Keep reading for more on how to do just that.

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. Make sure these feeders channel natural behavior a in scooping or batting food out. 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 stable scratch posts and 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. (Continue reading below.)