Bored. Bored. Bored. Sigh…… It may be wonderful being a pampered cat, but sometimes I need a little more excitement in my life! My humans have done a number of things to make my life more enjoyable (although I have to admit I’m getting lazier in my older age!). Providing an enriched environment for your feline companion can not only increase activity, but it can also decrease mental stagnation and prevent many other behavioral problems. Cats need mental stimulation! An enriched environment gives us the opportunities to create our own positive experiences, and in turn, promotes a healthy, happy kitty. And as we all know, a healthy, happy cat ensures a healthy, happy bipedal slave!
The safest place for Fluffy is her domicile. But without all the excitement (and dangers) of the great outdoors, Fluffy needs a little help making the great indoors a fun, enriching environment. Some of the simplest efforts by humans can make a big impact in Fluffy’s life. If you are unsure which ideas work and which don’t, fear not- Fluffy will tell you when your efforts fall short of her demands. Remember, too, that sometimes what works one day, won’t work the next. Complicated creatures we cats are.
Here are some of the top ways to enrich Fluffy’s environment:
Vertical space: Simply adding more space for Fluffy to claim is a HUGE plus. Providing cat trees, preferably with hiding spots, perches and shelves, can add a lot of extra space for your feline master, but only takes up a little bit of floor space. Cat trees can be a real life-saver in multiple cat households. Fluffy can be on the top perch and never even realize her arch rival, Muffin, is sitting directly below her in the hidden kitty bed. Elaborate cat trees of all kinds can be purchased at stores and online, but custom-built trees are often the best. Just make sure your carpentry skills are up to snuff before attempting to build a cat tree palace!!
Play: Promoting activity, preventing boredom, and developing a bond with our humans are just a few of the benefits of play. Pet stores offer many wonderful and fun toys, but not all are safe for unsupervised play. String, feathers, and other small parts make for very expensive foreign body surgeries, so don’t leave Fluffy alone with these toys!!! Studies indicate that Fluffy plays harder and more frequently with toys that also involve human slaves. Rotating out or offering new toys keeps playtime fresh! Games that mimic stalking and hunting are among most cats’ favorites. Laser pointers can provide lots of fun for Fluffy and family, but could also become frustrating for the poor kitty who never actually gets to catch the prey! Incorporating a reward at the end of the hunt is key- let Fluffy pounce and thump her favorite toy. Praise her for her exceptional hunting prowess! Pet her, cuddle her, offer (a few) treats, give her catnip!
Feeding: Cats in the wild eat up to 10 – 20 small meals a day, which involves hours of hunting prey (as I know, having hunted cans of Fancy Feast on the open savannah in my youth). Having food available at all times in the food bowl may sound appealing, but can be a real bore to us mighty hunters. It’s also a factor in feline obesity, which can lead to several other health problems. Make feeding time more natural for Fluffy! Food puzzles (store bought or homemade) can make feeding time challenging and more enjoyable. Cut holes in a small cardboard box and add a few treats- as odd as it sounds, it mimics fishing motions when Fluffy tries to flip the food out of the box. Another fun toy is a ball with small holes in it- kibble drops out as Fluffy bats it around the house. Even try hiding Fluffy’s food in different places- up, down, and all around the her domain! Change it up- cats are the superior species, so we’ll figure out your tricks pretty quickly!!
* Incorporate safer aspects of the great outdoors- open windows for the fresh air! Put a bird feeder in the backyard. Build an outdoor enclosure. Take short outings on a harness.
*Try training- people are amazingly open to clicker training (just kidding… cats CAN be enticed to participate in training rituals like clicker training. Really!).
*Groom Fluffy as much as she’ll allow- many cats like brushing and combing (see my blog about grooming do’s and don’ts)
*Have scratching posts available (see my blog, “The Scratching Post,” for more information).
All in all, it’s not hard enriching Fluffy’s environment, but it does take commitment. Don’t hesitate to call my personal slaves at Cat Care, PC of Rochester Hills, MI for more information, tips, and ideas!