Environmental Enrichment And Your Cat

Is your cat chasing you? Destructive? Scratching where it shouldn’t? Meowing for ‘no reason’? Spending too much time outside? Time to spice up it’s life by adding some more FUN!

Environmental enrichment is stimulation of the brain by it’s physical and social surroundings. We want to meet our pet’s physical and mental needs to make them as happy and content as possible. Although the cat has been domesticated, they still have a desire to perform their natural behaviours in their environment or your home. Providing your cat with appropriate outlets to perform these behaviours not only makes life more enriching for your cat, but prevents damage to your home.

Hunting

Cats are predator animals, which means they hunt for their food. There are many health and safely advantages to keeping your cat inside but your cat will need activities which simulate their desire for hunting. Toys which encourage running, jumping, chasing and pouncing perform this purpose. Remember that if your cat is not interested in a toy, then it is not a toy to your cat.

Wand and feather type toys – Provide your cat with a range of toys of these types of toys. Toys that move and flicker around get your cat’s attention just like a small insect. Hanging toys in different areas and rooms.

Cats Meow – A battery operated toy which features a peek-a-boo wand which mimics a scurrying mouse, changes speeds and directions to keep cats entertained.

Remote controlled toys – such as mice allow your cat to chase and pounce.

Lasers – Cat’s are attracted to quick moving objects, laser can keep them entertained and fun for people to use too.

Hiding

Cats will hide or escape to somewhere they cannot be seen when they are feeling stressed. Even small household changes (such as new furniture) can be stressful to cats so it is important that they feel they have somewhere they can hide. Even if your cat is confident and interactive with new people or things, knowing that they have their special area that they can escape to helps cats feel at ease. Try to keep these areas solely for your cat – for example, do not let children disturb the cat while she is hiding.

Elevated places – Cats love to climb and also sleep up high. This allows escape from other animals or people where they wont be disturbed. It also helps if your cat is allowed to sit on chairs, etc around the house.

Hidey-holes – These allow your cat to hide away unseen. They can also double as beds. Try not to disturb your cat while they are inside.

Roaming and Foraging

Cats like to roam around the house, backyard and sometimes next door neighbours too. Cats who live inside or have limited access to the backyard have less opportunities for play and hunting. Providing them with hunting activities allow them to enjoy their environment or even better build them an outdoor enclosure! Have options and continually try new things to see what they enjoy.

Treat Balls – Can be filled with food, this can be your cat’s regular meal or treats. This particularly works if your cat is food motivated. Freezing food may work, however cats may get bored if it is too hard for them.
Food or toy hiding – Hiding food and toys can make your house and backyard more interesting for your cat.
Catnip – This is a type of herb which some cats enjoy by rubbing, rolling, drooling, being hyperactive and playful. Cat nip can be grown in the garden and dried, and it is also sold in pet friendly stores.

Cat grass – Combination of three types of grass that can grown in pots and placed around the house for your cat to eat to aid in digestion and enrich their environment

Outdoor Enclosure – For some cats, spending all day inside is not enough for them or you may want your cat to have time outside. Outdoor enclosures provide a safe area for your cat in your back yard. The enclosures can be made by yourself with special netting or bought then build like a kids cubby-house.

Scratching

Cats have a natural instinct to scratch and this should never be discouraged or punished. Scratching helps a cat to mark its territory and feel more at ease in its surroundings as well as keeping their claws in sharp condition. Provide your cat with a range of scratching options like carpet, sisal rope and corrugated cardboard. Try both vertical and horizontal scratches and try to place them in different rooms around your house so that they are always available to your cat.

Scratching Pole – These allow the cat to stretch while scratching, which most cats will enjoy.
Cat Tree – Have surfaces of different textures, hiding holes toys that swing off it. Their height also allows your cat to stretch. Depending on the particular model, they can also provide hidey-holes and high places for your cat to perch.
Cardboard Scratching board – Corrugated cardboard allows cats to really dig their claws in. They are however quite light and can move around while your cat is scratching.

About the author: Megan Reilly

Megan is a Veterinary Nurse Technician - the highest qualification available to Veterinary Nurses in Australia, Megan has a fun loving spirit and brings a positive energy to Heights Pet Hospital. She is a talented nurse who has a love for all patients and is continuously updating our processes and procedures, always finding a better or more effective way. She has been at the hospital since its opening in 2011 and in the veterinary industry since 2000, starting out as a kennel hand and then completing veterinary nursing cert IV in 2006. She has also undertaken additional study, gaining her qualification as a Veterinary Nurse Technician in 2015. Megan runs our puppy school classes and has a special interest in canine behaviour. She continues to give back to the industry with her dedication to training new veterinary nurses and work experience students. Megan has Trevor, a black domestic short hair cat with a penchant for extravagant bow ties! and Howard, a fiesty Border-Terrier.

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