What is normal play – also called environmental enrichment – for a cat?
As we learned last time, the outdoor cat spends most of its day hunting for its next meal. While expending energy is expensive to the cat, it is also extremely mentally stimulating!
- The outdoor cat finds hiding places: small cubbies for protection and sleeping, or high tree branches for surveying its territory.
- The environment is constantly changing, and the cat must adapt.
How does this translate to my indoor cat?
The domestic cat is prone to boredom and stress due to under-stimulation by its environment (the same toys that he figured out when he was a kitten, the same views out the window, the same hiding places, etc). Stress in general causes cats to exhibit behavior that people see as “inappropriate” -scratching furniture, playing with curtains or blinds, exploring the kitchen sink, etc.
What can I do to make my cat happy?
It’s important for cats to be stimulated in their daily environment. This means that they should have games that challenge their problem-solving skills, places to hide and observe their territory, and a clean litter box.
- Cats love predictability, but small, frequent changes in the environment that your cat can explore provides novelty and teaches coping skills.
- Cats want companionship (sometimes). Interact with your cat as often as is reasonable.
- Provide new toys for your cat to “learn” about.
- Provide interactive toys that respond when your cat plays with them, and puzzles that the cat has to figure out.
- Although you don’t want to take away kitty’s favorite safe spot, add novel hiding places (boxes, beds, etc.)
- Allow your cat to choose an appropriate place to scratch by providing several options.
- Cats love to watch their environment from up high. Providing vertical spaces where the cat can perch (without being punished!) adds square footage to the cat’s world, allows your cat to have a new perspective on its environment, and provides a way to get away from people and other pets when he or she wants to (such as: cat trees, tall shelves, the top of the refrigerator)