A wild cat is naturally stimulated by their environment – stalking prey, exploring, and climbing. Although your feline friend may have ditched some of their lioness instincts, they may be missing the enriching environment their ancestors once enjoyed.
A life indoors is truly the best for your cat’s health and safety. But that doesn’t mean a life indoors should be boring!
Why an Enriched Environment is Important
Providing your cat with an enriched environment can increase their activity, decrease mental stagnation, and prevent behavior problems. As they say, a bad cat is just a bored cat. A few signs that your cat may not be stimulated by their environment include:
• Over grooming
• Scratching furniture
• Not using the litter box properly
• Excessive meowing
Does your cat suffer from separate anxiety? Enriching your cat’s environment is a great way to keep them busy and decrease their anxious feelings while you’re away! Do your cats seem to not get along? Provide an enriched environment! Chances are that they will be provided with a distraction and mental stimulation, relieving the urge to attack each other out of boredom.
Keep reading to find ways to enrich your cat’s environment – from big to small, splurge to free!
How to Provide your Cat with an Enriched Environment
Scratching is an important and natural behavior for cats. It allows them to shed old outer nail layers, mark their territory, and stretch.
But you don’t need to sacrifice your couch, walls, or carpet for their scratching fun!
Provide your cat with a scratching post or mat. Add catnip or give your pet a treat when you see them interacting with it for extra positive reinforcement!
Make mealtime into a game
Slow down mealtime and add extra stimulation by turning it into a game! A UC Davis study concluded that owners should toss boring old bowls and shake things up with a food puzzle.
Food puzzles come in all shapes and sizes and can be used with wet or dry food. Your pet’s treat or food is typically hidden within the puzzle, and your cat moves it or pieces to get to it. They encourage a cat’s natural instinct of hunting and foraging for their food, mentally challenging them to figure out to how to get to their favorite snack.
Bonus: a food puzzle doesn’t need to cost you anything! Check-out these DIY cat food puzzles! Add vertical space
Cats love vertical spaces. It makes them feel safe and climbing provides much needed exercise. Luckily, you don’t need a large home to provide vertical space.
A few shelves on the wall cleared for their climbing pleasure, a cat tree, or a window hammock will all delight your height loving feline. Add a bird feeder near your window hammock and your cat will be provided with hours of entertainment!
Teach your cat tricks
Yes, you really can teach your cat tricks – from recall commands, to sitting pretty, and even fist bumping!
To teach your cats tricks, you will use positive reinforcement, visual and vocal queues, and some dedicated one-on-one time with your cat. Be prepared to be impressed by what your cat can learn!
Teaching your cat tricks will stimulate them mentally, increase activity, and build a stronger bond between the two of you. Learn all about clicker training and get inspired by checking out Cat School’s guide to clicker training!
Teaching your cat tricks is a great enriching activity while you are home, but it’s important to provide your feline friend with needed stimulation while you’re away. Training your cat how to run on a cat wheel might be one of the most rewarding tricks your cat can learn!
A cat wheel is well, a giant hamster wheel, powered entirely by your cat. Requiring some initial training, cats typically learn and begin to run on their own quickly.
Introduce new toys
Your cat likely has their favorite, go-to toy. If it’s anything like the ones I’ve seen, it’s hardly a string and missing most of its feathers at this point. Even so, it’s important to mix things up and provide your cat with a variety of options.
With so many to choose from, why not have a few of each, rotating them periodically to keep your kitty entertained! Favorites of my kitty clients include teaser wands, crinkle tubes, and catnip kickers. Interactive toys are a great choice for when owners are away.
Sometimes, it’s free toys that make the best ones! Paper bags, crinkled paper, boxes, and even socks could be your cat’s new favorite toy!
But providing your cat with fun toys is only one part of encouraging your cat to play. Spend at least 30 minutes each day actively playing with your cat. I know that life gets crazy – this can be as simple as moving your toes under the bed covers for them to attack!
Build a catio
While a life indoors is the safest and healthiest life for your cat, there are still safe ways for your cat to enjoy the outdoors without the danger of cars, dogs or predators!
A catio is a dedicated, safe outdoor space for your cat. It can be as small as a ledge from a window, or as large as a patio. Whatever size you choose, space should be secured, both from other animals entering, and your cat exiting. There are lots of pre-made catios to choose from, or you can make your own. It’s a great idea to install a kitty door so that your cat can have access to the catio whenever they want!
No matter how you choose to enrich your cat’s life, your cat is sure to thank you with good behavior and purrs!