National Cat Lovers Month
Whilst our feline friends might insist that every month is National Cat Lovers month, this month it’s official! In celebration of all our wonderful feline patients, the North Road Veterinary team has put together a list of quality environmental enrichment suggestions for cats.
What is environmental enrichment?
Environmental enrichment involves offering your cat various feline-friendly items, foods, or situations to interact with in order to encourage exploration and the expression of natural feline behaviours. This is particularly important for cats who spend a lot of time indoors.
As well as providing your cat with some delightful mental stimulation, a varied program of environmental enrichment can also:
help to maintain their physical strength and fitness
provide a positive outlet for their physical energy by encouraging natural stalking, chasing, pouncing and scratching behaviours
reduce negative behaviours such as inappropriate play or furniture scratching
reduce stress and anxiety
encourage quality time and bonding between you and your cat
Whilst there are lots of fun “cat furniture” items you can buy for your pet, there are also plenty of inexpensive, DIY enrichment options to consider too.
Encouraging play and hunting behaviours
Enticing your cat into games where they’re encouraged to stalk, chase and pounce on “prey” is great physical and mental stimulation (and is pretty enjoyable to watch too!).
Try your cat with a variety of toys, ranging from:
fishing rod toys with “fur” or feathers
ping pong balls or balls of scrunched-up paper that your cat can bat around with their paws
small soft toys which can be tossed into the air for your cat to pounce on or hidden in boxes for your cat to find
large soft toys that your cat can bite or rake with their claws
feline-friendly interactive toys, such as those with moving parts to attract your cat’s attention
Encourage your cat to play by rewarding them with a tasty treat after they interact with the toy.
Scratching is a natural feline behaviour, allowing your cat to stretch, mark their territory and keep their claws short.
To help prevent misdirected scratching of your furniture or carpets, indoor cats should be offered at least two sturdy scratching surfaces (which won’t move around as the cat scratches them). Ideally, one surface should be horizontal (e.g. a cat scratching “lounge”), and the other should be vertical (such as a scratching post tall enough for the cat to stretch up fully whilst using it).
Cats generally prefer to scratch surface materials that they can sink their claws into and pull against, such as corrugated cardboard, carpet, natural wood and bark, or sisal fabric, rather than sisal rope.
Keeping mealtimes interesting
If your cat isn’t limited to a particular diet for medical reasons, they may enjoy being offered a variety of healthy treats (such as small pieces of dried or plainly-cooked chicken breast or fish) for different smells and tastes.
Dried treats (or some of their regular kibble) can be scattered around the house for an enticing hunt or placed into activity feeding boards for your cat to “fish” out.
Offering your cat interesting feeding opportunities like this can help to promote satiety and reduce overeating.
Climbing, resting and hiding spots
Cats are natural climbers and love to energetically claw and leap their way up to high vantage points, where they can then rest comfortably and observe their environment.
They may also sometimes wish to retreat to more private hiding spots if they feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Depending on your particular home, DIY skills and budget, you could consider the following options:
a quality carpeted “cat tree” with multiple platforms
several cat beds, “igloos”, or cardboard boxes placed on both high furniture surfaces and in quieter places (such as quiet rooms, cupboards, or under beds)
cat hammocks that can be attached to windows, giving your cat an interesting view of the outdoors
wooden platforms anchored to walls to form a safe elevated climbing track and resting places
A varied environmental enrichment program will help to keep your cat busy, happy and healthy – perfect not just for National Cat Lovers month, but all year round!
Contact the North Road Vet team on (03) 9596 4804 if you would like more information on maintaining your cat’s mental and physical health. Otherwise, if you have concerns about potential unwellness or behavioural issues in your pet, please call our team to make an appointment.