Keep the Kitty Happy - Enrichment for Mental Health
Feeding cats a natural and species appropriated diet helps keep them healthy physically but, what about your cats mental health?
Indoor cats can suffer from depression and frustration, and become lethargic if their environment does not provide enough stimulation.
Consider cat-friendly furniture, there are stylish home designs these days, accent furniture with tunnels, a special table in front of a sunny window, bookshelves with kitties in mind where they can explore or just observe, or even a wide ledged picture frame would work.
Provide Vertical Space
Cats love being up high, providing access to elevated perches built for one, not only increases their overall space, it gives them a feeling of safety and security too. You can cover them with carpet for comfort and traction, offer a kitty condo with hiding spots.
As our kitties age, they can become sedentary. Providing mental stimulation can come in many forms, hiding treats or a portion of their meal will encourage them to venture out. You can hang toys on the wall for them to play with beside the perches to add extra stimulation.
Being able to see outdoors is also a good form of stimulation as they watch the world go by. Changing or moving their beds and perches will mimic life outdoors, encouraging them to explore.
Did someone say box?
Creating homemade puzzles from cardboard boxes or reuse some of those empty plastic bottles. Simply cut some small holes into the object and fill with treats. You can also hide treats in different places around the house so your cat can “hunt” for his/her food. Put treats in corners, on shelves or behind furniture, for a good game of hide and seek. Freeze-dried and dehydrated treats work very well for this, the smellier the better to start.
Cats will get bored with a toy after a while, by providing only a few toys at a time on a rotating basis it will keep your cat's interest. Social activities with humans can be the single most effective way to enrich your indoor cat’s environment. Setting a timer for five minutes twice daily to play with your cat will give the opportunity to rotate the toys and activities. A variety of resources are available for interactive feline toys, games and furniture.
Providing an indoor environment that promotes natural behaviours including climbing, hiding, chasing, jumping and pouncing is key.
Cat enrichment tips:
• Provide a variety of cat toys that are safe and stimulating such as feathery and furry toys that move and feel like small prey or toys filled with catnip (be aware that catnip is known to make some cats aggressive or hyperactive)
• Provide a scratching post with high perches
• Set up perch areas near windows so your cat can observe the world and open screened windows to let fresh air in
• Set out a cardboard box or paper bag for your cat to explore.
• Turn on a dripping tap or better yet, a battery-operated fountain.
• Spend time every day interacting with him/her by playing with toys, games, encouraging them to chase you and/or peek-a-boo
• Plant a pot of indoor greens for your cat to munch on such as cat grass or alfalfa
• Hide treats around the house and encourage her to find them
• Cats are auditory hunters – be creative, get toys that make noises or behaves erratically.