Understanding the natural instincts of cats is vital to creating healthy and happy indoor environments for our feline pets. Indoor cats that lack the proper environmental enrichment get bored, obese, and exhibit unwelcome behavior. There are many ways we can enrich a cat’s indoor home to better meet its natural needs and instinctive desires.
Cats have been called the greatest hunters on earth. With their speed, agility and incredible jumping abilities, they are experts at hunting insects, rodents and birds. Though indoor cats don’t have to hunt for food, they still have a strong natural desire to frequently track prey and pounce. Small toys will help to keep indoor cats active and satisfy their desire to hunt. Toys they can bat with their paws, toss in the air and carry with their teeth are all great options. Toys that make noise, smell like catnip and can be dangled from a string will be especially popular. Cats get bored quickly, so having a variety of different toys is best.
Indoor cats love to see the outside world from a higher vantage point so a perch is a must-have for your indoor cat. Any place that allows cats to sleep, sit, or look outside from a high spot qualifies as a perch. You can place furniture in front of a window or you can purchase or build a perch that attaches to the windowsill. A strategically placed outside bird feeder or garden near the perch will provide hours of feline entertainment.
By nature, cats are also very tidy creatures. Outdoor cats will pick a new, clean place each time they need to empty their bladder or conduct other related eliminations. When setting up and caring for litter boxes for indoor cats, the golden rule is “one litter box per cat, plus one”. If you have a two-story home, you need a litter box on each floor. Place litter boxes away from air ducts and appliances that may startle a cat, and find a spot that will provide the cat with privacy. Litter boxes must be kept clean! If the litter box is dirty and smells bad, the cat will find another place to go to the bathroom. You should scoop litter boxes daily and wash them with a mild dish detergent weekly.
Finally, indoor cats need a quiet, out-of-the-way area or room that contains all of their water, food, litter box and a perch where they can escape from people and other animals. This refuge is a safe, comfortable place where they can chose to be alone and rest.
For further feline enrichment ideas and troubleshooting feline behavior issues, you can go to https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats or discuss your cat with your veterinarian.
Originally published September 2015 in the Lake Norman Citizen