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Animal Enrichment - Cats

P7302621-345x255With our busy lifestyle many of our friends at home are severely under stimulated which can lead to harmful, annoying, and frustrating behaviors.

To reduce or even eliminate these problem behaviors we are adapting the practice of providing enrichment for our pets. An additional benefit of implementing enrichment in your daily routine is that it has been shown to slow down age related mental decline in pets.

What exactly is enrichment?
Enrichment is anything that promotes physical or mental activity. As people we use things like playing sports and games, reading, doing crossword puzzles, traveling, walking, dancing, and arts and crafts.

Enrichment for cats should aim at allowing the cat to practice natural behaviors.

Cats in the wild eat small meals throughout the day as they catch them.
They also seem to prefer to eat alone without an audience. A way to mimic this behavior at home is to provide several food stations throughout the house with only a tiny bit of food in them. You can also scatter (dry) food on the floor instead of providing a bowl.
Many cats seem to enjoy drinking moving water. Special cat fountains or even just small decorative plug-in fountains will allow for that.

Think three-dimensional. Cats like to rest where they can overlook the scene and be out of the way.
You can buy or build climbing trees, you can arrange for raised walkways, and build platforms.
Try clearing out the top of the book shelf or closet and make it kitty accessible.
DSCF9817-250x201An additional benefit of these high up places is that cats can avoid each other more easily. This helps alleviate conflict.

Be sure to keep hiding opportunities lying about.

A great project is it to build an enclosed outside area that connects to a window. This allows the cats to go outside without getting into harms way.

Cats will enjoy a good scratch even when they are declawed. Since they like to stretch out while scratching make sure to offer a large area. Provide opportunities to scratch horizontally – on the floor – and vertically – on a tall post or a board that is hanging on the wall.

Different toys serve different purposes. Most cats need all kinds of toys:

  • There are small ‘stalk-and-throw-around-and-kill’-toys like little mice.

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  • There are interactive ‘chase-and-hunt-down’-toys like feathers on a string.

  • There are ‘figuring-out-a-way-to-get-that-thing-out-of-the-box’-toys like puzzle feeders. You can make puzzle feeders out of plastic storage containers which have holes in their lids. The holes should be just big enough to allow ‘fishing’ for food or toys.

  • There are ‘tackle-and-wrestle’-toys like cat sized stuffed animals.

IMAG0738-151x176If you use a laser pointer to get your cat to chase the dot please feed your cat at the end. Cats get easily frustrated if hunting doesn’t result in a meal at the end.

Old toys get boring - take them away after a day or two and bring them back out a few days later.

DSCF1932-310x209Be cautious with string and tinsel. Cats are notorious for eating them. This can cause obstructions which can be life threatening.