Environmental enrichment for cats
Cats make great indoor pets with the benefit of increased owner-pet bonding, reduced risk of infectious diseases and traumatic injuries, and helping protect our native birds and wildlife. There are a number of things you can do to ensure your indoor cat stays mentally and physically healthy.
Depending on your home set up, indoor cats can sometimes be less active which may contribute to them becoming overweight or bored - however, there are many things you can do to ensure your indoor cat is stimulated and happy.
To provide indoor cats with opportunities to practice normal behaviours, and encourage healthy mental and physical activity, you can consider implementing a variety of environmental enrichment strategies, including:
Provision of vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces:
- These should be large enough for the cat to be able to fully stretch their arms and body out during use, and heavy enough to stay put for some vigorous scratching action!
- Cardboard horizontal scratching platforms can be purchased online, and cats often love using them
Climbing and surveying activities:
- Ideally, invest in a high multi-platform “cat tower” and place this near a window so your cat can sit and enjoy an ever-changing view
- If you’re very limited on space, consider a window-sill hammock instead
- When leaving your cat alone, set the TV to a nature channel for some interesting viewing for your pet
- Allow your cat to practice natural foraging behaviours with the use of puzzle feeders
- Try hiding pieces of your cat’s favourite treats or dry food around the house for them to sniff out, or rolling pieces of food along the ground for them to chase!
- Provide cat grass for your cat to nibble on – most cats enjoy the taste!
- Encourage your cat into two five-minute play sessions daily with a variety of toys e.g. dangling toys or electronic chasing toys. This will serve to provide both mental stimulation as well as physical activity which helps to prevent obesity.
- Switch toys around regularly to keep your cat’s interest
- Offer your cat new objects to play with g. paper balls, ping pong balls, cardboard boxes or paper bags to climb into, or empty tissue boxes with a few treats placed inside for your cat to fish out
- Try for at least one daily grooming or cuddling session with your cat (on your cat’s terms!)
- With treats and clicker training, many cats will enjoy learning new tricks - there are plenty of instructional videos online to check out, just don’t overdo it with the treats
Daily outdoors time:
- Young or confident cats can be gradually trained to walk on a cat leash and walked in quiet areas
- Consider purchasing a sturdy outdoor cat enclosure or pet stroller, so your cat can safely enjoy outdoor sights, smells and sounds!
A varying program of environmental enrichment is very important for keeping your indoor cat happy, calm and healthy, and will also help them to form a close, lasting bond with you.