Environmental enrichment for indoor cats

Do You think only outdoors can be rich and stimulating environment for your cat?Is your cat having fun indoors? While most people agree that cats are safe indoors, one should not force a cat to live inside four walls without providing a stimulating environment. Cats need the outdoors, and, if the outdoors has become dangerous, the best part of it must come inside. In this article you are going to learn how to make your cat’s surroundings more appealing, fun, stimulating, and a closer match to life outdoors.

Is your house vertical enough for your cat?

The most significant change you can make in your home for your cat’s appeal is, no doubt, adding a possibility to climb.  Cats are natural climbers. In the outdoors they climb, jump, run, and sleep on branches of trees.

Being elevated is crucial for cats. It provides security from other predators, like wolves or foxes, rival cats, and it also is game changing during hunting, as it provides a hiding post and lets a cat see further.

Even if your indoor cat does not hunt or his life is not threatened by larger predators, he still craves the ability to climb higher. First, it works on an instinctive level, and second, your cat indeed may be bothered by toddlers, vacuum cleaners, dogs, and others, including imaginary ones. You can find more about the importance of climbing here.

Get a cat tree, or make one yourself. Install more than just one, as cat trees are good addition to your home. However, that is not the only option. You may also install shelves, window perches, or make already available spots, such as the top of furniture or the fridge, easily accessible, comfortable, and, most important, safe for your cat.

As you add to your cat’s vertical territory, the most important thing is that you must add climbing opportunities in different locations of your home. You can find large selection of cat trees here. They differ in size, shape and price greatly.

It is best if there are one or a few in each room of your house, and, most important, they are near places where you spend time, such as family gathering locations or work spaces. There is a cat tree right next to our desk and, when we work there, at least one cat is on it at all times.

Cats love hiding

Look how outdoor cats cross your yard. They rarely do it in plain view, through the middle, because they do not know (or they know exactly) what dangers may await, so they walk along the edges, running from bush to bush, and always retain the possibility to retreat, if necessary.

It does not necessarily mean you have to install new stuff for hiding. You can modify an existing layout. For example, move your sofa a bit off the wall, so your cat can fit behind it; rearrange plant pots, so he can sit beneath the leaves and run from behind one such plant to another; and remove junk that is stuffed under your bed and other items.

Cat hiding in a boxSmall modifications are also considerable such as getting new curtains that hang to the floor; adding a foot stool, which will serve both you and your cat; or don’t put your pet carrier away when not necessary but instead add a lining in it and leave it somewhere accessible. It will provide a hideout and will teach your cat not to be afraid of it.

Cats also love boxes. People who know the internet know this. When the next shipment from an online store comes in, don’t throw the box away, but let your cat investigate it. Creating a cat house from a cardboard box is easy. You can just leave it as-is, place it on a side, cut an opening and place it upright, or create more advanced versions by cutting, gluing, and sewing.

Of course, you can also buy commercial cat hideouts, such as tunnels, cat condos, and hideouts integrated into cat trees. They are great, but a simple cardboard box still does greatly.

Scratching posts

We always think of cat scratching posts as stuff that helps us save furniture, but your cat needs them as well. Scratching provides cats with an opportunity to trim nails, mark territory, exercise, and stretch their muscles.

If you already have a cat tree, most likely it also has a surface for scratching. However, in the real world it is not enough. Cats usually have many places where they want to scratch, and, if possible, you should provide a scratching post or pad in as many locations as you can, especially near your cat’s activity spots and paths.

If your cat is already using his claws on your furniture, that’s good. You already know where the good locations for scratching posts are. That is, next to, in front of, or on top of those locations.

Environmental enrichment to provide activity for your cat

In the wild, cats spend most of their time hunting. It’s an activity that provides both physical and mental activity. Indoor cats, in most cases, are not as active because we do not play with them as much, but modifying their environment is a great way to improve their activity level.

Of course, grabbing a toy and having some play sessions is the best way to boost it and has many benefits. However, that is a whole other story.

As mentioned above, providing climbing possibilities is environmental enrichment that will increase your cat’s activity the most. However, solo play opportunities are just as important. The most common way of providing this is placing catnip-filled mice on the floor and letting your cats enjoy them, but that is not all.

Great toys for solo play are ones that may be hung in a doorway and will “float” above the ground. Toys on springs also create great amusement for cats. If you are okay with going electronic, you can also take a look at automated cat toys.

You can also think of interesting ways to provide your cat’s food through playing. The best option here is a so-called treat ball. This is a hollow ball in which cat food or treats may be placed. Most such treat balls have openings with an adjustable size so the treats come out every now and then while the cat is playing with it.

Indoor cat playing with a ball of yarn.

Besides all of the above, sometimes cats find toys for themselves. Since we have kids, our cats usually play with their toys. Sometimes you may also see that a bottle cap or “toe spacer” is something that cats find amusing.

Above everything, however, you should not forget to provide your cat activity with you. Here are some ideas on how to do it.

Cats love when options are available

Our final tip is to provide alternatives for your cat, in most aspects of his life, whether it’s an additional litter box, feeding and drinking station, bed, playing and climbing opportunities, or anything at all. Cats, as well as humans, love it if something they use is not their only choice.

In the wild, a cat would usually have more than one hunting location in mind in case one of those became unavailable due to the presence of larger predators, rival cats, any other form of danger, inaccessibility, or just that the prey is not there anymore. It’s similar for sleeping, elimination, and drinking locations. It also applies to cat trees and other places to climb being dispersed throughout your house.

Having alternatives is even more crucial if you have several cats, as cats are territorial animals and tend to claim ownership of territories and resources. But even if you have one cat only, he may benefit from the availability of choice, as other pets, especially those larger than cats, people, noisy appliances, and even imaginary threats, may disrupt your cat from visiting a specific location or make approaching it a struggle.

Cat living in a great environment is a happy cat!After all, even if there’s no danger to him, it’s about convenience, too. For example, as a cat gets older, he might not be able or willing to cross the entire house, jumping over the baby gate on the way, to get to the litter box. The carpet in the same room is good enough for him.

There are plenty of things you can do to improve your cat’s life like trying different types of food, feeding your cat on a strict schedule, and spending a ton of time with your pet. However, environmental enrichment is one of the most powerful tools in solving most behavior problems in your cat.