A cat’s emotional and physical well-being is determined by how well pet parents are meeting a cat’s needs. These needs are equally divided among social, eating, sleeping, grooming, and hunting. Cats are both predator and prey and are literally analyzing everything in terms of being safe or being in danger. This includes every time they interact with you or other people, hear a sound, see a movement, smell something different. They are doing this every second of every day. Knowing this, we can provide a safer and more enriching environment to keep our pets healthy and happy. Here are some tips to help:
Play should always mimic hunting styles and include all aspects of the hunt (eye, stalk, chase, pounce, kill) and engage a cat’s senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. There are a multitude of toy choices or activities that are satisfying. Some of my favorites are toys on a pole, wand toys, and laser lights (providing the cat gets the red dot in the end). Interactive play between a pet owner stimulates the brain, provides exercise, combats boredom, and strengthens your relationship. Plus, it’s what cats like to do. Keeping cats inside where they are safe while providing enrichment makes for a happy and healthy cat.
Feeding can be done with food puzzles and slow feeders. Ditch the bowl for something that encourages foraging and hunting. Move the food around the house at different locations so they can search. Where would your cat want to eat? Feed it there! If you have a multi-cat household, spreading the food around gives cats more personal space to eat. Some cat behaviorists believe that how we feed a cat is as important as what we feed them.
Cats sleep 12-16 hours a day. Heated cat beds, perches, boxes or containers, a carrier, quiet places, and a spot in the sun are wonderful accoutrements for a sleepy cat.
Grooming is super important and serves more purposes than you might imagine. It hides a cat’s scent from predators, cleans injuries, removes debris and parasites from fur, and disperses natural oils in the skin. Cats love to be washed and enjoy grooming their housemates as well. One thing we can do for them that they like is wash their whiskers and mouth with a warm washcloth.
Cats, being social animals, would enjoy an indoor environment that engages all of the senses. Cats love window perches, vertical climbing spaces, wall shelves, sun beam chasing, catios, cat friendly-music, videos, cat plant grass, fish tanks, and companionship. You can even bring the outside in by gathering leaves and placing them in a box for your cat to explore.
Take a look around your home from your cat’s perspective and see what delights you can add to your cat’s world. Giving your cat ways to display their natural behaviors will help reduce stress and give them more choices. Happy Cat, Happy Home!