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Environmental Enrichment for Cats

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Environmental Enrichment for Cats

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You've probably heard of the term environmental enrichment on some occasions, but you are not entirely clear what it means or how it can benefit your cat. Although many cats are lucky enough to be welcomed in a comfortable house, the innate curiosity of cats can lead to boredom and character changes as time goes by.

In AnimalWised, we suggest you read this article so you understand what environmental enrichment for cats is and learn everything you need to know, as well as discovering how to apply it at home in a simple and cheap way, thus reducing stress in your cat's life.

You may also be interested in: Pet Bird Enrichment Ideas
  1. Definition of environmental enrichment
  2. Environmental enrichment for cats with inanimate objects
  3. Environmental enrichment for cats at a sensory level
  4. Other tips of environmental enrichment for cats.

Definition of environmental enrichment

We could say that environmental enrichment for cats, are all the factors that provide a better quality of life for our cat.

There are too many things grouped together (their interaction with people, other animals to promote playing, quality feeding, etc.), but in this AnimalWised article, we will focus on two specific types of environmental enrichment:

  • Environmental enrichment for cats with inanimate objects: toys, structures, and all things referred to the physical space available for our cat.
  • Environmental enrichment for cats at a sensory level: Visual stimuli, odors...
Environmental Enrichment for Cats - Definition of environmental enrichment

Environmental enrichment for cats with inanimate objects

Environmental enrichment for cats with toys

It seems obvious that a cat needs hours of gameplay, but sometimes we don't give it too much importance or we spend many hours away from home and we assume that they will play alone with what they have on hand. However, toys that allow us to interact with our cat, provide us with quality time to assess possible locomotive alterations, or detect early signs of disease, in addition to the satisfaction that is mutually mutual generated by your company.

Some toys that we can recommend are:

  • Fishing rods (imitating fishing) that we can use with a squeaky toy at the tip, or feathers, are an example of a game for all, which cats tend to be very receptive to. Balls, stuffed mice and the like do not move alone, so it is common for our cats lose interest after a while.
  • Canvas tunnels like those used in playgrounds (there are some specifically made for cats), provide a mixture between a den and a toy that appeal greatly to cats.
  • A reward in the form of appetizing food, like a malt treat, or some of their favorite wet food, will leave them feeling that the end of the game is nice and that playing is rewarding (if it's a very lazy cat that has entered the vicious circle of sofa-bed).
  • In cats that are highly motivated by food, a simple hard cardboard, the cardboard roll left after you've finished the toilet paper. It can be a perfect toy to hide pieces of food by covering both ends. Then we can make some holes in the cardboard roll, so your cat will need to turn it as they smell of the food and want to get it out through through the holes made.

There is a wide variety of toys for you to purpose in the market, in addition to authentic labyrinths to find a reward, that stimulate the cat mentally and physically, although they are not so cheap.

Other ideas for cat environmental enrichment

  • Structures for cats for environmental enrichment: a structure refers to constructions of all kinds, from a simple cardboard box, to three-floored scratchers, with included hideout and hammock to sleep. A simple, economical option is a cardboard box, where you can make a hole for them to go in. If installed in a high place (cats prefer tall places), it will be the perfect hide out to get away from unwanted visitors or when they want to escape from the hustle and bustle in the house. Many people are quite handy and can make wooden boxes distributed around the rooms of the house at different heights, which also gives them a perfect place for marking and rubbing their jaws and nails. You can also build bunk beds with old drawers from an old coffee table, leaving cushions in them, to provide a bed and watchtower. Igloo type beds, are a commercial option that is not as expensive as modular scratchers, and cats tend to like them a lot.
  • Distributing several sandboxes around the house is also something that could be considered environmental enrichment with structures. We can not always have a pristine sandbox and if your cat is very clean in this area, it will help very much.

It is important not to overload the environment because sometimes we put too many ideas into practice, all at once, and limit the area in which the cat can wander around without noticing. In addition, it is necessary to respect the adequate distance between toilet area, relax area and area of food, although it is not easy in small flats. That is why it is interesting to take advantage of vertical space for recreation or rest areas, if it includes surfaces to sleep or hammocks.

What about the laser pointer?

It may seem fun to see our cat chasing a light on the wall, but the truth is that it generates frustration, so it is causing the opposite to the desired effect. The cat fails to catch anything, contrary to what happens with stuffed toys, the mouse on a rod... They spend time chasing after something that they can not touch and it suddenly disappears. This type of games is not advisable if what we want is to provide to our cat a suitable environment for a balanced and stress-free life.

Environmental Enrichment for Cats - Environmental enrichment for cats with inanimate objects

Environmental enrichment for cats at a sensory level

Apart from toys and other inanimate objects, there are other ways to enrich your cat's daily to improve their well-being, we'll explain them below:

  • Visual stimuli are important so that our cat will be balanced and comfortable. The ideal thing to do is to allow them to see out of the window, but we must be careful for two reasons: the most obvious, is that they may fall or get trapped when we leave the window partially open, the other, is that sometimes there is too much external stimulus (birds constantly in the area, for example), and our cat can end up getting frustrated being far away while watching helplessly. Let them access views to a place inhabited by people, and occasionally by other animals, but without too much presence of potential prey, it would be ideal. Cats possess good visual acuity and differentiate various colors, so many people put on videos or nature programs on the TV. However, several people have found that they do not capture their attention as much as watching life through a window.
  • The olfactory stimuli: odors are very important in the life of cats, some attract them magically. Enrich their environment with herbs that are nice (Nepeta cataria, catnip), or leave a drop of bleach in each sandbox after cleaning them... etc, encourage their interest in their surroundings. Not all cats respond with the same intensity to the same scents, but we can easily and inexpensively try several options.

In addition, for older cats who develop something similar to senile dementia, olfactory therapy usually helps them recognize different places: toiletries, food... When they are disoriented and do not remember where to go to urinate, the smell of lavender, for example (if you use it on a routine basis around the area), "will remind them" that this is the place where they have to go to find the litterbox.

In the same way, you can choose up to three scents, which will be available in the form of air fresheners in the places that we want our cat to recognize. It is the equivalent to leaving notes that remind them of a routine.

Environmental Enrichment for Cats - Environmental enrichment for cats at a sensory level

Other tips of environmental enrichment for cats.

In addition, although they are not so cheap as the above ideas, we can use feline pheromones around the house. They come in the form of diffusers that fit together like air fresheners, as well as in spray. In times of stress, such when moving home or a the arrival of a new member in the family, pheromones can help our cat to be more relaxed and entertained. However, they should be used for a few weeks to notice its effect.

We must also remember that facial marking and filing their nails or rubbing, is fundamental in the life of a cat. Not allowing them to do it, because they leave hairs in places where they rub or because their scratching can damage furniture, is a mistake we often commit. Instead, we can choose to put strips of coconut fiber in corners they visit frequently to mark. They can be used as corners, covering sofas and door frames for which your cat has special fondness. Our furniture will be protected, and our cats, relaxed.

Do you have any trick for environmental enrichment for cats that you want to show us? At AnimalWised we look forward to knowing from you and we encourage you to share your knowledge with us and other users!

Environmental Enrichment for Cats - Other tips of environmental enrichment for cats.

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Environmental Enrichment for Cats