Just like their canine counterparts, cat care goes beyond their physical well-being. True, your kitty may be quite self-sufficient in many ways (and not want constant attention from you).
But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for chances to give them plenty of stimulation. After all, one of the five freedoms of animal welfare is the freedom to express normal behaviour.
FirstVet vet Dr Jessica May shows felines the love they deserve by explaining why cat enrichment is important and sharing different ways to help them thrive.
Cat enrichment is a way of helping felines to fight boredom and stress by giving them mental and physical stimulation. Introducing enrichment helps them explore their natural instincts in a positive and healthy way, which in turn encourages good behaviours. Even better, minimising stress (a common cause of behavioural and health issues) through enrichment can help cats live happier and more fulfilled lives.
Always remember to choose enrichments that suit your cat’s age, breed, and physical capabilities – but more on that later.
Many cat parents choose to keep their felines indoors if they live in a flat, near a busy road, or if it suits their breed temperament. But these kitties also still need an outlet for their natural behaviours – the ones which are often met by exploring and hunting outdoors.
So it’s extra important to give indoor cats enrichment and compensate for the lack of outdoor stimulation. If you don’t give them the chance to hunt, play, and scratch, they may become frustrated, leading to various behavioural issues like:
Housecats may get used to their non-changing indoor environment and become afraid of and overly sensitive to any changes. They could also struggle to escape stressful situations in a smaller, confined indoor space.
Great news – you’re not short on options when it comes to enriching your cat’s life. There’s four main types of cat enrichment: environmental, social, cognitive, and nutritional. Try to bring in a mixture of activities from each to give your cat plenty of variety.
Turning your home into a cat play haven is a great way to give them environmental enrichment. You’ll want to create places where they can explore and hide, so they can have fun and still feel safe and comfortable.
Bring in environmental enrichments like:
Cats thrive on social interaction, whether that’s with felines, other pets in the household, or their lifestyle patrons (also known as their owners). Cat social behaviours include playing, cuddling, and grooming, although each feline will have their own preferences.
Positive ways to interact with your feline include:
Giving your cat plenty of play and feeding activities helps them to explore their natural predator instincts.
Try cat cognitive enrichment ideas such as:
When it comes to sensory enrichment, you’ll want to appeal to all of your cat’s senses. We’re talking about a mix of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that will keep your kitty’s curious mind stimulated.
Cat sensory enrichments could look like:
Age and breed are both really important when it comes to choosing what kinds of cat enrichment you need for your feline.
For example, some breeds like the Persian and Maine Coone may want more social enrichment as they love cuddles and human interaction.
Kittens have a greater drive to play with other cats and want longer and more intense play sessions to burn off their energy. Being so little, they need size appropriate toys as well as ledges and perches at a lower height for easy access.
Older cats (as much as they wouldn’t admit it) need to go at a more gentle pace when playing. Ramps can help them get to their favourite perch spot or move ledges to a lower level for accessibility.
our lucky feline is truly spoilt for choice when it comes to cat enrichment toys.
Just some of the toys you could get them are:
If you’re eco-conscious or love a good project, here’s some easy DIY cat enrichment toy ideas. Your cat may not acknowledge the effort put in, but you’ll feel good having made them something with love.
For any food-based toys, remember to keep in mind your cat’s dietary needs.
Let your cat be the judge of how long and how often you play together. Every cat has their own preference on how much human interaction they enjoy.
Try out two or three play sessions during the day (at a consistent time of the day) and see how they respond. Some cats like short bursts of playtime throughout the day, while others like one long play session.
Don’t force things if your feline isn’t feeling it. When your cat walks away from you, that’s your cue to bring the play session to an end.
Helping your cat lead a happy life also means being prepared for when the unexpected happens. Protect your feline with flexible cat insurance from Petsure.