Thoughts for Thursday – Enrichment for Cats

Is your cat getting enough enrichment or is she bored and lethargic. Or worse, does she get into trouble by clawing furniture, chewing the houseplants, and trying to escape every chance she gets? The fact is that your cat needs many of the same things you and your family do—shelter, food, companionship, and mental and physical stimulation. Do you ever get bored? What action do you take? If you’ve learned to take care of yourself, you find a way to stimulate your mind and/or body. You can do the same for your cat.

Trust me, you do not want a bored cat on your hands. While some cats simply go into bear-hibernation mode when they have nothing else to do, others become destructive. And neither of these behaviors results in a positive outcome for anyone.

Cats need enrichment, and a healthy cat will often remind us of this. What happens when you walk into your home after a long day or a few hours of shopping? Ours are eager to see what’s in the bags we carried in. Once they’ve examined the innards and the bags are empty, they might play in them for a while. Your cats probably helped you wrap Christmas gifts, prepare for your family gathering, inspect your table decorations, and the clothes you laid out to wear. Cats have a way of enriching their own lives, but when left to their own devises, their choices aren’t always to your liking. Wouldn’t it be miserable if every time you walked out the door for a little exercise, someone stopped you from talking a walk or doing a little gardening? While you’re eating lunch with friends and enjoying a lovely view of the ocean or beautiful gardens, what if someone suddenly pulled down the window blinds and sent your friends home?

That can be a cat’s life when his people aren’t pleased with the cat’s choice of enrichment activities. He finds a chair to claw and you cover it with aluminum foil. She happily digs in a plant and you get out the spray bottle. If you don’t like the activities of your cat’s choice, doesn’t it make sense to create safe and positive enrichment activities for your cat?

How? Think about what perks you up—what piques your interest and stimulates your mind. Consider your cat’s visual, auditory, and sensory needs. For example, I like variety in my life. I notice that my cats do too, so I might change out the cats’ toys, move the cat tree around now and then, as well as bring in something new for them to play with and climb on.

We have a cat tunnel, a few scratching pads, and a basket of cat toys that we can move around, hide and bring out randomly. Add a few paper bags and boxes now and then and the cats interest level and level of activity soars.

Build or buy a catio. Leash train your cat. Devise an enclosed stroller so you can take her outside for walks.

Lily loves water, so we brought in a fountain. I could buy another drinking fountain for the cats and either plug it in another place or change out the fountains for added stimulation and interest.

Install a window perch or move a piece of furniture up to a large window so your cat can keep an eye on the activity in your yard. Provide outdoor visuals—a bird bath, bird feeders, plants that attract birds.

Bring things from outside to the inside. I love the idea for burying grass, leaves, pods, and so forth in a box of shredded paper for the cats to explore in. Add a little catnip for extra stimulation.

And don’t forget to interact with your cats. Wands are my favorite interactive toy, however we once had a bad experience with a kitten and one of those retractable toys. The string wrapped around her and frightened her. She also eats the feathers off of the feather wands, so that’s not good. We have to be creative in choosing toys around here and you probably do in your home.

Here are a couple of sites that discuss enrichment for your cats. Visit them, take into consideration what I’ve suggested, and share your enrichment ideas here with us.

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