Friday, January 29, 2010


Feline Enrichment Basics

Posted: 28 Jan 2010 11:58 AM PST

Dr.Larry_NAVC_2010 We talked earlier this week about the importance of a cat's home environment to their overall health. We discussed how either a chaotic environment or a barren environment can lead to chronic stress and how this might lead to disease in some cats.

A healthy cat needs a balance of stimulation and security to lead a healthy life, especially if they live indoors full time. While outdoor cats are at higher risk of infectious disease and injury, indoor cats in unhealthy environments are also at risk. So how do we make a cat's indoor world more appealing and interesting?
First we have to understand the unique personality and behavior patterns of the domestic feline.
We discussed this earlier this week at some length. We need to remember that cats are solitary hunters of small prey, by nature. They are also prey species in the wild and these two evolutionary characteristics help shape their world view. Since we control their environment, we have to be cognizant or their unique needs and provide for these needs if we want them to be healthy and happy.
There is an excellent resource for cat lovers available on line called The Indoor Cat Initiative. This website provides all the information we need to enrich the lives of our cats and keep their stress levels low.
I'd encourage everyone to read the section on basic needs. This section of the website covers such topics as the need for personal space and resting areas. Cats in the wild are most vulnerable to predation when they are sleeping so their resting places need to be in secure, out of the way areas. They like their privacy when the use the litter box, too. A litter box in a highly traveled area creates stress and makes the cat feel vulnerable.
They also need climbing areas and perches. As the website explains they like to view the world from above. It gives them a sense of control over their environment and in the wild helps them locate prey and avoid being located themselves. Perches that allow them to see outside are particularly attractive to indoor cats. They need the visual stimulation.
You can go out and buy an elaborate climbing system with perches but the website gives you do it yourself ideas too. In the lecture I attended on this subject last week we got several easy and inexpensive suggestions for environmental enrichment. For instance, if you don't want to buy a kitty jungle gym you can go to the local hardware store and buy a wooden step ladder. Put this by a window and you have a ready made climbing area with a perch as several levels.
If you worry that your cat needs to hunt to be normal and that keeping him indoors deprives him of this activity, worry no more. You can cater to your cat's inner predator without letting him outside and without worrying about the impact on the local songbird population. There are a variety of toys that simulate prey predator interactions and satisfy that feline need to stalk and pounce. Even better, these toys provide a great way for you to interact with your kitty.
You'll find a list of ideas from ready made to do it yourself toys on the website. There's even a section on determining your cat's prey preference.
There is a host of other information, too. I like the list of books on cat care and there is one that comes highly recommended. From the Cat's Point of View is an excellent book that helps us understand how the cat sees the world and how we can make his world a fun and exciting place.
The more you know about your cat's unique needs the more you can make their lives that much more happy and healthy. The right kind of indoor lifestyle can provide a safe and stimulating place to live.  Spend some time on this website. Your cat will really appreciate it.


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