Environmental Enrichment – Designing A Home For You And Your Cat

When I was growing up, we had a lot of cats over the years – most of which were half-feral. Money was tight, so while we shared our home with the cats, they never actually got their own furniture, aside from their own food and water bowls.

Then, when I moved to my first apartment, I got myself my very own indoor cat, Prin.

The difference was night and day.

You see, one of the things I never thought of when I adopted my first indoor kitty there was that I, in actuality, took in a roommate.

Cat Furniture
Inside Of A Scratching Post

Understanding The Needs Of Your Roommate

Think about it.

When you bring another living being into your home, what is the first thing you do?

You set them aside a room.

Adult roommates will usually bring their own furniture. We also buy a ridiculous amount of specialised furniture for our children. They effectively own these pieces. And it makes them feel at home. They can make it their own using a colours, stickers, a certain type of style, you name it.

Next, they need something to do with their day, right? Adults will go to work or college, kids will go to school or kindergarten. Or, they stay home with mom and be surrounded by toys, tv and attention. This keeps their attention focused on something productive instead of destructive. Meanwhile, it allows them to fulfil their need for stimulation and learning.

So, why would this be any different for any other living being – including your feline companion? Considering how important territory is for cats, it could be argued that it’s even more vital to them. Especially when they are indoor cats and effectively live and ‘work’ at home.

Lastly, there is the interactive aspect. We enjoy meeting up with others and sharing our lives with others. And while cats are perfectly capable of being solitary animals, they have adapted to living with us. They are quite willing to form intimate and close bonds with others – including humans. That means we’re part of their territory and part of their lives. But more than that, they make up part of ours and take up a special place in our heart. So why would we not make the most of that by playing with them and spending time together?

Ask yourself – why do you have a feline companion?

What is it that you two love to share?

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What Kind Of Specialised Furniture Does Your Cat Need?

Look at your home in 3D.

Cats occupy the vertical world as much as the horizontal one.

By adding things like cat trees, scratching posts and shelves to your home, you create what Jackson Galaxy calls a ‘Cat Super High way’. Your kitty can effectively hop and climb from one place to another without ever putting a paw onto the floor.

Meanwhile, adding different levels is especially important if you have a multiple cat household, as it increases the territory in your home. It was one of the major ice-breakers in my own home between the cats. Suddenly, they were walking tall again instead of lurking around. Also, make sure you have some high-up sleeping spots, as well as some in quiet places.

Consider adding a big, stable scratching post to the main hub of activity in your home – this is usually the kitchen or living room. That way, your kitty can watch the action from a safe place. This trick is also very effective to make cats feel safe in a home with a dog. The dog gets to own the floor and they’ll take the higher ground.

See if you can put any litter trays in a room that is off the beaten path, preferably with 2 or more exits. Cats are at their most vulnerable when they go to the bathroom, so having an escape route is a big perk. Think of places like guest rooms and dining rooms.

As for the food and water bowls – make sure they cannot contaminate each other.  And, of course, make sure they’re at a safe distance from the litter box as cats share our aversion to eating where you…well, you know.

 Cat Toys

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Working And Playing From Home

I don’t think I really appreciated just how active a cat’s mind was until I had indoor cats.

They got into all kinds of trouble.

As I didn’t provide them with enough productive things to do, they took out all that unbridled energy on our apartment. Prin organised nightly food raids for a period of time. And every morning, at 6 am sharp, the kitten train – with one cat following another –  raced through the apartment .

While my cats did get positive and productive stimulation from each other, they also started bullying one another since they had nothing else to do. And, of course,  I ran into litter box issues because of it.

Channeling that boisterous energy became a definite must.

Similarly, a single indoor cat who has no one else in their life but their guardian will likely cling to that guardian. After all, they’re the only source of entertainment and movement in the house. This may also cause them to start overeating, and become apathetic and even depressed due to the lack of stimulation.

Toys are an obvious and awesome way of ‘channeling’ all that mischief.

Most cats have a preferred toy. Falcor, for instance, likes sponge balls while Arwen likes catnip mice. Then there are weekly catnip parties, cat grass – to bring the outdoors indoors – , puzzle toys, carton boxes (a new one every week!)and even cat dvds to play for them when you’re at work! (Insert link?)

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Strengthening Your Bond

Cuddles are a must in our house.

My hand-raised kitty and I very much share a love for cuddling. But spending quality time together can take so many amazing forms.

For instance, I personally enjoy watching them exploring a new carton box together. And every morning, me and my boyfriend have a cuddle session with Falcor in the bed. Then, when I open the terrace door, I do a little training session with Faith, using food, and a brushing session with Trinity. Later on, I’ll typically do a little snuggle session with Arwen in the couch.  I am also planning on taking further still and actually clicker train them. Maybe we’ll even try a few obstacle courses, after learning all kinds of tricks!

However, the real big one for most cats is 15 minutes of interactive play time with a wand toy – most cannot resist this. It allows you to share an activity together, builds their confidence – especially if you let them catch it often – and gives you a break from the stress in your life. It’s that special one-on-one time between just the two of you. And it’s glorious.

Not to mention beneficial – it allows you to check in emotionally and check up on your kitty physically, all at once.

This article only scratches the tip of the iceberg, though, so if you would love to learn more, you should definitely check out my First-Aid Kit For Cat Guardians. It is available for free to anyone who joins our email list!