Environmental enrichment: what it is and why your cat needs it

Imagine living in a generally comfortable house with plenty of food, a few toys to play with, and random affection to show you are loved. Sounds okay, right? But you sleep about 15 hours a day, two-thirds of your life, and some days are just kind of dull. You need a little excitement to liven it up.

This is the life a typical domestic house cat. Granted, indoor cats have a big advantage over their outdoor brethren in living longer and have much less risk of contracting disease or being injured, but they also are prone to an array of behavioral problems. Studies show that the “same old thing” for some cats inspires anxiety, eating disorders, aggression, voiding in other places besides the litter box, and even obsessive compulsive disorders.

Mental stagnation breeds all manner of issues with indoor cats but enriching their environment goes a long way in helping them maintain an even keel. Mental stimulation allows opportunity to create positive life experiences within their four-walled lives. Everything from meal time to play time to bathroom time comes into play and as a pet owner there are many things you can do to help. Let’s look at some popular environmental enrichment strategies for your favorite feline.

Go vertical

Cats like to be in high places and providing them with such locations not only adds more living space, it makes for a happy and content cat. Carpet trees and cat condos with perches and hiding places are big hits and can become escape routes from the household dog or other pets. Cats also love to look out the window from high perches and it gives them the mental stimulation of being out there.

Make feeding time fun

A cat’s lineage comes from millennia of their wild ancestors that of course hunted for their food. Indoor cats essentially have their meals served on a platter and what fun is that? Spice up meal time with food balls or puzzles and interactive toys. Make a puzzle from a cardboard box by cutting in small holes and inserting food or treats so your cat gets in on “the hunt.”

Switch up the toys

We all got bored with the same toys when we were kids and cats are no different. Give them just a few at a time and rotate with new ones every week or so. And be sure to use yourself as a toy and goof around with your cat at least a couple of times a day.