How to select the right environmental enrichment for your cat

If you have an indoor cat, or several, you are probably familiar with their desire for activity to keep them occupied (and out of trouble). Cats need stimulation and regular recreation to maintain strong mental and physical health and there is a term for this: environmental enrichment.

What does that mean? In order for most cats to be lively, content, and minimize poor behavior, they need plenty of toys and a place to hide, as well as a location on which to perch, a familiar sleeping destination, and a place to scratch. Of course, they also need a safe place to eat, drink, and heed nature’s call. You can provide all of this with cat trees, bags, a bed, and a litter box. Let’s look at some important keys to a cat’s ideal environment:

Gimme shelter

Unless they are fast friends, cats have a natural instinct to get away from dogs and it’s important they are able to when necessary. A place to hide can run the gamut from a paper bag or cardboard box to a pet carrier hidden behind a chair. And this goes beyond just fleeing through the living room in a semi-friendly game of tag. Your cat should be able to eat and “use the restroom” in peace, without a dog standing there watching or harassing them. When it’s time to sleep, they take after us and like to bed down in a place of safety and comfort.

The view from on high

Cats are also big fans of getting up high, with aerial views of their household environment. In fact, some experts claim that a single cat needs roughly 500 square feet of space to keep behavioral problems at a minimum. One way to increase a cat’s environmental space is by going vertical. Cats love to climb and perches offer a secure place with excellent vantage points from which to survey a pesky dog or perhaps a wandering mouse.

A cat tree with multiple perches are very popular and many cats will nap or sleep up high as well. Cat-specific trees and perches are widely available and come in all kinds of sizes and shapes.

Scratch and play

Scratching is a natural instinct for cats so be sure to have a scratch-worthy location with material such as cardboard, carpet, fabric or wood. And don’t forget play time. Cats love to hunt and incorporating a variety of toys will stimulate their desire to rev up and have fun.