Feline enrichment is a great way to reduce your cat’s stress and boredom. Like puzzles do for us, feline enrichment offers your cat the opportunity to exercise her brain while also having fun.
Feline enrichment can help with a wide variety of behavioral issues including destruction, inter-cat aggression, escaping, retreating to isolation, anxiety, arousal, hyperactivity, overgrooming, litter box problems, overeating, loss of appetite and depression. Providing your cat with enriching experiences and activities will also help her stay psychologically and physiologically healthy.
Feline enrichment comes in many forms and can be administered in a variety of different ways.
Physical Enrichment and Play: Play time is critical for a cat’s well-being and reduces stress and frustration. The average adult cat needs about 30 minutes of play time daily. This can be broken into several short sessions instead of one long bout of play. At least half of this time should be interactive play with a person. Kittens will generally play for 45-60 minutes a day, and 5-10 minute increments are best for the little ones. For more information, please see our Cats and Play Article.
Environmental Enrichment: Cats need the opportunity to practice normal behavior in their home environment. Provide your cat with a variety of places to perch, hide, scratch, and climb. To prevent your cat from getting bored, make sure there are options that vary in size, shape, color, and texture. Also be sure that resources are plentiful - multiple litter boxes and scratching posts in multi-level homes, for instance.
Sensory Enrichment: Sensory enrichment helps in kickstarting all of your cat’s senses including sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch.
- Sight: Set up a place for your cat to perch near a window. Place bird feeders and plants outside your window to attract birds, butterflies, and bumble bees. DVDs and online videos for cats, usually of birds, squirrels, fish, and other small animals, can also provide entertainment.
- Sound: Open the windows so your cat can hear nature sounds outside, such as bird chirps. Some toys have sound chips that are activated during play.
- Smell: Allow your cat to experience natural smells by bringing pet-friendly plants into the house, such as silver vine or lemon grass. You can also put a drop or two of vanilla or mint extracts (not mint oil) or a spritz of catnip spray on a toy or old towel for your cat to investigate,
- Taste: Use food puzzles to feed your cat her meals. Some of these puzzles approximate the normal hunting routine of the cat, catching a moving “prey” and then eating their prize. Others are stationary but still require problem solving and coordination to obtain the food. A number of these puzzles are available from pet supply retailers. You can also find lots of options online for DIY puzzle feeders.
- Touch: Provide your cat with a variety of surfaces to scratch and rub up on. The surfaces should vary in texture, size, and shape.
Social Enrichment: Although they come off a bit more coy than our canine companions, cats too love to spend time with their humans. Make sure to set time aside each day to brush and pet your feline friend, maybe even a short trick or training lesson too!
If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.