Environment enrichment for Indoor cats
Nowadays many cats are kept purely indoors. It is important to meet their mental and physical stimulation requirements as well as social interaction, to ensure our cats’ overall health and happiness.
Territory or home-range is of major importance for cats particularly in multi-cat households, cats need to satisfy their sense of territory in different areas of the house. It has been shown that in multi-cat households they develop a system of “time sharing,” which is a rotation of favourite areas to increase their greater sense of space.
Cat’s hard- wired natural instinct is to hunt and although indoor cats aren’t required to hunt to eat, they still need to express these instincts and be given opportunity to display these behaviours. It is necessary to provide toys for indoor cats that allow for this. That fluffy feather dangler becomes a flying bird to attack and a scrunched up piece of paper is now a mouse to stalk and chase! Toy rotation or providing new toys for your cat is important so they don’t become bored. Investigate what your cats “prey preference”, it may be bird or mouse. Toy examples include danglers, squeeky or chirping toys, balls, fluffy mice and items they can chase, battery operated or mechanical.
Cats love climbing and having furniture or large scratching posts that provide shelves and climbing opport unities along with areas that allow for the cat to scratch and scent mark are ideal. Window shelves or hammocks allow the cat to watch the great outdoors in safety and provide stimulation throughout the day.
A secure outdoor enclosure is a good way to give your cat access to fresh air and sunshine (Vitamin D), some cats may even allow you to walk with them on a harness and lead.
An indoor cat which is under stimulated may show signs of stress. These stress behaviours can be displayed in different ways such as: Over-grooming, pulling hair out or odd grooming habits such as stopping in the middle of play or walking to wash, vocalising, inappropriate scratching or urination, aggression, hiding, in- appetence or sudden weight loss. There are hormonal sprays and diffusers such as Feliway® that can help through stressful periods. More chronic behaviours may require medical intervention and/or modifications of their home life/settings.