What exactly is Cat Enrichment

When we talk about cat enrichment, it's anything that engages, mentally and/or physically stimulates and entertains a cat and gives your her 'cat work' to do.  Cats like to be busy when they're not resting up for the next 'hunt'! Enriching a cats life is simply making sure your cat has plenty of ‘cat things’ to do. Cats are extremely inquisitive beings that lead very busy and complex lives. This may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to your cat, but it’s true. Cats love to explore, hunt, check out new things and play hard. Your cat needs ‘things to do’ to engage and stimulate him both physically and mentally so that they can lead a happy and healthy life!  Lack of physical and mental stimulation can lead to boredom, aggression, depression, obesity and other health concerns and

behavior concerns.

Many people, including myself, feel more comfortable having their cats inside rather than outside due to the many life threatening hazards that abound outdoors.  There are cars, predators, other animals, including cats, that they may have run ins with, and unkind people to be worried about.  If you’re able to provide your cat(s) with a Catio (an outdoor cat enclosed patio), that’s great, but they can be expensive and not all of us can afford this, so let’s take a look at other options and things we can do to help keep our furry friends happy, busy and engaged in positive ways!

All cats are different, just as we people are, so explore with your cat to find out what type of play they prefer.  Some cats love self-play and tossing things around, some want you to participate in playtime with balls or toys on a wand, and there are others who might simply enjoy the bird/squirrel watching thing.  We’ve included as many different play options as we can here to help you come up with ways to help enrich your feline friend and keep him/her healthy, happy and engaged with life!

  • Toys:  Experiment with different toys to see what your cat might like.  Toys, like cat nip mice or other catnip stuffed toys, that your cat can play with on her own are a good place to start, along with the wand toys that you can move around for your cat to chase.  Just think of toys as something for your cat to ‘hunt’, as this is how they play.  Another tip for cat toys is to switch them out and rotate them frequently so that there are ‘new’ things for them to find and play with.  That way, they don’t get bored with the same old toys. Also consider putting some toys away, like the wand type or things that require you to participate with when playtime is finished.  That way it helps with bonding between you and your cat as well as keeping the toy ‘new’ as it’s not something they see all the time.  And always check to make sure the toys are safe before and after playtime… make sure there are not strings or pieces of the toy that have come off and could be a choking hazard or become an obstruction if swallowed by kitty.  For a list of cat toy ideas, see our Cat Accessories page and check out the Cat Toy Picks!

 

  • Cat Trees and Climbing Structures:  These are great for cats to explore and there are so many different kinds and sizes available!  Any type of cat tree will help your cat with climbing, clawing and even a place to snuggle up on when she’s tired herself out.  One thing I like to consider is what they’re made of.  I like to see a little more rope like covering than carpet on my cat trees, only because the rope like material tends to stand up much better to clawing than the carpet. Just look at the areas where the cat may climb up or claw and try to pick the ones that have those area covered with the rope like material as opposed to the carpet covering.  Cats love being high up.  Because cats are both predators and prey, being up above it all gives them the advantage of being able to see their surrounding and spot any possible dangers, so the more up and above places they have access to, the better!

  • Clawing Apparatus:  Cats have claws and they use them as tools, for marking to leave visual and scent marks (scent glands are located on cat paws), and they also claw to stretch and to remove the dead outer layer of the claw, so it’s important to be sure your cat has plenty of claw safe surfaces to interact with.  Cat trees, as mentioned above, can be good for this and there are also cat scratchers made specifically for this purpose.  All you need to do is google ‘Cat Scratchers’ and you’ll find plenty of options available!  There are even pieces that you can hang or attach to the corners or sides of couches to protect your furniture.  A quick note on furniture scratchers:  If your cat does not claw on furniture, I would recommend NOT getting the furniture scratch covers, as this may ’teach’ them to claw on a couch or chair.  If, however, you do have a problem with kitty sharpening their claws or stretching by using your couch, these are an excellent option to protect the couch or chair from damage.  There are floor scratchers as well, along with scratchers that stand upright or at an angel and pretty much everything in between to choose from.  Start with a few varieties and see what your cat likes best!

  • Home Made Toys & Exploration:  Sometimes the cheapest, already available household objects are a cat’s best friend!  Paper bags, boxes of pretty much any kind, paper packing, as well as plastic storage tubs are all great examples of things you probably have around the house already and can put to good use, giving your cat hours of fun! Running water is also something most cats are intrigued by and while you won’t want to leave it running for long, turning the faucet on to a drip can give kitty a few minutes of excitement!  Just be sure with any plastic tubs that your cat cannot get trapped inside. I have a cat who absolutely loves to hop in and out of the plastic tub, so I cut a round hole in the lid and put some of her toys in. She is constantly jumping in and out, bringing toys with her and then putting different ones back inside the tub. Take a look around your house and think like a cat.  Anything they can climb in and out of (paper bags, boxes, etc.) are bound to be a hit. We even took a few Amazon and Chewy.com boxes, taped them together and created a cat castle!  It lasted a good 3 or 4 months before it started to break down and got plenty of use during that time! I would just move it to different parts of the house every now and then and it seemed to magically become brand new for the cats!  😂

  • Moving & Techie Toys:  There are also moving toys, like battery operated mice, interactive cat apps, aquariums, fake fish you can put into a bowl for kitty to try and catch, automated laser pointers and watering fountains that can be richly entertaining for cats. You can find all kinds of cat tech toys out there with a ‘tech toys for cats’ google search. From basic battery operated mice to robotic toys that interact with your cat, there’s something out there for every cat!   https://petlifetoday.com/best-interactive-cat-toys/

 

  • Videos, Birds & Squirrels:  Some cats love watching the birds and squirrels, and some even enjoy YouTube videos available that have hours of bird, squirrel and even other cats for your little one to watch!  While this type of stimulation isn’t quite as interactive as other options, it can be a great source of entertainment for older cats and special needs cats.  As long as you don’t have other ‘outdoor’ cats that roam around near you, you can set up bird and squirrel feeders in your yard to attract the wildlife for your feline friend to watch from the window. And speaking of windows, a window perch is also a fantastic idea for your cat.  This not only gives them the chance to jump up and be above things, it also gives them the best window seat in the house for keeping an eye on the outdoors! Try out different YouTube channels by searching ‘tv for cats’ and see if there is something there that might interest your cat!

 

  • Food Toys/Food Puzzles:  Because play time is mostly about hunting for cats, there are also food puzzles, food toys and slow feeders for cats that you can use for meals and feeding.  These can be great because it requires the cat to work for their food and engage their problem solving abilities to finally get at it.

 

  • Leash Train Your Cat:  Another option for you and your cat is to try and leash train him with a harness for supervised outdoor adventures with you.  Not all cats will take to the harness and leash, but if you do decide to give it a go, start by putting the harness on indoors and letting your cat wear if for short periods of time to get used to it. Start slow with a 5 minute time frame.  If they need a break, you can take the harness off and try again later, slowly increasing the length of time the harness is worn whenever you put it back on.  After your cat has gotten used to it and seems to be at ease, add the leash and walk with your cat in the house.  Cats are very good at escaping things, so you want to be sure the harness is on tight, but not too tight.  Unlike us people, cat shoulder blades are attached to the rest of the body by only the muscle, not bone, which gives the shoulder blade a lot of freedom to move. This is how cats cat get through and under impossible looking spaces.  If their heads can fit, cats can make the rest work through whatever space they’d like.  So before taking kitty out on her leash, make sure that the she cannot escape by taking a good week or so to test it out on her in the safety of your home!

 

  • Teaching Tricks:  While it may sound impossible, cats can be trained to preform tricks.  They are extremely smart and the mental and physical stimulation of training your cat to do a cute trick or two can be fantastic for him/her and also helps strengthen the relationship you have with your cat!  While it may be a little more challenging that training a dog, it is entirely possible to do!  For some tips on how to train your cat and what tricks to try teaching, we’ve included a few go to links for information on how to go about trick training!  Give it a try and see what you and your cat can accomplish! Below are a few links we liked on teaching your cat a trick or two and how to go about it.  

https://www.wikihow.com/Teach-Your-Cat-to-Do-Tricks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy7isWuJN_0

https://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/5-things-train-your-cat.htm

 

  • Catio:  If you have the ability, space, means and time to give your cat the full, yet safe, outdoor experience, a Catio is the way to go!  A Catio is a cat proof enclosed, sheltered area outside your home with nothing but your cat in mind!  A Catio can be a small outdoor space off a window of your home, or as large as you’d like it to be. Whatever size you decide on, I’m sure your cat will absolutely love their outdoor space!! There are endless options as to what you can do and how to design a catio.  You can check out our Pinterest board with Catio ideas, which we are always adding to, and you can use google or any other search engine to find some pretty fabulous ideas for building an amazing Catio!

 

We hope our Cat Enrichment page has been helpful and that you’ve found some great ideas to help enrich your cat’s life. Engaging your furry feline with activities and fun will help keep your cats mind busy and active and help strengthen the bound you share together!  If you have any questions, thoughts, ideas not mentioned here or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!  We love to hear from our viewers! 

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