Have you ever wondered how to improve your indoor cat’s environment? Staying indoors keeps our cats safe, but boredom, stress, and frustration can lead to behavior and health problems. Meet Tiffany the Tortie, cat home design expert and our guest writer this month. This talented feline designer knows first-hand what indoor cats need to stay healthy and happy at home. Read on for Tiff’s tips to make feline home design magic.
#1: Cat basics: Food, water, and litter
Tiffany: “When designing your cat’s space, remember that cats like a regular routine with predictable food, water, and litter resources. An enriched environment provides choices. Set up several feeding stations throughout the house. We cats naturally eat an average of 12 or more small, same-size meals throughout the day, and remember—canned food more closely mimics our natural diet. In the wild, our water source would not be next to our food source, so provide fresh water in separate locations, also remembering that some cats prefer pet fountains to bowls. Lastly, note that we have litter substrate preferences. Some of us like clay litter, although most prefer clumping litter. Our litter box should be located separately from feeding areas.”
The Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team agrees with Tiffany. Meeting your cat’s needs in an enriched home environment is all about location, location, location. When feeding your cat, remember that grazing is good, but does not equate to free choice or unlimited volume. Always ensure the total daily food volume is appropriate. Consider feeding your cat on an elevated surface if dogs or toddlers roam the floor. And, always provide one more litter box than the number of cats.
#2: Places to scratch and climb
Tiffany: “If your home is small, don’t worry. Cats need vertical space, and love to monitor the floor below from a safe, elevated spot. Climbing towers are great, especially with hammocks for resting at the top, but you can save money by using what you already have. Provide a way to the upper bunk bed, for example, or simply stack sturdy items that cats can climb. Locate this elevated cat condo by a window so your cat has a sunny spot to nap, or to “stalk” birds and chipmunks outside. For scratching, most of us prefer a sturdy sisal post placed in a high-traffic area.”
Tiffany knows what cats want for climbing and scratching. Cats scratch to mark their scent, groom their nails, deal with stress, and to stretch. Cats like to stretch their full body length when scratching, so make the post tall.
#3: Cat food puzzles and toys
Tiffany: “We cats love, and need, to practice our hunting behavior. We want to figure out a problem—stalk, chase, pounce, and catch—and get a reward. For example, reward us after laser-light play so we don’t get frustrated. When you pull a feather string-toy, let us catch it for a brief period. While you are at work, provide passive play opportunities through food puzzles or foraging toys. Start with easy treat toys, and then move to more difficult puzzles. You don’t have to buy expensive toys. Get creative and make them from toilet-paper rolls or crumpled paper. For those of us who like to play in water, place a ping-pong ball in a shallow container of water, and watch us go nuts!”
Tiffany is on the ball with these ideas. Interactively play with your cat for five minutes several times each day, remembering that cats are naturally more active in the morning and the evening, and sleepy during the day and night.
#4: Places for cats to explore
Tiffany: “Cats are both predator and prey, so set up our environment to appeal to both. The outdoors constantly changes, so rotate your cat’s indoor activities to keep them new. Provide a box with leaves and sticks in the fall. We naturally chew greens, so consider growing cat grass indoors. Tissue paper is always a favorite. Some cats like children’s play tunnels, but you can appeal to our senses with simple household items. Make a cat house out of a box by cutting windows and doors, and hide kibble inside. Cats can have fun exploring something as simple as a paper bag on the floor with a piece of kibble inside. We love ice cubes made with tuna water, or a small piece of meat in the center. We also love screened porches, but you can achieve the same effect by opening screened windows. Consider harness training to leash walk, or using a cat stroller. ”
We believe that Tiffany’s terrific tips are on target. Call the caring team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center for more ideas on improving life for your beloved indoor cat. With a little effort, the humblest abode will feel like a million-dollar mansion to your cat.