Along with dogs, I live with multiple cats. Feline enrichment is important. This is based on an article submitted to the Inside NoVA – Northern Virginia Today in winter of 2020.
Each morning before I leave for work, I set up food releasing toys for my dogs. Weeble, our youngest and special needs kitten, loves tackling Foster’s maze ball while he goes after a stuffed Kong. Weeble stalks, rolls, pounces on the ball as if she were hunting. Drusilla will often check out stuffed Kongs before the dogs get them. Violet and Linus often hang out in the dog crates. Stig is one for climbing and chasing. Just as we enrich our homes for our dogs, we must do the same for our cats. You may look around your home and think “Well I have some catnip toys and a laser pointer, that should be enough.” No, it is not. What can we do to better enrich our cats’ environment?
If you have a laser pointer, be cautious. Laser pointers can build frustration and obsessive light chasing behaviors. Imagine chasing something. You think you have it in your hands and then it is not there. Then you see it again and the same thing happens grab, but it is gone. If you use laser pointers, limit sessions to a couple ties a week for a few minutes each time. Always end with the dot landing on a toy to tackle or a food releasing ball. Toys, like teaser toys and flirt poles (also called cat fishing poles) are a better alternative to laser pointers.
Here is an excellent piece on the risks of laser pointers.
Getting rid of food bowls and using food releasing toys helps meet physical and behavioral needs of your cat. Use a variety of toys. Choose ones that need to be rolled and rocked and others that the cat reaches in to pull out kibble. Cats should have wet food as part of their diet. Kong toys may be harder for cats to lick canned food out of. However, there are toys that are shallower and easier to use.
One easy food toy to make uses a muffin tin (not the disposable foil ones) and rubber balls. Put a little canned food in some of the wells. Cover all the wells with balls that must be moved to find the food.
Some great food releasing toys for cats include:
Kong Interactive Treat Ball
Catit Treat Ball
Funkitty Fishbowl Cat Toy
Catit Food Tree
Legendog Cat Slow Feeders
There are also small food releasing toys for dogs that can be used with cats. Such as:
Busy Buddy Twist and Treat
Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball
Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball (I invert the funnel inside the ball and cut it shorter so the toy is less frustrating – you will see this in one of the above videos)
StarMark Bob a Lot
Orbee Tuff Mazee Ball by Planet Dog (also in one of the above videos)
Not only are cats predators, but they are prey for larger predators. Cats need plenty of areas to get several feet or more off the ground. The more places your cat has to move around rooms without touching the floor, the better. This helps them feel safer and encourages natural behaviors.
Cat trees with multiple surfaces and platforms, hiding cubbies, adapted shelving units, wall shelves, etc., can all provide this. Hiding treats and toys and sprinkling catnip on the shelves further enriches these areas. Put several scratching areas in the home. Use both horizontal and vertical scratching areas. My cats love the corrugated cardboard scratchers and I can easily rub catnip in them. (Please note, not all cats are responsive to catnip, it is a genetic thing).
Plain paper bags and boxes are great toys. Cat tunnels (especially with food toys tossed in), crinkle sacks, etc., encourage activity.
Place different balls in your bathtub or in wide, lower sided boxes. Let your cat bat the toys around. Hide toys and treats in boxes and cat tunnels. Leave your cat carrier out and open. Hiding toys and treats in the carrier helps your cat develop a positive association to it.
Window perches or shelves and tables allow your cats to watch outdoor activities. My cats love to watch birds at feeders. If you are handy, build an outdoor cat enclosure with things to climb and hide in. Make sure it is covered and secure, you do not want kitty to escape.
Rotate some of the activities you use for your cats. Do not change them all at once but do a few at a time.
Cats need more for their physical and mental well-being than many owners provide. Do more for your cat, she will be all the happier for it.