Environmental Enrichment for the Indoor Cat

Cats that live inside have an expected life span of twenty years, while those allowed outdoors will live an average of only five years. This is due to a number of reasons including the decreased risk of injury and disease that is seen when cats are kept safely indoors. Transitioning to an indoor only lifestyle can be a difficult adjustment to make if a cat is used to going outside for daily adventures, however, providing an engaging and stimulating indoor environment can help to make this transition easier.

Many cat owners may not know where to begin when it comes to enriching their cat’s environment. As it becomes more common for cats to be kept inside, there are plenty of new and wonderful ways to keep cats mentally engaged throughout the day to help avoid the behaviour problems that come with a bored cat.

Basic requirements:

Whether they live indoors or outdoors, all cats require access to food, water, shelter and adequate toileting areas. Households should have at least one litter tray per cat with one additional tray to reduce competition if there are multiple cats, or to prevent accidents outside the tray. Food and water should be kept a reasonable distance away from their toileting areas. Cats should also have at least one space each to hide and keep out of the weather in an outdoor run.

Toys:

What a plethora of options! Balls, wand toys, fluffies and laser pointers are generally favoured by most cats and they are cheap and easy to access. These toys do work better if the owner is involved and engaging with the animal, but this will give the cat the opportunity for exercise, mental stimulation and a bonding session as well. Laser pointers have also evolved to the point where they can be automatic - all you need to do is put some batteries in and off you go! Be aware that some cats can develop a fixation on the laser, so monitor your animal to ensure they are not becoming too obsessed.

Puzzle toys which use food are also a great way to keep your cat entertained. These allow the cat to forage, which is a natural instinct we want to encourage for the mental health of the animal. Foraging can also be encouraged with cat friendly plants such as cat mint, cat nip or pet grass which are available from most nurseries and hardware stores.

Scratching posts:

We’ve all heard the dreaded stories of beloved furniture shredded by indoor pets and many cat owners face the same issue. The key to managing this behaviour is relocating it. Scratching is an innate behaviour that we do not want to stop, but we can channel this behaviour so it’s more productive for the animal and less destructive in the home. Scratching boards are available from most pet shops and can be hung from doors or placed on the floor to give your cat a specific area to scratch. A more popular and more engaging option is a cat climber! These can be purchased or purpose built with the help of many online tutorials – perhaps a project for the kids! Cat climbers fulfil multiple forms of enrichment, providing an area to scratch, a place for the cat to be active by climbing, as well as providing them somewhere comfortable and safe to hide.

Outdoor cat runs:

 

For those with a little more time and money to spare, cat runs are a great option. This allows your animal to be outdoors whilst also being out of harm’s way and preventing any environmental damage. There are lots of options for purchasing cat runs, including runs that are purpose built for your space, netting to secure your yard or building one from scratch yourself!

 

There are many different options available to help your indoor cat lead an enriching life. The key is finding the right option for your cat and your lifestyle. These are just a few ideas to get started, but the possibilities are endless. Happy enriching!

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