Feline Environmental Enrichment Part 1: Physical Space

Size doesn't matter--not to a cat.

Cats don't care if you live in a studio apartment or a vast mansion. A cat doesn’t need a lot of square footage to be happy. What a cat does need from us is a special understanding of how he or she interacts with the physical world

Cats are predators: they need to hunt. But it may not be so obvious that cats can also be prey. In the outdoor world, your cat could be dinner for a coyote, a raccoon, or an owl or a hawk. And even though there is no coyote or hawk in your living room, your cat still has the defensive instinct to climb to high places and hide in safe places throughout his or her day.  

Cats like to climb and perch in places that give them a good vantage point to survey the room below. You can meet this need by placing climbing trees in various locations throughout your home. You can also make sure that the perches your cat is already using--like bookcases and shelves-- are safe and secure.  Help increase your cat’s ability to hang on tight in these high places by securely covering them with carpet or sisal.

Your cat will want to find cozy places to hide. Some cat beds are enclosed and have a door where your cat can peek out to observe the household activity. An inexpensive (although less aesthetically pleasing) option is an old-fashioned cardboard box with or without a pillow inside. They even love a brown paper shopping bag.  So often, cats prefer what the bed comes home in to the bed.  Veterinarians think that this is because cardboard and heavy brown paper are good insulators and heat up to a cat’s natural body temperature without getting too hot.

While veterinarians agree that it is best to keep your cat indoors, we also recommend that you provide a place where your cat can observe the outdoors. You can put a cat bed on a windowsill or place a cat tree in front of a window. If you want to up the ante, place a filled bird feeder near the window--your cat will enjoy the show!

Cats really don't like change. You may have noticed that your cat seems stressed if you rearrange the furniture, have workmen in your home, or have a major change in your schedule. You can help manage this stress by providing places to climb and hide.

From a simple cardboard box to an elaborate climbing tree, if you enrich the physical space in your indoor environment to meet their innate needs, our cat will thank you.