Understanding a cat’s physical and social needs can help guardians set their feline up for success by providing them with adequate enrichment. This is an important part when we begin behaviour modification and set realistic expectations.
When we have an indoor space that is enriched it allows for cats to express innate behaviours. Some of these behaviours may include chewing, playing, and scratching. These behaviours may be deemed undesirable to guardians when they are towards household items that are valuable to us like furniture, or plants for example.
The above behaviours can be eliminated or reduced by providing appropriate enrichment items which are appealing to cats.
Chewing Household Plants
For cats that enjoy chewing on household plants introducing cat grass or catnip, grass is a great and safe alternative. Combining management such as securing plants in a room that your cat can’t access will prevent them from chewing on plants altogether.
Scratching is a natural behaviour in cats, as it helps with shortening and keeping their claws healthy. Most importantly it’s a way for cats to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands in their foot’s pads and when they scratch on surfaces it leaves their scent behind.
Providing enrichment items for scratching will keep your cat’s claws on appropriate items rather than on inappropriate items. Some great ideas for scratching enrichment are cardboard, sisal rope, and different types of fabric. Pay close attention to what your cat scratches on and provide the same type of fabric, but on an appropriate item. Lastly, always reward your cat when they scratch on items they are supposed to, as behaviours that are rewarded will continue to increase.
Having a physically enriching environment can help with reducing fear and stress in cats. Cats should have comfortable resting areas throughout the home where they can escape if needed. In a multi-cat household, this is very important as it allows each cat to have their resting area and prevent them from having to compete for space and resources. Some cats enjoy resting in areas with other cats, but some enjoy being up high and away from other cats. Therefore, having different resting areas is important because it allows cats to share space safely and enjoyably.
Outlets for play are an important part of enrichment. It not only satisfies the cat’s instinct to catch, pounce, or chase prey, but it builds the animal-human-bond.
Cats enjoy seeing toys being tossed or moved under blankets and around furniture. This allows them to release extra energy and de-stress. Some fun and appropriate toys include wand toys, laser pointers, battery-operated toys that mimic prey, or stationary toys for self-play. These are just a few toys that can be introduced to a cat’s play routine and provide enrichment.
Social and physical enrichment is very important in a household with cats, as it not only helps with their mental state, but it improves their quality of life and welfare. When beginning behaviour modification accessing environmental enrichment is a crucial part of a treatment plan. Providing and making improvements to a cat’s physical and social needs can help reduce and eliminate problem behaviours.
If you are needing guidance or have a cat that may be displaying undesirable behaviour such as litterbox issues, aggression, fear, inter-cat aggression please visit our webpage here and book a feline consultation with our Behaviour Specialist Erika.