Understanding your cat’s physical, emotional and social needs will enhance your bond and your cat’s quality of life. There are a few easy steps to get started, which are listed below in five categories.
Provide Safe Havens
Cats like to have a birds eye view of their surroundings, and typically, they don’t like to share. Providing your cat with multiple elevated areas where they can perch, preferably by themselves, allows for your cat to feel relaxed and confident.
Schedule playtime with your cat in the same way that you schedule a walk for your dog! Cats like to exert their predatory behaviour, and directing this natural tendency to hunt, stalk and pounce towards a toy, helps to prevent this type of contact with you ankles! Using toys with different textures, laser pointers and wand-toys are all ways to encourage playful interaction. Always ensure that toys involving string or feathers are only used during monitored playtime to prevent ingestion of the toy. Leaving food puzzles, feeding balls and larger toys available at all times will help to provide independent playtime when you are not home. Try placing your cat’s favourite toy in different areas of the house for them to find. Or better yet, hide their toys on and around their scratching post and cat condo to encourage targeted scratching behaviour.
Positive human-cat interactions
It is important to provide positive and predictable interactions with all members of the human family in the house. It is no surprise that our feline friends are very particular individuals, and as such, they have their own likes and dislikes. Be sure to remind guests of their preferences, such as whether they like to be petted or brushed so as to avoid any unintentional distress or confrontation.
Provide multiple and separated resources in multi-cat households
In this scenario, resources are considered to be food and water dishes, toileting areas (litter boxes), safe havens and toys. This is especially key in maintaining a peaceful multi-cat household. Ensuring that multiple food and water dishes are located in different areas of the house, and sometimes on different levels such as on a counter or a bench to allow for separate feeding.
The nose knows: respect your cat’s sense of smell
A cat’s sense of smell is extremely sensitive! Be respectful and limit their exposure to scents from visiting cats or dogs. Ensure areas that may have been previously urine marked are cleaned thoroughly to prevent recurrence of marking. There is also abundant research showing that synthetic cat pheromones, such as Feliway spray and diffusers, can be used throughout the house to reduce stress.
It is true that we often view cats as “the easy pet” to have because they don’t need to go for walks, and they are often left to their own devices. However they are complex individuals that require an enriched environment to uphold their quality of life. Please consider taking a moment to review additional resources on the Ohio State University Pet Initiative website. But most of all, just remember to have fun with your cat!
Post written by Dr. Samyra Stuart-Altman