Having a cat in your home is a wonderful thing! They bring a lot of joy and comfort to the humans in the household. In our domestication of cats, we have taken them out of the wild and made them human-friendly. They now use a litter box and eat out of dishes we provide. However, there is give and take in every relationship. Making your home a cat-friendly environment isn’t difficult and can help keep your cat healthy and happy!
Cat-Friendly Environment Tip #1: High Perches and Hiding Places
Domestic cats are in the unique situation of being both predators and prey. They like to have high places where they can watch an entire room in just one glance. From these perches, they can watch for the movement of prey (mostly toys in our indoor world), potential danger, and the comings and goings of their favorite humans and other pets. The ability to take in their surroundings in this way can help a cat to feel calm and in control. Cat trees and shelves that are firmly secured to the wall can help provide the high places a cat needs.
Good hiding places are important too! These should be small, cozy places where the cat can be alone. Having a secure place to disappear to can help diffuse anxious situations for cats and help them to feel safe to take a nap. Often cats choose places under furniture as their hiding places. These can also be provided by purchasing or creating cat furniture that is small, enclosed, and has a small entrance/exit.
Cat-Friendly Environment Tip #2: Multiple Scratchers
Scratchers are a very important part of a cat-friendly environment. Scratching is a natural behavior in cats that helps them to stretch completely, mark territory, and defend themselves when necessary. Each cat has a different preference when it comes to scratching posts, so you will need to do some experimenting to find out what your cat prefers. There are options regarding the angle of the scratcher: horizontal, vertical, on an angle, etc. There are also options regarding the material that is being scratched: different types of rope, carpet, fabric, etc.
Since scratching is a method of marking territory for cats, it is important to have more than one scratcher. Some cats will be happy sharing scratchers while others will want certain ones all to themselves. Cats will also want to mark multiple areas in your home since it now their territory. Places where your scent is heavy (the couch, the bed, a favorite chair) will be prime locations for scratchers. Cats show that they are a part of a social group (or family) with you by adding their scent to yours.
Cat-Friendly Environment Tip #3: Lots of Fun Cat Toys
Cats may sleep a lot, but they can get bored. Just like in humans, boredom in cats can lead to bad behavior and depression. An empty room doesn’t give them a way to engage their natural instinct for stalking and hunting prey. Adding some fun cat toys may be just what your home needs to be a cat-friendly environment! You will want cat toys that your cat can play with on his/her own and toys that you can play with together. Interactive play is a must! There is no amount of electronic wizardry that can reproduce the benefits of actual interaction with another creature.
The best cat toys are the ones that imitate a cat’s natural prey such as mice, lizards, birds, and bugs. This is another area where you will need to experiment and find out what it is that really gets your cat excited. If your cat is a catnip addict, then a catnip treated toy may be perfect! Electronic cat toys are very hit or miss. They can be too predictable, make strange sounds, or be too complicated for a cat. Cats tend to prefer toys that are very simple.
Cat-Friendly Environment Tip #4: Outdoor Enclosures
Everyone could use a breath of fresh air now and again! Having an area where your cat can safely go outside and relax in the sun is a great idea. It could be a balcony area, a commercially made outdoor cat enclosure (they are kind of like enclosed playpens), or something you erect yourself. These allow cats to get some sun, watch nature up close, and get some fresh, uncirculated air.
Allowing your cat to roam freely outside is not a great idea. Cats can get lost, get in fights with other animals, catch diseases and parasites, and potentially even be stolen for use as bait for fighting dogs. Keeping your cat in an enclosure allows you to make sure that your stays safe and healthy.