The Importance of Environmental Enrichment for Cats
Cats of all ages benefit greatly from environmental enrichment. It helps satisfy their hunter instincts, their social needs, and their territorial preferences. It also helps to keep your cat occupied so boredom doesn’t lead to aggression, anxiety, depression, or destructive behavior.
If cats are living in a boring or stressful environment, problems like chewing on items around the house, fighting with other pets, over-grooming, isolating themselves, overeating, and compulsive or self-mutilating behaviors can occur.
Let’s talk about what environmental enrichment is, and how you can use it to help keep your cats happy and healthy.
Reasons Why It’s Important to Enrich Your Cat’s Environment
One great reason to enrich your cat’s environment is to provide her with the ability to stay active.
Cats are born to be great hunters, so they really enjoy being predators. Your indoor kitty can experience the same feelings she would have during a real hunt if you simply enrich your home environment for her. Again, this prevents stress, boredom, depression, and anxiety. Making time to play with your cat and allowing her to tackle “prey” in the form of a variety of toys is important and necessary.
Related: Why Do Felines Love Cat Trees?
Also, when living outside on their own, cats can get a lot of physical activity in every day, so you want to provide that for your indoor kitty as well. This will be a great form of exercise, and it will serve to prevent stress. Plus, being able to release excess energy in a way that’s fun is a good way to avoid negative behaviors that are associated with boredom and anxiety.
Easy Ways to Provide Environmental Enrichment
Environmental enrichment may sound complicated, but it’s actually really easy.
Again, playing with your cat is a great way to let her release her inner hunter instinct and make her feel like an accomplished predator. But in addition to making time to interact with your kitty, check out the many toys that you can leave out for her to find and play with throughout the day when you aren’t home. Just be sure that they are safe and won’t be hazardous to your pet.
Related: Top 5 Puzzle Games for Cats
Puzzle feeders are yet another tool that you can use to enrich your kitty’s environment and allow her to “hunt” for her food. These are designed in a way that will also mentally stimulate your cat, so she won’t get bored and she will be challenged in a new way that will keep things interesting.
Finally, because cats love being up high, provide your pet with a means to get above everyone else in the home. A tall cat tree could be the ideal solution, especially if it has several perches at varying heights, some scratching posts, hideouts, and toys included. You can also purchase window perches so your cat can get some height while relaxing and checking out what’s going on outside. Or you can install some cat shelves, catwalks, and cat ladders that are perfect for giving your cat a high place to relax.
Work with Your Cat’s Personality
Getting to know your cat is the best way to provide her with the environmental enrichment that she prefers. For example, if your cat really enjoys being up high most of the time, you can incorporate more vertical space than you would for a kitty who likes to stay lower to the ground. Or you may find that your cat loves water, so you can provide enrichment by purchasing a cat water fountain.
The key to environmental enrichment for cats is simply allowing your pet to be herself. Understanding that your cat is a natural hunter, enjoys high places, and needs to have a way to release her energy in a healthy and productive way will help you determine the best ways to enhance your home so your kitty can be comfortable and happy.
Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.
More by Lisa Selvaggio