Environmental Enrichment for Cats
Environmental enrichment is an important component of an indoor cat’s daily needs. Enriching the environment can stimulate activity, exploration, and play behavior. Additionally, the enrichment can create opportunities for the expression of normal behaviors such as hunting, chasing, pouncing, or substrate scratching. Ultimately, cats who are engaged and entertained in their environment will have fulfillment and contentment in their daily routine and surroundings. They will also be less likely to express undesirable behaviors.
So what does environmental enrichment look like for a cat? Here is where your creativity comes in! Try and find things that will stimulate involvement along with normal (desirable) behaviors. It is important to rotate toys to create new anticipation and excitement. Use a set of toys for a few days or a week, and then put them away when another set comes out. Eventually when you get back to the first set, the toys will seem new again to your cat!
Offer your cat choices. For example, does your cat prefer to chase a feather dangling from a stick, or a laser pointer? Allowing your cat to choose can help you better understand your cat’s individual preferences. Additionally, it can make the playtime even more rewarding for your cat. And don’t forget that you can be one of the most important enrichments in your cat’s daily routine. Figure out how your cat likes to bond, and build that into the day too!
Need some concrete examples for enrichment? Try some of these, or come up with some new ones!
Self-Play and Exploration:
- Toy mice
- Pom pom balls
- Toys filled with catnip
- Shelving suitable for climbing
- Empty boxes
- Paper bags (without handles for safety)
- Toys that can be mounted
- Toys with balls that can spin in circles
- Homemade toys such as balled up paper or foil, jelly bracelets, etc.
- Place some kibbles of food around the house for your cat to ‘hunt’
- Scatter feed (toss the kibbles on the floor)
- Treat dispensers
- Food puzzles
- Perches or shelves in front of windows
- Bird feeders or bird baths placed outside of windows (for enhanced window watching)
- Cat trees or towers
- Scratching posts
- Corrugated cardboard scratchers
- Cat towers with different textured surfaces
- Brushing your cat
- Sitting together
- Rubbing/ petting
- Feather stick
- Laser pointer (don’t point it in the eyes)
- Fetch (Yes! Some cats will play fetch)
So go ahead and dive in to some environmental enrichment – you and your cat will enjoy it!
Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS