By providing your indoor cat with mental enrichment, you ensure they experience positive, stimulating experiences while safe inside your home. Our Dr. Treat team explains how to enrich your cat’s indoor environment to ensure they live their best life.
However, if they do not receive adequate mental stimulation and physical activity, indoor cats are more prone to issues such as anxiety, attention-seeking behaviors, aggression, and urinating or defecating outside the litter box. By providing your indoor cat with mental enrichment, you ensure they experience positive, stimulating experiences while safe inside your home. Our Dr. Treat team explains how to enrich your cat’s indoor environment to ensure they live their best life.
Why is indoor enrichment important for cats?
All pets need mental stimulation—especially indoor cats. Without adequate environmental enrichment, a cat can develop many health and behavior issues caused by boredom, stress, and inactivity. By providing engaging activities for your cat, you can help remedy problems such as:
Diabetes, osteoarthritis, and skin conditions
Overgrooming, bullying, inappropriate elimination, and idiopathic cystitis
Destructive behavior, inappropriate scratching, and aggression
To help prevent issues that result from your cat having minimal environmental enrichment, incorporate the following five methods into their daily life.
#1—Encourage your cat’s natural prey drive
Cats’ wild ancestors hunted to survive. Although you serve your domesticated house cat their meals, their hunting instincts remain, and your feline friend has the urge to stalk, pounce on, and kill their prey. Allowing your cat to express this behavior indoors can help prevent mental stagnation and behavior issues. To encourage your pet’s prey drive, follow these tips:
Ditch your cat’s food dish and feed them solely from food puzzles that require problem-solving skills to reach the food. You can purchase food puzzles like rubber Kongs and LickiMats, or you can create your own using crumpled paper, boxes, and cardboard tubes.
Divide your cat’s meals into three or four portions, and hide them on shelves, in corners, or behind furniture. This hide-and-seek exercise enables your cat to follow their hunting instinct. You can also hide a special treat in the same place for several days so your cat becomes accustomed to this search-and-reward activity. When you eventually hide the treat in a new spot, you reinvigorate your cat’s interest.
To fulfill your cat’s prey preference, provide them with many different toy types. Some cats enjoy bird-like toys with feathers, while others prefer fuzzy rodent-type toys that skitter along the floor. Any toy that allows your cat to roll, pounce on, capture, bite and chew, carry, or chase can be a perfect plaything.
#2—Create vertical space for your cat
Cats are natural climbers who like being up high, craving tall perches’ comfort and security on which they can observe their surroundings while remaining safe from potential threats. Enable your cat to explore new heights by offering them vertical climbing spaces such as:
#3—Let your cat scratch
Cats instinctively need to scratch to help them leave their scent, remove dead toenails, and stretch tight muscles. Encourage your cat to scratch in appropriate areas such as a vertical post tall enough to enable them to stretch to their full length. These posts satisfy your cat’s need to scratch and help prevent them from ruining your furniture.
#4—Let your cat explore the outdoors safely
A catio is a feline’s dream spot for hanging out safely in the fresh air. You can also allow your cat to bask in the breeze and sunlight on a screened-in porch. If your cat is especially accommodating, you also can leash-train them to take short walks in your yard.
#5—Spend quality time with your cat
Contrary to popular belief, cats are not solitary creatures. To thrive, your cat needs social interaction. While they may not be as forthcoming in returning your affection, rest assured, your cat adores and craves your time and attention. To provide your cat with the social enrichment they desire, spend time every day petting, snuggling, and talking to them. In return, you benefit from cozying up to your cat. Petting your cat releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which reduces stress levels and helps lower blood pressure. Quality time with your cat is a win-win.
Remember, although indoor cats live longer healthier lives than their outdoor friends, your cat still needs regular preventive care and wellness exams. Through your Dr. Treat One™ membership, scheduling your cat’s veterinary care has never been easier. Members have 24/7 access to our virtual care team, which means we’re here when you need us.