Environmental enrichment has a very important role in the lives of indoor cats.
These cats are often under stress for many different reasons and this is not always obvious to their owners. Many cats are unable to express their normal behaviour: playing, hunting, scratching, climbing to high spots and even simply hiding when they don't want to be bothered. Some cats struggle to deal with their social environment by not getting along with other cats or humans in the household. The reasons are many and over time, all this causes damage.
Through the cooperation of vets, cat behaviourists and scientists it has been proven that indoor cats living in underenriched environments can suffer from chronic stress and anxiety, obesity, and feline idiopathic cystitis among other potentially serious medical conditions. It can also trigger behavioural changes such as urine marking, house soiling and even some types of aggression.
In order to improve your cat's quality of life be sure to provide different types of resting areas and hiding spots to avoid unwanted interaction. Cats cope with unpleasant situations by retreating and hiding. You can use cat trees, shelves (so they have access to high places) and cardboard boxes in their favourite rooms of the house.
There should be at least one litterbox per cat but the ideal formula is to have one more litterbox than the number of cats in the household. Resting areas, feeding and drinking spots should increase in number depending on how many cats live in the same household.
Scratching vertical or horizontal surfaces (depending on your cat's preference) are also recommended, and a wide variety of toys such as toys with the owner's scent, toys on wands, egg cartons with treats hidden inside, and balled up pieces of paper. It is also a good idea to rotate them so they always have "new" toys.
Cats enjoy the different stages of hunting so they will have a lot of fun if you divide your cat's daily ration and put it on multiple places in your home, under furniture, rugs or even using food toys. This means cats can search for food/snacks around the house and get them from the toys which simulates hunting behaviour.
Environmental enrichment for cats is about finding and implementing ways to make their environment more interesting, complex, and engaging in a way that allows and even promotes their normal, natural behaviour.
These changes have a low cost, are easy to implement and will improve dramatically your cat's health and welfare, reducing and even preventing the previously mentioned health disorders.
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