Enrichment Tips For Cats
Last week we looked into the importance of play for your dogs. Whilst cats are generally more independent than dogs, they still benefit from interaction and physical and mental stimulation to reduce boredom, burn energy, and reduce stress or anxiety. Read on to learn enrichment activities for your crazy cat!
What Is Enrichment?
Enrichment in animals is the process of providing a form of environmental, physical, and cognitive stimulation in order to encourage their natural instincts, and improve or maintain their physical, psychological, and emotional well-being.
There are three main types of enrichment:
Environmental: environmental enrichment is essentially making your cat’s surroundings more interesting for them and offering them extra stimuli to actively engage with. For example, if they’re an inside cat, perhaps get them a harness and leash to explore in the garden.
Physical: Whilst most people understand the importance of exercising dogs, feline exercise often goes missed. However, just like our canine companions, cats also need physical enrichment to keep them fit and healthy.
Cognitive: Cognitive enrichment is equally as important for keeping your cat healthy. Cognitive enrichment helps engage your cats, helping their mental health, and emotional well-being, and preventing behaviour problems.
As you’re probably aware, cats are curious by nature, so finding ways to enrich your cat can be pretty easy! Simple items around the house can be made into toys. This alongside interacting with your cat, and buying games can keep your cat happy, healthy, and well-stimulated.
So what types of enrichment activities are there?
Food Foraging / Puzzles
In the wild, cats spend most of their time searching for food, whilst this is not needed from our pet cats today, most cats still keep their instinctual urge. One way to help satisfy this urge is through food foraging games or puzzles for your cat(s).
Instead of letting your cat graze as they please throughout the day, puzzles and foraging can help make dinner time more interactive, whilst helping your cat burn energy, and engage in problem-solving.
There are many cat food puzzles you can buy online, however, they can also be made at home - simply search DIY food puzzles for cats and lots of options come up!
If your cat isn’t interested in puzzles, another option is hiding little bits of food around the house so your cat can ‘forage’ for it.
As you may have noticed… Cats love boxes! Hiding in them, playing with them, you name it, cats love them.
If you have any spare cardboard boxes lying around, why not arrange them into a cat jungle gym? This could keep your cat engaged for hours. Poking holes into the boxes and placing treats inside can also motivate your cat and combine playtime with problem-solving.
Old egg cartons can also provide fun. Anything that opens and closes can be a great way to hide treats.
OK, this may sound odd for cats, but agility isn’t just for dogs! Cat agility or obstacle courses are great ways to challenge your cat's body and mind. Agility/obstacle courses can be made with old boxes, ropes, tubes, and even hula hoops.
Let Them Explore Outside
As aforementioned, letting your cat explore outside can help ensure they are getting enough environmental enrichment. For indoor cats, getting a harness and lead and allowing them to explore in the back garden, smell the flowers, and climb trees can help satisfy their natural instincts. If you don’t have an outdoor area that your cat can access, creating a space in the house where they can look outside can also keep them occupied.
Interactive toys, such as blowing bubbles, can help strengthen the bond between you and your cat as you play together. Cats love chasing bubbles and popping bubbles - just ensure they are pet-friendly ones! Not only will this help with bonding, but it will also keep your cat fit and active.
Lastly, interactive toys with strings, feathers, and feathers on can help catch your cat’s attention and can be a great way to strengthen your bond with your cat whilst also getting them moving.
To read last week's article, ‘Why Is It Important to Play With Your Dog?’ click here.