Creating a Cat Friendly Home
Environmental enrichment is a very important part of providing a safe, loving, and happy home for your cat. Often times when behavioral issues arise such as inappropriate urination or aggression, the first thing we evaluate is the home environment. Beyond food water and owner affection, cats need opportunities to exercise their most natural behaviors. Care should be taken to allow scratching, perching, hunting, play, exploration, and comfortable elimination.
Strategically placed scratching posts or pads will allow cats to engage in this normal behavior. Scratching serves multiple functions, including claw bed maintenance, muscle stretching, visual marking and scent marking. Scratching posts/pads should be placed in prominent locations near feline resting spots since cats tend to stretch and scratch upon awakening. Vertical and horizontal posts of varying materials are recommended.
When given the option, cats select elevated resting perches over the floor. Cats prefer upholstered surfaces over slick surfaces. Therefore, cats should be given a variety of raised upholstered resting perches throughout the home. This may be particularly important in multi-cat households.
To simulate hunting behavior, food can be delivered in creative ways. Daily meals can be provided in food puzzle toys such as the feline Kong?
Toys, Play and Exploration
While individual preferences exist, cats often engage in short bursts of play activity that allow them to express predatory type behaviors such as chasing and pouncing. A variety of commercially available cat toys exist to fulfill these requirements; fishing pole type toys with feathers on the end and laser pointers are often recommended. Perhaps the most important component of the play is the owner involvement to move the target of play in an erratic and unpredictable manner. Rotating the availability of toys may increase their novelty and interest. Providing opportunities for exploration can enrich the environment. Rearranging furniture or putting cardboard boxes or paper bags around the home can motivate a cat to explore.
Water sources should be fresh and plentiful. Consider purchasing a pet drinking
fountain to provide fresh flowing water.
A cat may "hold It" or seek an alternative toileting site rather than use a litter box that's unacceptable in some way, whether it's too dirty, shared with other cats, in a high-traffic location, or filled with the wrong type of litter for the cat's particular preference. See section below on the "Best Box" for tips on what most cats prefer. To minimize stress associated with accessing the litter box, it is generally advised to have as many litter boxes as cats, plus one. These litter boxes should be spread throughout the home in a variety of locations instead of clustered in one area.
The ABC's of the Best Box:
Position box so that it has at least two exit points; avoid dead end's
As many boxes as there are cats, plus one additional box
One box on every floor of a multi-level home
Don't place near noisy items (furnace/appliances)
Placing the litter box at the inappropriately soiled location may also help
B = Big
Large box (consider going off the pet aisle to purchase a shallow storage container box)
C= Clean & Clumping Clay
clay based clumping litter
scoop box at least once daily
change box completely with washing monthly (use mild dish soap and water only)
For more information on Your Cat's Environmental Needs:
View the American Association of Feline Practitioners Brochure: