Tabby cat. Image taken by Krysten Merriman

Enrichment for cats

Cats are the most intriguing animals we humans get the honour of caring for. With their incredible intelligence and tenacity, cats often get overlooked for being too independent and not needing much care. Which, if you're a cat owner you know is very wrong! 

So what is enrichment?

Enrichment is about the quality of life for our pets, this comes in many forms, but the core attributes are sight, sound, taste and smell. These core elements of enrichment are the backbone to giving your cat a good quality of life. 

Here we'll go into slight detail about each aspect: 

Sight: Cat's eyes are truly remarkable; their ability to quickly focus on any subject makes them formidable hunters. So finding toys that allow your cat to hone their eyesight/pouncing skills are vitally important. Using teasers and lasers can help you in this area as both toys require your cat to focus before pouncing. Teasers are designed to mimic birds swooping through the air, and lasers are designed to be fun. 

Sound - Sound for a cat is fundamental, and its ears are a cornerstone for its hunting ability. Using sound in their playtime can be a fun way to increase their enrichment; many toys on the market have included crinkle sounds so that your cat can feel as though they have caught prey. 

Taste - This is a relatively easy one to tackle. With most things you put in your mouth, ideally, you'd like them to taste nice. The same applies to your Purr Machine. Cats can be rather fussy about food and treat's, so finding the right one can be tricky. 

Smell  - Cats use their olfactory senses in many ways; play time, however, not as much. You can still incorporate scent into their playtime, but the focus doesn't need to be emphasised. You can do this by adding cat nip to areas of your home that will get your cat prowling around. Thus increasing its activity levels as well as their enrichment. 

Why do I need to worry about enrichment when my cat goes outside?

Good question! Sometimes, your cat won't be able to go outside, especially after a vet visit or while it's raining. So ensuring your cat won't get bored or stressed during these times is vitally important. You may even have a cat that prefers to stay inside. Either way, focusing on enrichment for your cat can benefit you both. You can create a bond with your cat during playtime that will help in the long run and make your cat feel safer. 

That's all well and good, but have you got any tips? 

We sure do, and if you sign up for our emails, you can get them in your inbox. But right now, here is a small list of things you can do to increase your cat's enrichment. 

  • Catnip - Catnip is the go-to for cats. Its potent aroma and calming attributes make it a behemoth in the cat enrichment world. Most toys have cat nip inside, but you can purchase them in bags. Sprinkling catnip around certain areas will allow your cat to rub (which releases endorphins and helps scent mark) and scratch. This will relieve tension and chill the kitty down. 
  • Toys - This is a given for any animal. Toys help cats hone their hunting and capturing skills. Being apex predators, cats will often become stressed if they feel unable to hunt. Toys that allow your cat to play solo can really heighten their enrichment, and if you use teasers or lasers, these can help your kitty get the need for the hunt out.
  • Treats - Tasty treats are tasty! Meaty treats are best! Cats love to eat, and having natural meaty treats will only serve to please your purr machine. There are products on the market that allow you to hide treats for your cat to find; the Lickimat and Kitty Kong are two of the most common. Each toy highlights different ways for your cat to find and retrieve treats. LickiMats are designed around a cat's desire to groom when added with wet treats. This allows your cat to reduce over-grooming, which can lead to bald spots and painful rashes, and focus their instinctual grooming on the LickiMat. Then comes the Kitty Kong; like the KONG Classic for dogs, the Kitty Kong works the same way. Although, instead of focusing on chewing, which the KONG Classic does, the Kitty Kong is designed with batting in mind. When added with dry treats or kibble, your cat can focus their playtime on retrieving treats, which will promote the reduction of boredom.
  • Grooming - Cats love to groom! You're probably looking at your cat right now licking itself. Am I right? Grooming for cats is one of the most relaxing things they can do. It reduces stress, relieves tension, keeps them clean and removes any knotted-up hair that might be uncomfortable. Even though your cat generally has its grooming regime under control, nothing stops you from grabbing a brush and giving your cat a groom. This builds a strong bond but allows you to find anything you might miss from regular stroking. 
  • Scratchers - Time to scratch that itch. Everyone knows cat scratchers, so we won't go into much detail on why these are good. Just note that letting your cat scratch on a post stretches back muscles and shoulders, relieves tensions and strengthens claws. 

Using these items can benefit your cat immensely and improve their enrichment tenfold. 

When a cat is content, there is very little you need to worry about, but when it goes wrong; it can go wrong in a spectacular fashion. Look at our article on Stress in Cats to see how. 

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