Cats have natural instincts and behaviours that they don’t often get a chance to explore ad use in their lives as domesticated pets. They are very intelligent and possess many predatory skills which they utilize when hunting for food in the wild. As domesticated pets, cats still need to find a way to stalk, chase and play throughout each day to keep them entertained and avoid boredom.
Cats need enrichment toys as they are often curious creatures or can become bored and get themselves into trouble with bad cat behaviour. When pets misbehave due to boredom, we often blame the pet for their wrongdoing. However, it is not always their fault! As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to provide your pet with a happy, fulfilling and healthy life – and entertaining them is part of that!
TYPES OF ENRICHMENT
There are 4 main types of enrichment for cats, let’s explore them below:
Food based enrichment puzzles are used to help slow down your cat’s feeding. By making meal times last longer, you can help to prevent boredom from setting in. A food-based cat puzzle also helps your cat to feel more like they are hunting for their food, rather than it simply being handed to them.
There are several food puzzles available, whether bought from a pet store or made by yourself at home. You can start with easier puzzles to capture your cat’s interest, then build up to more difficult toys for cat to keep them captivated for longer.
You can simply place some treats or catnip covered cat toys inside a paper bag for your cat to play with. This will provide stimulation for your cat as they can use their preying instincts to explore the bag as it rustles and releases treats for them to discover, as part of their cat diet.
As a cat owner, it is important to enrich your cat’s environment to keep them enthused around the home. By providing a variety of nooks and areas for them to explore, you can keep them intrigued by their surroundings. When creating your cat’s environment, it’s a good idea to use different textures and perching heights. We recommend scratching posts to help with their urges to scratch. This will also help to keep their claws filed, as they would usually do this natural whilst covering long distances outside. However, as domestic cats spend more of their time indoors, they don’t get to naturally file their claws as they would in the wild. This will also help to save your furniture!
We also recommend having various perching spots around the house. By having a number of spots that they can climb up to and rest away from their humans, cats are able to gain visual enrichment by seeing their surroundings from a different view point. It’s also great to have these perching points by windows if possible so that your cat can look out and enjoy the view outside. However, please make sure that all windows are closed to avoid any accidents!
Another brilliant way to enrich your cat’s environment is to get them a cat tree or cat activity centre. These cat trees often have a number of elevated surfaces, a cosy nook, scratching material and places to hang feathers on strings for your cats. Nowadays, these cat trees are available in a variety of colours and styles, so you don’t have to sacrifice your home aesthetic for an unsightly or gaudy cat tree.
Providing access to clean water throughout the day is a different way to enrich your cat’s environment. You can buy circulating filtration systems (similar to a water fountain), that periodically flows water along the top bowl. This will capture your cat’s curiosity, meaning they will explore and keep hydrated.
As much as cats are generally renowned for being independent creatures, they also crave social enrichment. In the wild, they would get this social interaction from meeting other cats. However, in a domestic scenario, your cat needs social enrichment in the form of play and interaction with their humans.
It’s not enough to provide them with a favourite kitten toys, as these will get boring over time. You should try and keep things exciting for them by switching up activities, games, and toys occasionally.
Cats also gain social enrichment from being brushed by their humans. It helps you to bond with each other whilst keeping their coat in great condition.
Cognitive enrichment for cats comes in the form of puzzles and cat training sessions. By rewarding your cat with treats during training with simple commands, you will help them to feel praise and associate their commands with rewards.
You can also buy or DIY some puzzles for your cats that will help use up their physical and mental energy. Interactive toys and puzzles are brilliant ways to keep your cat mentally and physically satisfied.
Enrichment activities can be made either from scratch using household items or they can be purchased as commercial cat toys. They can be very inexpensive when made using recycled items from around the home.
Let’s explain some enrichment activities that you can provide for your pet cat:
Enrichment play box
This is one of the most simple, inexpensive and quick DIY cat toys you can make to keep your cat entertained. We all get so many deliveries these days and end up with endless cardboard boxes. By creating an enrichment box with recycled things from around the home, you can make an inexpensive and effective activity.
Take a cardboard box and:
- add old children’s toys such as suitable balls and stuffed animals
- crumple up old paper bags
- roll up old newspaper or paper scaps to be used as a ball (make sure it’s large enough to not be a choking hazard)
- add wine corks that aren’t crumbling
- add carpet scraps and cut-offs as they make great mini scratching posts for your cat
- add cardboard tubes from empty toilet paper rolls as cats love rolling them around
You can also cut paw sized holes in the sides of the cardboard box to allow them to reach inside!
Do not use old food wrappers or any similar items that may suffocate or be dangerous for your pet.
Take a wooden or plastic rod and fit a light mouse toy or feather to it with a string. Your cat’s natural hunting instincts will kick in and they will love jumping and swatting at the toy. The rod should be long enough to keep a bit of distance between your hands and your cat’s claws as they play.
You can stash treats for your cat inside treat balls, or you can make your own! Take a toilet roll cardboard holder and fold one end in so it closes the hole. Place some treats inside, then close the other end in the same way. As your cat plays with the tube, treats will fall out, encouraging them to problem solve.
Make T shirt toy
You can recycle some of your old clothes using this creative hack!
It’s so easy, all you need to do is:
- cut some old t-shirts into rectangles approximately 3” by 10”
- gather about 5 strips at a time, and tie them in a knot in the centre (they should look like a bow tie)
That’s it! You can make a bunch of them, or even tie a few of them together to make a longer rope toy.
There are so many enrichment options available for cats, but we hope you like the few that we have shared. These activities and suggestions will all help to stimulate a variety of your cat’s senses, both mental and physical.
Follow our Instagram @pawsinthecityx where Paws in the City will share more cat enrichment ideas for you to try.