Environmental Enrichment for Cats

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Chester County Pet Summer 2017

Summer is a fabulous time of year full of fresh flowers, swimming, barbecues, and other seasonal adventures. But how about for our feline friends? Cats live safer and longer lives when housed indoors, yet this trend in cat care is associated with increased incidence of certain health issues, such as chronic lower urinary tract disease, obesity, diabetes mellitus, joint problems, and behavior problems. The common goal of owners and veterinarians is to strengthen and enjoy the human-animal bond. We should consider the mutual benefit, and strive to help them live a great cat life. The solution is environmental enrichment. This has been shown to mitigate these health concerns. So how do we enrich and stimulate them?

Let’s consider some suggestions for environmental enrichment:

1) Vertical Space – I love to hear stories of the climbing, jumping, and almost flying abilities of cats. The bottom line is they like vertical space, so they need options to exercise this natural behavior. I wouldn’t suggest a complete decorating re-do, but there are so many great catwalks, window perches, and cat trees out there!

2) Food Puzzles – Cats are carnivores who, in the wild, hunt for their food. Feline research has shown positive benefits from simulating this behavior in a safe indoor environment. There’s some excellent reference information at http://foodpuzzlesforcats.com. These ideas are good for emotional health and for weight loss

3) Predatory Toys – We all know they love to have toys that crinkle, roll, have feathers, have catnip, or have lasers. Just remember, overweight cats need exercise training just as humans would.

4) Resource Space – Cats are territorial, and they like to have safe and solitary places for feeding, drinking, and using their litter – something humans tend to forget.

Enjoy your summer fun, and remember to challenge yourself to think like a cat for a few minutes and enrich their and our lives.

Rachel Stadler, VMD

Chester County Cat Hospital

610-701-MEOW

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