It’s very easy for your cat to become bored with its usual environment, especially if they spend all their time indoors.
You can tell when your cat needs some additional enrichment when you spot a change in their personality or notice that they have become lacking in energy or perhaps even started to show some signs of frustration.
The behaviors to watch out for are things such as scratching in unusual places (especially on furniture), choosing to go to the toilet outside the litter box, destructive behavior, and fighting with other pets in the house.
If you see this happening with your cat, then it’s time to provide some more stimulation to both their life and their environment.
Adding Enrichment To Your Cat’s Life
Most feline behaviorists divide enrichment into various categories covering enrichment by food, environment, senses, social or cognitive.
In reality, it’s easier to think of enrichment as simply creating new things for your cat to do because so many of the activities you can encourage in your cat involve many of the different categories that behaviorists would focus on in one activity.
In other words, any new activity is likely to stimulate your cat across various enrichment categories.
Here are eight examples that do just that and that will perk up your kitty.
- Let Your Cat Climb!
It is in a cat’s natural instincts to climb up high and observe what’s going on from that elevated vantage point.
If your cat is bored around the house and you realize that they are not able to take up a high vantage point, then this is a great place to start with creating environmental enrichment.
The easiest thing you can do is clear existing spaces that are higher than the floor, such as a window sill or a bookshelf.
If your budget allows, there are now a whole array of cat window perches and cat climbing equipment that can be fixed to your walls. In fact, you can build an entire elevated adventure playground for your feline friends.
A tall cat tree with perches at different heights is also a great addition to any indoor cat home.
That’s all it takes to get some pep back into your kitty’s life.
- Go Outside
Since boredom and frustration tends to affect indoor cats more than those who are allowed out on their own, taking your cat outside is a really simple way to provide them with additional cognitive, sensory and social enrichment.
It doesn’t mean simply letting your cat out of the home if you do not feel comfortable with the health and safety issues this presents, but you can potentially create an enclosed outdoor area such as a catio or a cat-safe balcony for them to access the outside.
Another option is to train your cat to walk on a leash and take them outside with you on some mini (or maxi) adventures.
Hiking with cats in a backpack and allowing them to roam in the wild on a leash is an increasingly common activity for cat owners and their pets.
- Make Food More Interesting
If you make your cat work to get the food they usually have handed to them on a plate, then you are stimulating their senses and changing up their routine.
Simply putting their normal meal in a slow feeder or a cat food puzzle toy means that your cat has to work harder to get at their food.
Other options include hiding smaller bowls of food in different parts of your home so that your cat has to seek them out or spreading their meal across the holes in a multi-hole muffin tin and covering each with a different kind of barriers, such as scrunched-up paper or a few feathers or anything that makes it all challenging to get the food.
What you are really doing here is playing to their instincts again so anything that makes your cat feel like they are having to hunt for their daily meal is going to enrich their lives.
Image Credit : Anastasiia Rozumna – https://unsplash.com/@rozumna
- Create a Challenge
Making your cat work for food by using a slow feeder gives them a cognitive challenge. You’re making them think and work harder to get their food.
But you can do this with a lot of other activities as well as just when it’s feeding time.
Most people will choose to play with their cat with simple wand toys or something with catnip, but there are plenty of free options such as rolling up scraps of paper for your cat to chase or playing with ribbons.
If you have a little cash to spend on your cat then you could consider buying some kind of laser pointer for cats for them to chase (which they can often find overstimulating and exhausting, so do be careful) or there are apps for phones or tablets that are designed to keep your cat engaged.
- Turning Tricks
One approach that you might consider is to try and teach your cat some tricks.
It might seem that this is far harder in cats than dogs (and that is somewhat true) but it is possible to teach your cat to follow commands and do simple tricks by training them with a clicker and treats.
Many cats who require additional attention and cognitive stimulation will respond well to learning tricks since it requires consistent effort on their part (as well as yours)
A cat that has become bored may respond well to sensory enrichment.
Trying new foods with different textures may appeal to their sense of taste and touch as well as provide food enrichment simply because of the novelty.
Anything which is a new sense of taste, smell, sight, sound, or touch is going to give them something new to think about and feel.
As you know, your cat’s hearing is way better than yours and they have a fantastic sense of smell.
You can appeal to these highly attuned senses with scents made especially for cats or plants and herbs that are known to excite them, such as catnip.
You can appeal to their sense of sight and sound by ensuring that they can see the outside world from a window perch, as we said above, but you can also let them watch YouTube videos specifically made for cats. There is also a type of music made entirely for cats to listen to which is created to appeal to their auditory range.
- Heavy Petting
Cat behaviorists consider social enrichment to be the strengthening of the bond between a cat and people or other pets in the household.
To increase this type of enrichment, you should try to spend more time playing with and petting your cat.
You can encourage visitors to your house to do the same, but you may also consider bringing other pets into your home so that your cat has a forever friend.
- Boxes (Of Course!)
Last but by no means least, you should be encouraged to think outside the box.
Well, inside the box really.
You know that boxes fascinate cats, so it’s so easy and with just the smallest amount of effort to make a brilliant new environment for your cat from a handful of cardboard boxes.
This can be a simple cat house where you stick a few boxes together and cut a few holes for your cat to find ways in and out of their new castle and places to hide or perch.
But, if you feel a little more adventurous, it is the work of an afternoon to take perhaps 10 cardboard boxes and create a labyrinth for your cat to explore.
Enrich Your Cat’s Life
These examples are just ideas that show you how very small amounts of effort on your part can stimulate various parts of your cat’s life.
Try some of them, but also be inspired to come up with your own ways to give your cat something new to stimulate their mind and body.
About the Author
Dexter Jones is the head of content at We Love Cats and Kittens. He has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.