What is enrichment?
Cats must be able to express their natural behaviours. “Enrichment” creates an environment that should allow your cat to express these behaviours in a healthy way. Providing an enriched environment can include different types of scratching surfaces, outlets for predatory/prey behaviours, and safe places for quiet times and should also take into account all five of your cat’s senses. All these together can provide consistency, routine, choice and control over their daily activities.
Benefits of enrichment?
A well-enriched environment can provide much-needed mental & physical stimulation. This can decrease stress, boredom and unwanted behaviours, while also improving health and overall quality of life.
Types of enrichment
- Food-Based Enrichment – Cats are excellent hunters, and you can allow them to express that behaviour with enrichment. Providing foraging opportunities and using food puzzles are great examples of “Food Based Enrichment”.
- Sensory Based Enrichment – This area can be further broken down into different senses: visual, auditory, taste, touch/feel, & smell. Creating an area around a window, where your cat can have free access to “kitty TV” (ie: watching birds, squirrels, etc) can be a great visual enrichment; you can even set up a bird feeder just outside the window to ensure more activity. Playing music or nature sounds for your cat is a great option for auditory enrichment.
- Environmental Enrichment – Providing vertical perches and hiding places is very important enrichment for your cat. Making sure they have safe and quiet places to hide and relax in, is equally important as the highly active areas. Scratching posts should be large enough for your cat to fully stretch out – regardless if it is horizontal or vertical; they should also be sturdy – if it wobbles when your cat goes to scratch, it could scare them off. Ensuring you have different types of scratching options available is also key. Some cats have different texture preferences or favourite different types of scratchers in different areas.
- Social Interactions – All companion animals, including cats, benefit from positive and consistent interactions with their humans. Cats will experience less stress when allowed to choose whether to interact with you or not, rather than having interactions forced upon them. Things like cuddles, scratches, toy playing, etc are all important activities you can do with your kitty in a social way.
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