Written by Dr. Sam Parker, DVM
How to fulfill your indoor cat’s desires through cat enrichment! There are many reasons cat parents keep cats indoors: for safety reasons, protect the surrounding environment or wildlife, or to just to keep them out of trouble. If you worry your indoor cat is bored, gaining weight, or generally missing out, but do not feel comfortable with allowing them outside, and I recommend keeping all cats indoors, here are a few ways to make indoors more fun.
Cat Enrichment Ideas
Outdoor cats often hunt small prey. Therefore, cat parents can mimic the hunting experience by using food for sport. We can help our cats by blending meal-time and play-time into their daily lives.
Cat Enrichment Through Feeding
Cats were meant to have mouse-sized meals periodically throughout the day. A big feeder or bowl full of dry food can be very boring to them. Cats love to boredom-eat. Don’t we all!
There are so many wonderful feeders to stimulate your cat while eating. I love a few different cat slow feeders to help make meal-time more interesting:
Cat Enrichment through Play and Toys
I have yet to meet a cat who does not succumb to the joy of playing with “da mouse” or “da bird” toys. These are interactive for both humans and cats as you must wave or drag the toy for them. Plus, you get to play together with your cat!
For self-play options, there are many types of toys such as crinkly tunnels and ball tracks.
Remember some toys should be used with supervision. We don’t want cats getting a foreign body because a toy was just too enticing.
Cat Enrichment through Exploring, Climbing and the Environment
Outdoor cats have lots of space to explore and climb to get great exercise. Try some of these options to mimic an environment for your cat to adventure in and explore.
- Cat furniture that provides vertical space
- Cat grass to lay on or to eat (they will regurgitate the grass)
- Catnip for fun
- Climbing areas
- Scratching posts and areas that are stable and taller than your cat
- Resting places where they can get away from the “hustle and bustle”
- Window spaces to enjoy viewing the outdoors (we call this “kitty TV”)
- Water fountains or moving water
Cat condos are also a great way to incorporate climbing, lounging, and scratching surfaces. Make sure the cat condo is sturdy and does not wobble. Cats will not enjoy a tower if it doesn’t feel safe to climb.
If you’re interested in incorporating new toys or kitty furniture into your home, just remember a new cat, object, or environment may be stressful for them. I love a product called Feliway, which is a feline pheromone that helps with stress.