September is Happy Cat Month, according to the team at CATalyst Cat Council. So, to celebrate here are a few tips to help keep your feline friend happy!
Cats may seem like the ideal low maintenance pet for busy households – they don’t bark, they don’t need to be walked and they are self-cleaning – but don’t forget that kitties have their own set of needs to keep in mind. Cats are descended from big, carnivorous predators. Big cats that needed to hide, stalk, pounce and kill to survive. Those cats also needed to protect their food and resources from other competitors. In comparison, our little domestic friends live life on easy street now. Food is delivered promptly on time – or else we hear about it – and usually there aren’t any predators around to worry about. Seems like life should be great, but let’s take a closer look.
These days our kitties still have that built-in drive to hunt but now have nothing to chase. Cats can get frustrated, bored, anxious and stressed with nothing to do. Most of us know that a bored dog equals a destructive dog and that also holds true for some cats. These cats may start shredding cat trees (or furniture), spraying or urinating outside the litter box, or picking on housemates. Meanwhile, other cats may fight the boredom by checking out the food bowl every five minutes. Chowing down on extra calories around the clock. Ensuring cats have adequate mental stimulation and a stress-free environment can really improve their attitude, mental health, and maybe even their waistline!
Half the battle to keeping cats happy is creating a relaxing environment. This means making sure they feel clean and safe. Cats like to be able to get up high, to survey the landscape, search for prey, or hide out from intruders. Giving them cat trees, condos, or even just some kitty-only shelving can give them that lofty tree-top perch they long for; ensuring they feel safe and in control of their surroundings. Equally as important is having some low, hidden, den-like spaces they can steal away to, maybe under the bed, or next to a wall behind the couch. Someplace where they are protected on most sides, where they can see any potential threat and feel less susceptible to any surprise attack.
Resources (food, water, litter boxes) should also be in safe areas. Somewhere quiet and protected – where they are not likely to be startled by the garage door going up, or the kids running in and out. Then they can focus on the meal in front of them, or their toileting tasks, without worrying about an ambush. This is especially important in multi-cat households. Even the best kitty friendships can have the occasional tussle, and having food, water and litter boxes in multiple areas throughout the house prevents any one cat from guarding all the best spots. This also means that it is important to have more than one litter box. An adequate number of litter boxes that are cleaned regularly relieves our fastidious felines of the stress of using an overly soiled litter box or finding an alternative restroom (like the entry way rug) that you may not be as happy about.
Now that we’ve covered some basic kitty-zen-zone requirements, let’s talk feline fun. No one likes to be bored, and that includes our furry family members. Keeping kitty entertained doesn’t have to be a full-time job; just making them think about how to do their everyday activities can give their brain a boost. Using toy feeders, (like these cat & phoebe link) gives cats something to hunt for, stalk and kill. They are immediately rewarded for their efforts by getting to eat the food they just “killed.” Add a comfy spot to sit in front of the window, where they can watch the world go by, and you’re already well on your way to happy kitty status. Simple things like carboard boxes, paper bags, or even some clean grass or dead leaves, from outside can provide opportunities for fun and adventure right in the living room. Of course, just getting down on the floor to interact and play with your cat is an excellent way to exercise their brains and bodies and might even be good for your mental health too!