At their core, cats are still wild animals, and while we’ve invited them into our homes to share our lives, we can’t expect them to completely give up all their instincts. We have to look at our living space from the cat’s point of view and provide an environment that keeps them stimulated. Feline behavior experts agree. Jackson Galaxy introduced the concept of catification on his hit show My Cat From Hell. Catifying your environment means providing a space for your cats where they can exercise their natural instincts in the safety of our homes.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) introduced the five pillars of a healthy feline environment in their Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines. The guidelines address the needs of cats in the home, as well as in veterinary hospitals and shelters.
When cats needs are not met, cats will be stressed, and this stress will often demonstrate itself in behavior issues such as inappropriate elimination, scratching, and aggression toward other cats and even the humans in the household. Accommodating cats’ needs is critical to ensuring that cats are happy and healthy.
The five pillars of a healthy feline environment are:
Provide a safe place
Every cat needs a safe space they can retreat to where they feel protected. Depending on your cat’s personality, this can be a cat condo, a raised perch, a cat carrier, or even a box. Typically, cats feel safest in spaces that are enclosed, but have a way for them to enter and exit from two sides. In a multicat household, you should have as many safe spaces as you have cats, and it’s best to not have them located too close together.
Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources
Key environmental resources is a big word for food, water, litter boxes, play areas and sleeping areas. Cats should have easy access to each of these areas without having to compete for them or being threatened by other cats in the household.
Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior
Play is crucial in keeping cats happy and healthy. Play behavior is a way for cats to exercise their hunting instinct. Toys that mimic predatory behavior, such as interactive wand toys, are a great way to not only encourage play, but for cat and human to bond. Puzzle toys keep cats mentally challenged. It’s a good idea to rotate toys so cats don’t get bored with the same old toys.
Provide positive, consistent and predictable human-cat interaction
Cats have a reputation as being independent loners, but nothing could be further from the truth. Cats thrive on interaction with humans, and while your cat’s personality will determine what type of interaction and how much she will enjoy, consistency is important. Take your cue from your cat’s preference for how much petting and cuddling she will enjoy. Never force interaction with a cat. Let the cat initiate and choose how much human contact they want.
Provide an environment that respects the cat’s sense of smell
Cats use their sense of smell to evaluate their environment. Scent marking, by rubbing their face and body against objects in their space, helps cats claim a space. Try not to clean their scent off these areas, especially when a space or an object is unfamiliar to the cat, or when a new cat joins the household. Cats’ sense of smell is much stronger than ours. Avoid using highly scented products in your home. This is especially important when it comes to the litter box. Scented litters may be pleasant to the humans in the household, but the scent can be overpowering to cats, and can lead to litter box avoidance.
Providing a healthy environment is essential to your cat’s health and well-being.
Click here to read the full AAFP Environmental Needs Guidelines.
What have you changed in your cat’s environment to make it more cat-friendly?