The snuggles on a chilly night, the gentle headbutts, and the purrs and affectionate eye blinks that seem to say, “I love you” … all describe the wonderfully unique ways cats enrich our everyday lives, simply by being themselves. Which begs the question: How can we engage with our feline friends in meaningful ways that enrich their lives in return?
According to Stephanie Turner, Animal Enrichment Coordinator at the Dumb Friends League, the task can be as easy or as complex as you’d like to make it. “Enrichment can reduce stress, alleviate boredom, challenge your pet’s mind, or just be plain old fun!” she said.
In many cases, a mentally or physically stimulating change in your cat’s routine can provide an effective solution for undesirable behavior. In fact, feline stress and boredom often present as destruction, aggression, or even house soiling, all of which can be redirected through affection and thoughtful play. Even the most aloof or fearful cat can benefit from some form of personalized enrichment, regardless of whether they show outward excitement. As Stephanie explains, “Adding novel and new experiences is never a waste of time!”
Choosing the right enrichment activity for your cat begins with the basics. Start by asking yourself, “What do cats do?” Instinctually, cats like to stalk, hunt, play, pounce, scratch, climb, and sleep. So, cat owners should plan activities to elicit those behaviors. Sounds simple enough, right?
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Reduce, reuse, recycle! Free household items could be worth a million dollars in your cat’s eyes. Think toilet paper tubes filled with yummy treats, a cereal box with little cut-out “windows” and toys placed inside, even discarded wine corks for them to bat around! And don’t forget about crinkly paper bags or cavernous cardboard boxes! These are perfect for hiding and can be used to engage your cat in foraging or sensory play. Just remember to supervise for safety when introducing any new items to your enrichment routine.
- Catch their eye. A bird feeder outside your cat’s favorite window or even a squirrel video on YouTube will serve as a constant source of entertainment to satisfy even the sleepiest kitty. Interactive toys that your cat can chase, fetch, or stalk also provide hours of fun for your feline companion.
- Mealtime, fun time. Puzzle feeders offer your cat an added challenge to consume kibble, while LickiMats make treat time a thrilling hunt. Stephanie says even a homemade tuna ice treat can spice things up! Just be sure to introduce new foods gradually; any sudden change in your cat’s diet can cause tummy troubles.
Just like humans, cats are individuals with very specific preferences! While some cats may want to climb high or venture outside, others prefer laying low indoors. Once you have a feel for your cat’s personality, don’t be afraid to try something new or different to strike their fancy. Consider textures, sounds, movement – even the slightest changes in routine can deliver the best results, encouraging confidence, curiosity, and engagement.
For more tips on how to enrich your cat’s well-being and quality of life, please visit our pet resource library. You can also help keep the cats in our shelters happy and healthy by donating feline-friendly items to our Leslie A. Malone Center and Buddy Center locations. The Dumb Friends League Amazon wish list and Chewy wish list are updated regularly to reflect our most current supply needs. Thank you!
Walk the catwalk at the 2022 Furry Scurry!
For the first time ever, feline friends are invited to participate virtually in this year’s Furry Scurry! So, if your cat enjoys spending time by your side in the great outdoors (or your home gym), we hope you’ll sign-up! Virtual participants can walk any time between now and May 31. Learn more about how you and your feline adventure buddy can support homeless animals across Colorado by participating from a distance in the 29th annual Furry Scurry!