Eight Tips to Make your Home Great for your Cat(s)
Elimination Area. The Single biggest reason for owner dissatisfaction with their cat is house soiling with urine or feces outside of the litter-box. Minimize the chances of this happening in your household by providing one litter-box per cat +1 if at all possible, ideally in various locations throughout the house. The litter-boxes should vary in configuration, with at least one open on top, one at least 2 feet wide by 3 feet long such as a plastic storage container( you can cut a section out of the middle or end of this box to permit easy access). At least one should have fine light, odorless, litter (the most preferred type, on average) and be placed in a quiet area (for those shy/private cats). And lastly- all the litter-boxes should be replaced yearly as smells become impregnated within the plastic and become offensive to the acutely sensitive nose of our cats that permit us to live with them. I know this seems ike a lot of work but it is worth it if it helps avoid the hassle of cleaning messes where they shouldn’t be and avoiding the costs of professional carpet cleaning.
Feeding area. You are going to start to notice a pattern here. Yes, that’s right I am suggesting you have at least one feeding station per cat with possibly one extra as well. Why? Providing the ability for each cat in a multi-cat household to have access to their own elimination, feeding, drinking and resting areas goes a long way in preventing conflict related stress between cats and the resulting misbehaviors that result when cats are stressed. Besides, don’t we want all of our cats to have enjoyable, low stress lives? A little known fact is cats prefer to eat off a plate rather than bowls because they don’t like the ends of their facial whiskers touching the sides of a bowl as they dip their head down to eat. This is also true for their water bowl. From a health standpoint, cats are healthier overall and have a much reduced tendency to become overweight or obese( which is distressingly common and often leads to the development of Diabetes) if they are fed a high protein, low carbohydrate, canned food, preferably in multiple small feedings throughout the day if possible. Food dispensing toys and hiding food in places they need to find adds nice mental stimulation as well as some exercise. By the way, kittens formulate their food preferences early in life. Too many adult cats will only eat one type, brand or flavor of food which can be problematic if a medical condition dictates they should be eating a different food but they refuse to do so. You can help avoid this situation by feeding your kitten a wide variety of flavors, consistencies and brands of foods so they will have ready acceptance to many types including special foods for future medical problems, should they arise.
Drinking Station. One per cat In keeping with our theme is optimal. Again, they prefer drinking from a wide, deep dish rather than a small bowl and they much prefer clean, fresh water at all times. Some cats prefer moving water such as a circulating water fountain; others from a dripping faucet- in this case provide plenty of drinking opportunities throughout the day. No pet should be offered softened water to drink as the sodium levels are not ideal for health.
Play. There are two basic personality types in cats; Active and Shy. Active cats need active toys that squeak, bounce, vibrate, or move randomly. You can imagine it would get frustrating to chase something and never catch it so when using a laser pointer make sure you periodically place a treat down and then move the laser pointer over the treat to allow your cat to “catch” the treat. Shy cats may be afraid of active cat toys. They may bat around a ping pong ball and attack a feather but usually they prefer to play alone. There are supplements and diets that may decrease the general nervousness of these cats enough to help them enjoy playing more than they otherwise would.
Resting area. One per cat is ideal. Cats usually prefer to rest off the ground so having vertical choices of where to rest in ideal such as a cat tree. Shy cats in particular will also enjoy a “hide box” or area they can rest in where they feel they are unseen.
Sensory Enrichment. 50-70% of cats will respond to catnip and the vast majority of these appear to greatly enjoy playing with it( rarely a cat may be over stimulated and become hard to handle or even aggressive). Many cats enjoy grooming or being brushed, watching birds from a bird feeder placed in front of the resting window ledge, and pheromones sprayed in their favored areas of the house.
Scratching post. Cats have an innate need to sharpen their claws. Even cats that have been declawed will go thru the motions of sharpening their claws. Best if they do this on a designated scratching post that you have sprinkled with cat nip of sprayed with car pheromones. Moving your cat’s feet across the scratching post while continuously giving them treats during their otherwise mealtime may help to establish the scratching post use when the urge strikes.
Interactions with other pets. The frequency, intensity and duration of interaction with another pet determine your cat’s tolerance or acceptance of those interactions. This tends to work out best when your cat has a choice, based on the set-up of the home, on whether they have to interact with another pet or not. Providing a vertical space or a hide box, and thus the possibility to withdraw from interaction, if desired, is very helpful in avoiding conflict and resulting stress based misbehaviors.
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