Enrichment is the term used to describe the opportunity we give to our cats to learn, explore, eat, and use all their senses. So how do we, as owners provide more opportunities for them? It’s vitally important to a cat’s mental health, and overall well-being, that we provide these opportunities through play, interaction, and things they can interact with while alone.
Cats are well-known for their independence, but they’re at their best when properly mentally stimulated – whether that’s on their own or with a human. They’re intelligent creatures who enjoy a good puzzle, exploring an interesting place, or hanging out with their human. No matter how you approach it, they need stimulation.
Boredom is the Enemy of Enrichment
A bored cat is an unhappy cat. Bored cats can be destructive, excessively vocal, and some might even start to go to the bathroom outside the litter box. Cats with separation anxiety can also cause issues when people are coming or going from the home. An enriched cat would rather spend their time exploring, learning, or interacting with interesting people and environments.
This is where we, as owners, come in. Our lives are busy, and we don’t always have time to interact with our cats as often as they would like. While we do have to find time to spend with our cats, we can also build enrichment into our homes.
Building enrichment around the house doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or require a lot of difficult steps. It does need to be diverse, though. As we said before, cats are intelligent creatures, and they can get bored of things quickly. Therefore, having multiple sources of enrichment is a must.
We’ve provided some examples of things you can do around the home to build enrichment for your cat, along with an indicator of whether they cost more or less money.
Ideas for Cat Enrichment
- (Free) Large Paper Bags/Paper Shopping Bags – While you might not want to leave these around for long periods of time, cats love running and jumping into open paper bags, or even just crawling up inside them to hang out. If you keep moving them around the house or picking up new bags over time, each time is like a new experience!
- (Free to $) Boxes… Lots of Boxes – Set up as many empty boxes as you can, on the floor, for as long as you can stomach. Cats love boxes just as much as they love a good paper bag. While a box doesn’t crinkle, it has the added bonus of hard corners for cats to drag their faces across. Cats also love jumping from box to box if you set them up next to each other!
- (Free to $$$) Access to Heights – Lots of cats love getting up as high as they possibly can… sometimes to their detriment. There’s a reason for the old trope of a cat stuck in a tree. Cats feel powerful when they can see everything from up high, so one of the best things you can do is rig your home so your cat can easily get to some of the higher bookshelves, desks, or other spots! You can also purchase cat-specific furniture to mount on the walls.
- ($) Hidden Food and Water Sources – By hiding food and water around the home, your cat will start to regularly encounter treats and thirst-quenching H2O around the home. Cats are creatures of routine, so when they get up in the morning and walk around their territory, think about how excited they’d be to find some treats!
- ($) Build a Cat Castle – Using cardboard boxes, packing tape or a glue gun, and a blade, you can build a cat castle fit for a… cat! Use the blade to carve out openings your cat can get through, then glue some of the boxes together to build a place they can call their own!
- ($-$$$) Interactive Cat Toys – There are some great toys for cats these days. Things like laser pointers with built-in mirrors on motors that flip the laser around on the floor, motorized toys with tails, and other interesting things! These can be left on when you leave the house, providing entertainment that hopefully isn’t too destructive. Just be sure the toys aren’t in rooms with fragile items.
- ($$) Birdfeeder – Putting a birdfeeder in front of your cat’s favourite window is doing them a big favour. It’s like getting them cable. The stimulation they receive from watching the birds outside might result in them doing a couple of laps of your house from time to time, but that’s a good thing! It means they are getting interested, excited, and stimulated. In other words, that’s enrichment!
- ($$-$$$) Cat Tree – We’ve written about it before, but a cat tree is an absolute must in a home with a cat. The tree lets them climb, scratch, and in some cases, play! One of the most important parts of a cat tree is where you place it. One of the best spots you can put it is in front of a window they can watch the people and animals go by. They will love it.
- ($$) Build a Catio – Another item we have written about in the past is the catio. This is a safe, screened-in portion of the yard where your cat can sit in the grass, feel the breeze, and be outside while technically still being inside. Catios can range in size from a simple little spot attached to a basement window to a full-sized screen gazebo, but they’re always attached to the home.
- ($$$) Build a Cat Wall – Cat walls are great solutions for active cats. A cat wall is a wall of your home dedicated to installing implements your cats can jump onto and interact with. There are specific items built for cats to jump from, to and froe, along your walls. Things like jumping and climbing platforms, shelves with carpets, or spots they can grip onto and then climb inside. Some cats like to climb into a spot on a cat wall and sleep up there! Have a look online to find out more about what you can buy for your cat wall.
Building enrichment for a cat doesn’t have to be a difficult task. It just requires a little bit of creativity, some brainstorming, and the will to do right by your cat. Your little kitty loves you, trusts you, and relies on you to escort them through this world. They deserve access to interesting things to help them develop their minds and pass their time in a stimulating, engaging way, just as much as we do. Experiment with some new enrichment items/activities with your cat to find out what works for them!