People who love cats understand that felines are emotional beings. Nearly anything can put Kitty's tail in a twist, and a stressed out upset cat becomes more prone to physical health issues as well as behavioral acting out. We want to meet our cat's behavior needs in order to keep pet purrs rumbling.
The first step to improve kitty quality of life is to understand just what cats need. Whether you live with a feline angel or a furry delinquent, nearly every cat behavior is a normal, intrinsic part of the cat's life. Here's what you need to understand in order to keep your cat in a happy emotional place.
Cats are athletes who thrive on activity. However, they are sprinters, not marathon runners, and may turn into couch potatoes given the opportunity. Encourage cats to move by providing interactive toys that require activity and brain power. Puzzle toys with treats inside, or simply moving the food bowl to the top of stairs, ensures healthy exercise.
Cats love heights. High perches offer the safety of lookouts, and also illustrate the cat's status by literally claiming "top cat" position. Provide lots of second story territory with cat trees, which offer more exercise opportunities, and sleeping/lookout spots. Enough climbing spots reduces squabbles so cats don't have to argue over who claims the preferred high rise. An inexpensive option includes clearing a bookcase to allow your cat to lounge.
Scratching exercises front legs, and clawing marks territory with both visual and scent cues. Offer multiple "legal" scratch objects, with vertical, horizontal, and various surface options from carpet to wood. Different cats want specific things to scratch, so improve the chance of a win by watching what your cat prefers and give it to him.
Cats use urine to spread their unique scent around their territory, marking it as owned by them. Spaying or neutering prior to sexual maturity reduces the chance for feline urine spraying. You can further reduce this potential by keeping stress as low as possible. The biggest stressor for a cat is another cat, so multicat households must be aware of the 1+1 rule. For every cat you have, provide one (litter box, scratch object, food/water station, etc), plus one. That way, every cat owns his or her own property without having to share with another cat.
One of the biggest behavior complaints has to do with cat's elimination habits or lapses. Provide what your cats want to reduce any chance of behavior problems. Give cats one or more litter boxes large enough to accommodate their squatting posture, located in a preferred location where they cannot be ambushed, fill it with a preferred substrate, and keep it clean. Avoid corners of rooms, sticking boxes underneath furniture, or any location that could be seen as a trap. The middle of a wall is ideal.
Cats sleep (a lot!).
Because cats evolved as sprinters that use enormous bursts of energy, they also sleep upwards of 16 hours daily perhaps to recoup those energy losses. Provide cats with a safe retreat where they can doze and chase dream mice, without being pestered by other pets or kids. High spots are often ideal, so tabletops beneath a warm lamp, or the backs of chairs on a human-scented lap throw may be ideal.
Shy, fearful, and playful cats adore hiding spots. Give them lots of opportunities. Cat trees and snuggle beds may offer options, but simply leaving boxes or paper bags out for your cats will thrill them. Cat tunnels are a favorite and allow cats to hide as well as "go undercover" and travel across a room without other pets seeing their progress.
Cats eat & drink.
Eating and drinking places cats in a vulnerable position. Offer each cat his or her own meal station when possible so they don't have to compete over food. Water fountains also are a big hit with cats, because the movement oxygenates the water making it taste better. Try placing food stations on a counter to make it more appealing to the cat's love of heights.
Play activity reaches its zenith during kittenhood, but many cats play throughout their life. Think about unique ways to engage your cat's natural prey (and play) drive. Remember that part of the hunting process includes staring, watching, and stalking, so not all play is go-go-go. Set up bird baths and feeders outside windows and place cat trees for the cat's viewing pleasure. Bring the outside indoors, by filling one of the boxes with leaves from your yard. Choose interactive toys cats can chase, grab, and even destroy for the most fun. You can always clean up the mess later--and isn't your cat's emotional wellbeing worth it?