Quick & Complete How-To Guide on your Feline's Environment
Habits and Happiness
The environment that your cat resides in has a vital and direct correlation to their physical and mental health. A proper cat-friendly environment encompasses many different aspects including physical objects, locations, scents, sounds, and play. All of which allow your cat to feel most comfortable, relaxed, and aid in reducing the risk of stress-related illnesses. We must take it upon ourselves as responsible pet owners to read our cats' behavioral cues, and to implement their correct environmental needs for the assurance of a long, happy, and fulfilling life.
As surprising as it may seem, cats do not read nor write. Knowing this allows us to focus on the fact that noticing subtle changes in your cat's innate behavior can provide us, the pet owner, clues as to our beloved cats’ well-being. Cats being stoic by nature, not expressing signs of pain, weakness, or discomfort leads to health related issues being addressed long after they should have, or sometimes when it is simply too late.
The great news, however, is that interacting with your cat on a consistent basis allows you to key in on any subtle changes in your cats’ behavior. Commonly, we suggest that a cat displaying aggression or inappropriate behavior as being “grumpy” or a “bad” cat. In all reality, this display could potentially be a reflection of the environment the cat lives in, causing them to act out such behavior.
Establishing what the proper environment for a cat should consist of cannot be stressed enough. An easy way to digest this concept would be to break it down into a 5 pillar system. These 5 pillars of a healthy feline environment include: providing a safe place, multiple and separated key resources, opportunity for play and predatory behavior, positive human interaction, and lastly an environment that respects the importance of a cat’s sense of smell.
The Five Pillars to a Healthy Environment
A Safe Place
The first call to action in providing an appropriate environment should be to allocate safe and secure areas for your cat to take refuge whenever they desire. This is essential for any cat to have, but especially in a multi-cat household. Cats instinctively have a tendency to escape and evade as opposed to confronting a potential threat. The threat imposed does not have to be strictly physical or imposed from another cat, rather it can also be strange and unfamiliar sounds, smells, and objects. To remedy any situation where this may occur, think about providing multiple areas of escape for your cat. Great ways to provide this include: perches, hammocks, cat trees, and even boxes on the ground. A great substitute for a box would be to provide a cat carrier with the door removed for seclusion and solitude as well as ensuring that your cat would be comfortable with the carrier for any transport they may need. As a pet owner, choosing multiple options for your cat gives them complete control over the environment around them and leads to a happy and confident animal.
Key environmental resources for your cat's subsistence would include areas for feeding, drinking, toileting, sleeping, and playing. The importance of multiple options for each resource are critical for reducing the daily stress for your cat. Whether it be provided for the avoidance of competition in a multi-cat household, or the ability to choose for a single cat, it is quintessential for any cat's long term success to have the freedom to choose each of their resources. It is additionally important to provide those choices in separate locations from one another. Following through with this practice will ensure privacy for your cat, and provide yourself and your feline friend a stress-free and pleasurable life together.
Play and Predatory Behavior
Naturally, every cat has the desire to act out predatory behavior by displaying actions such as locating, capturing, killing, preparing and eating their prey. An incredibly significant amount of a cat's time is allocated towards these daily activities. A pet owner must ensure that a cat is provided with the enrichment toys necessary to act out these natural behaviors. The owner and the cat alike will also equally benefit from toys that encourage human-cat interaction such as wand toys. Positive forms of human-cat interaction will continue to perpetuate and strengthen the human-animal bond with your cat. Additional steps a pet owner can take to enrich their cat's life should include: hiding food in multiple locations, scatter feeding dry kibble, tossing the kibble for cats to chase, and providing puzzle feeders to mentally stimulate your cat and promote predatory behavior. The final step towards maximizing your cat's playtime fulfillment relies heavily on consistently and frequently rotating in and out their toys to prevent habituation and boredom. The application of all playtime actions and activities drastically reduces risk of stress-associated disease, obesity, overgrooming, and misdirected aggressive behavior.
Positive Human Interaction
One of the most enjoyable aspects of pet ownership, the social interaction between both parties, is also one of the most beneficial for your animal's health. Regular and consistent human-cat interaction from a young age will help to nullify common issues such as aggression towards other cats or humans, reduce the risk of stress-related disease, and inappropriate elimination. Mindfully, the interaction between you and your cat should not be forced. A pet owner should always lower themselves to the cat’s level, and let the cat initiate the interaction. Every cat will have their own preferences when it comes to social interaction with a human such as petting, grooming, playing, being picked up, and lounging around or sleeping. Once the cat ends the interaction of their choosing, do not continue to force the interaction as this may cause unnecessary stress to your animal. The majority of cats will prefer to engage in high frequency, low intensity interactions with humans. This is apparent more so in cats that have reached social maturity past the age of 2-3, while on the other hand, kittens might prefer longer and more interactive play sessions with a human. We begin the socialization process with all of our kittens at the age of two weeks old, as the period of time in between 2-7 weeks is foundationally important to ensure a well socialized and confident adult cat. The commitment we hold to that process, ensures that every kitten we produce will be perfectly suited for a family environment. Past the breeder level and regardless of a cat's age, it is the pet owner's responsibility to provide their cat with proper socialization, learn their individual cat’s preferences, and to be vigilant for any sudden changes in behavior as this could potentially be linked to an underlying medical condition.
Sense of Smell
The sense of smell that your cat possesses is truly powerful. Unlike a human, cats use olfactory and chemical information to make evaluations about their surroundings. Making these conclusions allows them to increase their sense of comfort and security. Cats will directly communicate with other members of the same species through the means of these chemicals and pheromones. The chemicals themselves are deposited onto surfaces through the means of facial rubbing and scratching. This process allows a cat to communicate with others, and to also establish a sense of environmental security. The measures taken by a pet owner to promote this positive behavior will have a direct impact on your cat's overall stress levels and well-being. A few tactics to implement for your cat should include, but not limited to providing multiple scratching posts, avoiding using chemicals or cleaners that affect their smell, using positive synthetic pheromones, and to wash a cat's
Distilled White Vinegar
Side Note: Common ingredients that contribute to a cleaner's toxicity include ammonia, chlorine, formaldehyde, isopropyl alcohol, phthalates, phenols, perchloroethylene, and glycol esters.
bedding on a rotation basis to prevent the total elimination of their scent. It is of utmost importance to simultaneously exclude the use of toxic chemicals in your home to ensure your cat's physical safety whilst respecting their sense of smell. Retaining and supporting the continuation of your feline's natural instinct to engage the world through scent will discourage the display of inappropriate elimination or scratching and reduce the risks of stress related illness such as urinary tract disease.
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