Five tips to making a home cat-friendly

  By: Carly Moody, MSc
       PhD Candidate, Feline Behaviour and Welfare
       Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

  June 6, 2016

Since childhood, I have been a dedicated cat person, so it's no surprise I am currently working on a PhD focused in feline behaviour and welfare. I have adopted many shelter cats. Through these experiences, I have learned that, whether it is your first cat or your tenth, it is important to create a comfortable and fun home environment for your cat. Behaviour problems often occur because a cat's needs are not fully met. An easy fix is to create a cat-friendly home; a home that allows your cat to be a cat!

Each cat will have slightly different needs and wants that should be met to satisfy their well-being. For example, Wesley, a tall, dark, and handsome Siamese I adopted about 4 years ago, had arthritis. He loved being on the couch, but it was quite high and he struggled to jump up. He would stand in front of the couch and meow very loudly (Siamese cats are quite the talkers!), so we purchased a small step stool to help him get up. After this easy fix, he was able to perch on the couch whenever he liked and it ended up being his favourite napping spot! Small changes like this can make a huge difference in your cat's life. Here's a list of 5 things to help make your home cat-friendly:

  1. A comfortable and safe resting area

    Cats take a lot of naps throughout the day and need a safe place where they can escape from kids or other animals in the house. Place a cozy bed in a high or hidden location, or purchase a scratching post your cat can climb to get away from it all! A lot of cats like high perches, which allow them to monitor their environment while feeling hidden and safe.

  2. A place to scratch

    Scratching is a very normal cat behaviour! Scratching helps cats maintain their claws. Also, cats have scent glands in their paw pads; scratching is a way that cats leave their scent behind. Providing a tall scratching post will help your cat be able to do this normal behaviour in an appropriate spot. Therefore, simply providing some sort of scratching post can help to create a cat-friendly home. 

    Cats require a vertical scratching surface that is tall and sturdy enough to hold them when they stretch their entire body and scratch. Each cat has their own preference of scratching material; some cats prefer carpet while others may prefer sisal rope. If you're not sure what your cat likes, use a nice tall scratching post with a few different materials to let your cat choose!

  3. Toys and playtime

    Spending time with your cat is important and there's no better way to get your cat off the couch than toys and playtime! Catnip toys, puzzle feeders, and wand toys are great ways for your cat to get some exercise and provide fun mental stimulation.

  4. Predictability and routine

    Cats like routine. Providing consistency and predictability in your home is a great way to enrich your cat's life. For example, every day when you get home from work, devote 15 minutes of time to play with your cat. Providing this consistency will help make your cat feel at ease. In addition, this activity is not only great for your cat's physical health, but may help you de-stress from the day's work, and help to create and/or maintain a strong bond between you and your cat.

  5. Resources: placement and number

    Carefully considering the number and location of resources can help make your home cat-friendly. Basic necessities, such as food, water, and litter boxes, should be placed in areas of the home where your cat feels safe and comfortable, and that are easy to access.

    If you have more than one cat, providing multiple resources around the house is important to reduce competition. If one cat blocks another cat from a precious resource, such as a litter box, it is important there is another source that the cat can access.

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These five tips are a good starting point to making your home more cat-friendly. It is important to remember that every cat is unique and has his or her own preferences. Maybe your cat prefers a hidden napping spot under the bed instead of perching up high. Provide a few different options and see what your cat chooses!

 
Ellis, S.L.H., Rodan, I., Carney, H.C., Heath, S., Rochlitz, I., Shearburn, L.D., Sundahl, E., & Westropp, J.L. (2013). AAFP and ISFM feline environmental needs guidelines. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 15(3), 219-230.
 
Ellis, S. (2009). Environmental enrichment: practical strategies for improving feline welfare. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 11(11), 901-912.