Many animal health experts agree that cats are safest when kept indoors. However, without properly enriched indoor environments, cats become increasingly bored and are likely to gain unhealthy amounts of weight. In fact, a 2016 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention clinical survey revealed that nearly 60 percent of U.S. cats—about 50.5 million—are overweight or obese.
But how should you enrich your indoor cat’s environment? Here are five ideas:
- Train your cat—yes, cats can be trained—various cues and tricks. Use positive reinforcement (like clicker training) to teach your cat how to sit, come, or even play the piano.
- Use technology to keep your cat active. From cat game apps for smartphones and tablets to videos and music designed specifically with our feline friends in mind, there are plenty of options for even the most discerning kitty.
- Create a “catio” so your cat can enjoy time outdoors safely. These outdoor enclosures give cats the opportunity to soak in some fresh air and sunshine while watching and hearing the outside world around them. You can even incorporate other sources of enrichment, like a cat tree. There are many ways to build a catio—conducting an online search will provide ideas.
- Toys that you and your cat can play with together are a great way to strengthen the human-animal bond. You can entice your feline friend with wand toys that have strings and feathers, laser pointers, and even homemade toys, like wadded-up paper or foil balls.
- Encourage the natural hunter in your cat by using food puzzles. Not only do these items help to satisfy your cat’s natural need to search for her food, but they also help to keep her active, which promotes a healthy weight.
Enriching your indoor cat’s environment doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. In fact, many cats prefer simple cardboard boxes or paper bags to pricier cat toys. Start simple and move your way up until you find what your cat prefers.