One of the benefits of having more time at home is the opportunity to really consider just how our home environment can impact both our and our furry family’s health and wellbeing… Of course, we would very much prefer the circumstances to be different but, resilience comes from taking away any positives during difficult times… and finding ways to enhance our homes for the benefit of our fur-babies is definitely a positive!
Focusing (for now) on our feline friends, just what do we, as responsible and loving pet parents, need to provide our kitties to enable them to be happy? On tap catnip/favourite treats/snuggles (dependent on your cat’s outlook on such things) will definitely go down well! However, there are a few essentials that we should always provide along with strategies to optimize your purry pet’s pleasure.
These are often referred to as the Five Pillars of a Healthy Feline Environment and, spoiler alert, only one of these is actually related to “stuff”, the majority are all about how we can better understand the needs of our feline family.
So, here we go!
- Provide a Safe Place! In the the very broadest sense, this means allowing your cat to live with you, after all, your home can be considered a safe place… However, if we drill down a little and think more in terms of a cat’s needs, a safe place will be a very much more specific space… Cats are by nature (generally) solitary beings, they are definitely comfortable in their own company and often will prefer a little peace and quiet. Which means that safe place becomes a favourite nook or cranny… a little hidey hole just for them that they can tuck them selves away in for a good snooze whenever the mood takes them. Of course, pussy cats are both solitary and selective… so best to ensure that each cat has a good selection of preferred safe places around the home. Think height, think coziness and think seclusion… a combination of the these would be the perfect cat safe place (and likely already has a cat snuggled in purring away…).
- Provide appropriate, suitable and, very importantly, adequate and separated environmental resources. These include:
- Good quality and dietary appropriate food (considering age, breed, mobility, tastes, amounts etc),
- Fresh water – please consider that cats are not big drinkers and may not slurp from a bowl… so water sources such as the popular fountain type (we sell a couple of variants) or even a running tap should be accessible as and when needed
- Litter tray (and regularly cleaned/replaced litter). Now this is not as straight forward as it seems…
- Firstly, cats do not like to share resources so always have more litter trays than cats and even if you only have one cat in the home, be a thoughtful pet parent and provide an extra litter tray.
- Position of litter trays is important… left to their own ways, a cat would be very happy doing their business in private with a little peace and quiet to relax with… so litter trays next to washing machines/tumble dryers/busy corridors etc will not be a place for quiet kitty reflection.
- Scratching post – these really are important. Both to preserve your furniture and also to allow your kitty friends to carry out one of their big pleasures and sensory stimulating activities… scratching posts will help to both invigorate and relax your cat. Good outcomes for all!
- Toys and play areas. More about this in the next pillar but an active and stimulated kitty is more likely to be a happy and healthy kitty… things to chase, bop and grapple with will certainly help induce some happy purrs…
- Places to rest and sleep. As with pillar 1, a snoozing cat is a relaxed cat so help create an environment conducive to plenty of cat-naps and your feline friend will be feline good!
- Allow your cat to be a cat… that is to say, let them act out their predatory nature using toys, feeding puzzles and the opportunity to pounce when they feel the need. Our cats don’t live in the world of Tom and Jerry, in our cat’s reality they are hunters who prefer to catch their intended prey and not be bamboozled by all kinds of weird cartoon shenanigans… not that we expect most kitties to be running around chasing actual mice although that is what they’d love to do given the chance. So, find some prey alternatives, make it a bit of a challenge and let them do what their DNA is designed for… it will definitely bring rewards for pet and pet parents.
- Provide positive, consistent and (very importantly) appropriate human – cat interaction… basically a good rule is to let your cat dictate where, when and how to interact but be accessible. Most cats prefer little-and-often human interaction rather than long petting sessions. A great opportunity to build in some interaction may be during meal times when your cat is already feeling pretty happy, a bit of a head scratch to compliment their tasty meal is only going to add to the purr quotient… please do remember though that every cat is different and they each have a very individual personality with their own likes, dislikes and foibles. Learn to recognize these and you’ll be a cat-tastic pet parent!
- Provide an environment that respects (and celebrates) your cat’s sense of smell. Ok, big topic and little paragraph… in short, cats communicate a huge amount about their environment through their olfactory epithelium (smell sensitive cells in the nose of which they have over 200 million) and have a sense of smell that is at least twenty times more acute then ours… everywhere your cat goes they will be leaving smell markers that help to create a feeling of safety, security, happiness and more. Whilst the complexity of this wonderful sensory ability is worth its own separate blog, the fact is that our cats need their environment to become permeated with their scents and pheromones so that they can feel at home. Likewise, try to avoid using over-powering air-fresheners or incense that may actually cause a negative response in our feline families…
See… that is quite the list but very little is about objects! Rather, the really good stuff for our kitty community is related to their behaviours and actions. As a group of passionate, cat loving veterinary professionals it is fair to say that we at GVC are a little preoccupied with the objective of allowing our feline friends to live their very best lives… it is why GVC is still so proud to have been the first Veterinary Clinic in the Middle East to achieve ISFM Feline Friendly Clinic status (and Gold status at that), which has been retained since award in 2014.
Added to the love of all things feline, we are also very delighted that Dr Katrin, GVC Owner and Head Vet, is carrying out a dual residency in Veterinary Behaviour Medicine at both the American and European Colleges (of Veterinary Behaviour Medicine). Which means we have the very best team delivering not only the physical medical services, but also emotional and mental healthcare too!
If you have any queries, questions or concerns about your cat, whether behavioural, environmental or medical then get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 025562024 !