Theres a lot of buzz in the veterinary community these days about Environmental Enrichment for cats. You may think that your cat has a great life; toys, cat towers, good food, lots of love…..but are you really meeting their innate physiological needs adequately? Research now tells us that many chronic inflammatory conditions in cats, like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, many skin conditions, even inflammed bladders, may well be linked at least in part to the lifestyle of our house cats.
Most wild cats, spend 90% of their waking hours hunting for food, are solitary creatures, and are extremely private and particular about where they choose to defecate and urinate. Our house cats are descended from these wild felines and, although their behaviour may seem to indicate they have adapted well to the relative luxury and ease of home life, in fact we know many of them have excess circulating hormones in their blood as a result of living a life so different than their wild relatives. And, this physiological stress with it’s circulating hormones, can lead to chronic inflammatory conditions and/or weakened immune systems.
So how can you enrich your cat’s home environment? Well here is a link to a paper from a veterinary conference that provides some really great ideas: Environmental Enrichment Ideas
Another important consideration, not covered in the above paper is the location of your cat’s litter box. In the wild, cat’s are extremely private in where they choose to defecate and urinate largely because they feel very vulnerable when they are peeing or pooping. They also prefer to have their own place to do their business, not shared with any other of their fellow creatures. So, if you have more than one cat, you should definitely always have at least as many litter boxes as you have cats.
Its also important to take a really close look at where you have put the litter box. You may think it is a nice quiet, secluded place , like a furnace room for instance. Well that is all fine and good until your cat is in the box and suddenly the furnace comes on and startles them. Likewise a litter box in a closet seems like a good idea until you realize the closet is underneath the stairs and, all it takes is someone walking down those stairs, while your cat is in their box feeling vulnerable, and you’ve created a flood of stress hormone release into your cat’s bloodstream. Now, in some cats, that flood of stress hormones just passes through without any problems, but in others it can contribute to a cat losing their litter box training to chronically inflamed bladders, weaker immune systems or any of the other chronic inflammatory conditions mentioned above.
So, whether you want to keep your healthy cat as healthy as it can be, or help your sick cat get better, or just provide an ideal home environment for your beloved pet, I encourage you to look at your cat’s life through the eyes of their more wild ancestors and get creative.