Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty.
“You have to exercise, or at some point, you’ll just break down.” – Barack Obama
Living with cats is very different than living with dogs. Cats have a whole different array of habits than dogs; they are true predators, often less social than dogs and can get very insulted if their world changes abruptly. Whether they live strictly inside, go outside sometimes or live strictly outside, there are a few big things to remember regarding the cats in your family.
Cats are predators, and they love to hunt, nurture this. Stimulating a cat’s mind is important in maintaining a cat’s healthy lifestyle. Hunting doesn’t have to be directed at live animals, and there are so many toys available to encourage a cat to hunt when they live inside. Feeding small frequent meals throughout the day on a high surface or shelf that the cat needs a jump or climb to is an excellent stimulation of their natural hunting environment. Randomly moving the food bowl to new locations is also helpful in making the cat use their mind. These hunting type activities satisfy the need for exercise as well as mimic the natural eating style of a carnivorous predator. When cats are outdoors, they hunt and eat small meals of meat frequently, when cats are indoors, this type of feeding schedule with a properly balanced cat food helps to keep them healthy.
Cats are designed physically to run; they don’t do well as sedentary animals. Maze bowls and cat trees are also easy ways to add exercise to a cat’s day. Bored cats, like bored dogs, can be very destructive. Bored cats scratch furniture, climb into cupboards and eat human food, even inappropriate bathroom habits in cats can sometimes be linked to boredom. Giving cats the opportunity to go outside can be incredibly enriching in their daily life. If your cat doesn’t respect the backyard fence, try a leash and harness for some quality time in the outdoors. Use a toy that your cat loves as a reward for staying close by and playing in the backyard. If you are lucky enough to have a cat that has dog-like behaviour, teach them to play fetch!
Stress in a cat’s life, whether that be boredom, moving, seasonal changes, new food/pet/human, etc. can cause behavioural issues. There are many options for dealing with stress. Things as simple as new toys to relieve boredom like previously mentioned, gradual food changes if a diet change is needed, or even some emotional support via pheromones like Feliway or medications to help with moving or other big stressors.
No matter the living arrangements, there are so many opportunities to enrich your cat’s life with exercise and mental stimulation. Talk to your veterinary healthcare team if you have concerns about your cat’s behaviour or stress/exercise level, we would love to help make your cat happy!
Written by: Crossroads Animal Hospital