Thursday, September 30, 2021

Do Cats Really Need Enrichment? Don’t They Sleep All of the Time?

Lefty laying out out on the stack of scratchers
in the catio.
A few years ago, my husband showed me a photo of his manager’s catio — a small, enclosed wooden structure attached to the door of his house in Chicago. It kept his cat safe and provided some enrichment — a world beyond the walls of the house. 

When I proposed that we buy one (in spite of a crazy price tag), my husband proposed that we build one. And we did. It's one of the things I love most about our house.

It turns out that keeping cats interested, entertained and even a little challenged is good for their mental and physical health. Since we built the catio, we’ve added cat trees, platforms, scratching furniture and even a chair (for us and them). We change it up from time to time — even moving cat trees gives our two boys a chance to rethink how to climb to the right place for a snooze.  We have bird and squirrel feeders nearby, a small fountain and plenty of "outdoor" action to keep them curious. We have an insert in our sliding glass door that allows them to go in and out independently. 

Oreo in the foreground and
Lefty in the background.
While our cats would maybe call the catio "icing on the cake," we have plenty of simple climbing, scratching and feeding activities inside the house. We discovered cat puzzles for use with dry food (which help slow down two really fast eaters!) and a treat toy for Greenies. We have cat trees by several windows, water fountains from which they love drinking, a huge kid’s tube that they love to hide and run in, and more than their fair share of catnip toys. Peacock feathers are a fan favorite. 

I would have liked to run a cat highway down the hall, around the office, guest room and living room, but, alas, that didn’t turn out to be the perfect fit for our small house. We don’t have Jackson Galaxy “Catification” nirvana, but we try our best to make and keep our family happy. 

My mother-in-law, Eva, recently adopted a cat and we had that discussion. “Do cats really need enrichment? Don’t they sleep all of the time?” We have worked hard to share our experience with Eva and her new cat. We have — to her delight — dropped in with a fabulous cat tree, vertical and horizontal scratchers, toys, a bed, and even, yes, the beloved peacock
Oreo mastering his skill at the food puzzle.

feathers! “Tinky” has an active and happy life. 

You can learn more about Cat Needs and Basics — including Play and Enrichment — on our website

Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and a member of the communications team.