Sensory Enrichment for Your Cat
Published 14 days ago by Leah de Roy
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Just like how going for a run or reading can help us manage our stress, it’s important to provide your cat with various sources of enrichment to ensure they lead their healthiest and happiest life pawssible!
For indoor kitties especially, sensory enrichment through treats and toys is key to preventing boredom. While indoor cats typically live a longer lifespan than outdoor cats, they are at a higher risk of developing depression if their living environment doesn’t provide them with ample opportunities to play and explore.
After all, despite their angelic exteriors, cats are natural-born hunters! Sensory toys and activities allow them to keep busy practicing their hunting skills, preventing destructive behaviours, like getting into houseplants or scratching the sofa.
Here are the different types of sensory enrichment for cats that you can offer your cat at home:
Windows are a great source of visual entertainment for cats, as they are naturally nosy and love watching what’s happening outside. To offer your cat the best view, consider placing a cat tower in front of the window, or installing a space-saving cat hammock. You could even hang a bird feeder outside so that your cat can observe the birds at a distance. The Ontario SPCA advises against using suction cup bird feeders as they might tempt your cat to jump against the window, potentially causing injury to themselves and scaring the birds.
Other ways to offer your kitty visual enrichment include YouTube videos for cats, interactive cat toys, and catnip bubbles. Make sure to limit strictly visual activities as they don’t provide the satisfaction of capturing something. Giving your cat a treat after playing is a great way to reward them for practicing their hunting instincts.
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Cats are known for their pawsome hearing abilities, which is why auditory enrichment is important. You can help engage this sense by offering your cat a variety of auditory stimuli, such as nature sounds, a Spotify playlist specially curated for cats, or a drinking fountain that produces a soothing trickling sound. Toys that squeak, rattle or crinkle satisfy their auditory senses and give them a tactile object to safely hunt or chase.
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Your cat’s sense of taste plays an important role in exploring and experiencing the world around them. To provide your cat with gustatory enrichment, consider offering them a variety of treat flavours and textures, such as liquid treat tubes, crumbly food toppers, and crunchy freeze-dried treats.
You can even incorporate some mental stimulation into kitty’s treat routine through food puzzles like snuffle mats or interactive treat dispensers, which encourage their natural foraging instincts.
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From the moment they’re born, cats use touch as a primary form of communication and affection, grooming their siblings and using their whiskers to navigate their environment. Touch is just as important when it comes to play, for kittens and adult cats alike. Scratching posts are one effective way of providing tactile enrichment, as they allow your cat to stretch their muscles and mark their scent. Offering toys with different materials like felt, wool and feathers can also offer your cat a variety of tactile experiences, as well as cat-safe household items like paper bags, toilet paper rolls and cardboard boxes they can squeeze themselves into.
Of course, if your cat enjoys belly rubs, pets or head scratches, human touch is the ultimate form of tactile enrichment as it promotes bonding between you and kitty!
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Catnip toys are one of the most popular types of cat toys, and for a good reason! For cats who don’t react to it, silvervine is an easy-to-find alternative. Another option is to plant cat grass in your home, providing your cat with a natural source of sensory stimulation that they can sniff and rub their faces against. Offering them items to play with or sleep on that carry your scent, such as an old sweater, will provide them with a sense of comfort (and hopefully deter them from taking your seat…though we can’t promise anything).
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