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Social Enrichment for Your Cat

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Cats don’t exactly have a reputation for being social butterflies. While it’s true that they’re quite independent animals, they can actually thrive in the right social settings!

At just a few weeks old, kittens start to learn social skills like cuddling, grooming, and playing from their mother and siblings. Even as they grow into adulthood, cats need ongoing social enrichment to avoid getting bored, engaging in troublesome behaviours like scratching the furniture, and feeling timid or aggressive around new faces.

We advise against overwhelming kitty with new social situations—forced socialization can be stressful for them and ultimately do more harm than good. Luckily, cats can get adequate social enrichment by interacting with any other living being, including other animals and humans, in the comfort of their own environment.

Here are some safe, easy and cat-friendly social enrichment ideas to seamlessly incorporate into kitty’s daily routine:

Interactive play

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The benefit of having two or more cats, especially if they are bonded littermates, is that your kitties will automatically get the companionship they need by playing, grooming and sleeping together.

Not to worry, though—whether or not you can adopt a second kitty, you can still offer your cat social enrichment by playing together! Throwing a stuffed toy for them to chase, dangling a wand teaser, blowing catnip bubbles and partaking in a game of hide-and-seek are just a few great ways to encourage interactive play. A bonus? Playing together regularly will help establish trust and deepen your bond.

Quality time

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What’s better than a good cuddle session with your cat? Any form of mutually enjoyable quality time with your kitties counts as social enrichment, whether it’s cozying up together to watch TV, brushing your cat, or treating them to pets and head scratches.

That’s right: the next time you turn down plans for a chill night on the couch, you can claim that it’s for the sake of your cat’s happiness. What could be more important than nurturing your kitty’s wellbeing and creating purrecious memories together?

Window-watching

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Cats can get social enrichment from other species, including other pets and wildlife. Offer your cat a front-row seat to the great outdoors by setting up a cozy lookout spot near a window. A hammock, the back of a sofa, or a cat tower would be purrfect. This way, your cat can observe people, birds, squirrels and other prey from a safe distance. It’s like having a TV for kitties that actually benefits them!

Controlled socialization

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Not all cats appreciate unfamiliar visitors invading their territory. In fact, many cats prefer sticking to social interactions with their own humans. However, with some patience and cat-friendly tactics, many kitties can become more comfortable meeting new people, especially if you start this process when they’re kittens.

Start by softly playing the radio or leaving the TV on to help them get accustomed to unfamiliar sounds and voices. Then, introduce one friend at a time who can engage with your cat at a distance, offering a hand to sniff or a fun toy. Reward your kitty with treats when they respond positively to these interactions.

One of the reasons why socially enriching experiences are crucial even for indoor kitties is that it trains your cat to better tolerate commonplace stressors, such as moving, being left with a pet sitter, or encountering guests. It’s important not to force your cat out of hiding, or hastily take them out of their home environment for unnecessary reasons (unless you already know they enjoy this, of course!). Helping them overcome social phobia or shyness may take some time, but with patience and perseverance, many cats can become better socialized.

Cat-safe outdoor enclosures

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What’s even better than birdwatching from a window perch? Safely enjoying the great outdoors firsthand (or shall we say, first paw)! Even indoor cats can get a taste of nature’s wonders with a cat-friendly enclosure, like a catio.

If you don’t have the space for a catio, rest assured that there are other ways your cat can safely experience the outdoors! Consider trying a cat stroller or leash-training your kitty in a quiet area outside, so they can observe wildlife while soaking up some fresh air. Not only will going for strolls together help your cat build confidence around other animals, people, new noises and smells, but it’s a great way to enjoy quality time. It’s a win-win for you and your kitty!

Looking for a no-fuss way to offer enrichment and keep playtime interesting? Consider a monthly or bi-monthly meowbox filled with fun themed toys and tasty treats. Subscribe to meowbox here!

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