For the past few years, there has been a big emphasis on cat enrichment — doing things to give your cats their best life. If you believe everything you read, you need to harness and leash train your cat, invest in cat strollers and elaborate cat trees, grow your own catnip and cat grass, and install an interactive cam so you can watch your cat, dispense treats, and play with them, all while you’re away.
It sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? And the truth is, much of it is unnecessary, and some of it isn’t even right for your cat.
Cat enrichment is not one size fits all. I love wearing dresses and being on camera! But the great majority of cats hate wearing outfits and find the human fixation with cameras annoying. I enjoy being at cat shows, but it would upset most cats to be taken away from home to spend the day in a noisy hall with 150 other cats.
Each cat is unique. So is each human. And what makes one cat happy clearly can make another cat miserable. What one human can do for their cat is impossible for another human. Let’s look at some forms of enrichment and why they may or may not be right for you and your cat.
Should Your Cat Have a Kitty Friend?
This definitely depends on the cat. A surprising number of cats actually would not welcome another cat into their home. Some cats really need the companionship of another cat. If you must leave your only cat alone for long periods of time during the day, you should find other ways to keep them happy while you’re not there, if they are otherwise happy having you as their main squeeze.
Harness and Leash Training
Leash training your cat, and outside time in general, is something not every cat enjoys. If your cat is nervous or skittish and has spent their lives indoors, being outside may be overwhelming for them. Conversely, if your cat came from a feral colony and is still a bit wild, they may find wearing a harness to be too constraining, and may have an urge to stray. It also requires the human to be patient as the cat learns to accept the harness and leash, and to be the confident helper who keeps them safe when they’re outside. These are all things to think about when considering harness and leash training.
Big, Elaborate Cat Trees
Nearly all cats would benefit from having a cool cat tree to scratch and play and nap on. But what a lot of people don’t think about is the location, and that’s actually the most important part. If you stick the tree in a dark corner that is only convenient for humans, your cat will probably not use it. Before getting a cat tree, consider the spaces in your home that your cat already likes. Will a cat tree enhance this spot for them? What size cat tree can comfortably fit there? Think in terms of the location first, then the details about the cat tree itself second.
This is something all cats need, but the kind of play varies from cat to cat. Most cats enjoy interactive play with their humans, and also need toys they can amuse themselves with on their own. But each cat has a different play style, and a type of toy that they favor. Some cats like tiny toy mice and crinkly balls. Others may prefer sturdier toys. Some cat enjoy treat puzzles, while others are, well, puzzled by them. Some cats love catnip toys while others don’t even respond to nip. Once you figure out your cat’s preferences, get them toys that fit into that. If you go outside of what they like, don’t be surprised if the toy winds up being ignored.
As you can see, some of this goes against popular opinion on cat enrichment. But only you know what makes your cat happy. So taking your cat’s personality into consideration first will help you make the wisest decisions on what’s best for your cat, and your situation.
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