In this blog post, Little Animal Hospital proudly presents Trading Cat Spaces with your feline hosts, Tiger and Miss Kitty. In this episode, these cats battle it out as Tiger and his team make some questionable design decisions, while Miss Kitty and her crew hit a home run. Whether Tiger’s team or Miss Kitty’s crew come out on top, everyone wins, as they learn indoor cat enrichment tips from the Little Animal Hospital veterinarians and staff.

#1: Cat basics: Food, water, and litter

Tiger’s plan = What NOT to do: “This is a multi-cat household, so let’s design a communal eating area with a few food bowls in one space. The cats can have meals together in the morning and the evening every day. The cats can eat like the people do. We’ll place one big water bowl and one big litter pan nearby for convenience. ”

Miss Kitty’s plan = What TO do: “Actually, you must remember that cats are not people, and their space must be designed the way cats naturally prefer. Think about how we would behave in the wildcats are solitary, small prey hunters. We like to eat several small meals throughout the day, with the meals in different locations. We would go to different locations to find water and for our eliminations.” 

Little Animal Hospital (LAH): We agree with Miss Kitty. An enriched environment means choices. We recommend setting up several feeding stations throughout the house, so cats can follow their instinctson average each day, cats naturally eat 12 or more small, same-sized meals. Ensure the total daily food volume is appropriate, so cats do not overeat. Provide fresh water in separate locations in bowls, as well as alternatives, such as pet drinking fountains. In different areas, place several litter box optionsone more litter box than the number of cats is necessary. Ensure the boxes are large enough, and provide substrate options, since some cats prefer clumping litter, some prefer clay, and some prefer natural materials. Overall, cats like a regular routine with predictable food, water, and litter resources.

#2: Places for cats to explore

Tiger’s plan = What NOT to do: “We’ll provide one big plush cat bed on the floor for all the cats. We cats mostly sleep all day anyway, right? This plan will keep the cat hair in one spot, to make cleaning easier for our people.”

Miss Kitty’s plan = What TO do: “Our ancestors were always on the move. They were not only predators, but also prey to larger animals. We love to stalk our prey from a safe hiding spot, and then pounce. Let’s keep these natural cat activities in mind, when designing our space.”

LAH: Miss Kitty has the right idea. Indoor cats can’t explore outside, but they can scan the area from a window seat, or survey their surroundings from a screened-in porch. The outdoors are constantly changing, so rotate your cat’s indoor activities. Hide kibble in a box of leaves and sticks in the fall. In the winter, some cats love to explore the blankets on the couch or bed. Cats naturally chew greens, so grow cat grass indoors. Children’s play tunnels can be fun for cats, and you can keep it simple with crumpled tissue in a paper bag or box. Other ways to help your cat explore include using a cat stroller, or a see-through cat backpack. Slowly introduce your cat to these options, as well as harness and leash training. Always discontinue, if your cat becomes distressed.

#3: Places to scratch and climb

Tiger’s plan = What NOT to do: “We need to discourage scratching at any cost, to keep furniture from getting destroyed. We don’t want the cats to explore high places, since then they may jump onto the kitchen counters.” 

Miss Kitty’s plan = What TO do: “Cats need to scratch and climb. These behaviors mark our scent and groom our nails. Stretching is our natural stress-reliever. We need to provide appropriate, appealing places for these cat activities.”

LAH: Once again, Miss Kitty’s tips are right on target. Cats need to stretch their full body length while scratching, so provide a tall, sturdy sisal post, stabilized with brackets to the wall for safety, in a preferred location, such as a high-traffic home area. Encourage cats to scratch and climb in your preferred locations with enticements such as toys and catnip, and discourage climbing and scratching furniture and doorways by using calming pheromones, such as Feliway spray, wipes, or diffusers, in those areas. Since cat towers can be expensive, use what you already have. Provide a path to an unused upper bunk bed, or stack heavy items for cats to climb. Locate your vertical space and elevated perch in a sunny spot by a window, to further entice use by your cats.

#4: Cat food puzzles and toys

Tiger’s plan = What NOT to do: “We can’t scatter cat treats around, or provide canned foodthat would make a mess. Our people won’t want a bunch of toys cluttering up the house, so we’ll keep those to a minimum.”

Miss Kitty’s plan = What TO do: “Cats want to figure out a problem—they will stalk, chase, catch—and get a reward, and canned food is closer to their natural diet. We need to provide these activities for indoor cats, including when their people aren’t home.”

LAH: When it comes to cat activities, Miss Kitty is on the ball. Ensure interactive play with your cat for at least five minutes several times each day. Remember that cats are more active in the morning and the evening, and more sleepy during the day and night. Cats love when you pull a feather string pole, but store it when you are done for safety. If you want to get creative, some cats go nuts over a ping-pong ball in a pan of shallow water. When you can’t be home with your cat, design their environment to include passive play through food puzzles and foraging toys, and gradually increase the challenge level. If you don’t have the budget for expensive toys, hide treats in paper towel rolls, or crumpled paper. 

Call the caring team of professionals at Little Animal Hospital for more ideas on improving your indoor cat’s environment. When you’re trading cat spaces, follow Miss Kitty’s tips, and you’ll come out a winner.