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Feline Enrichment Series Part 4

Feline Enrichment Series Part 4
Feline Enrichment Series Part 4
Feline Enrichment Series Part 4

Feline Enrichment MATTERS – Feeding enrichment & prey drive

We here at Waggs 2 Whiskers have been BUSY CATS during this pandemic!  We have been taking advantage of as many trainings as we can push into our brains.  One in particular REALLY put us over the edge about Feline Behaviors & Enrichment.  It was an amazing webinar put on by our wonderful Pet Sitters International (PSI).  They are awesome providing many opportunities for continuing education for their members.  

This is a 4 part blog series (YES….it was THAT GOOD).  The webinar was graciously put on by Dr. Marci Koski of Feline Behavior Solutions.  We are going to break down what we learned into 4 parts for this series:

1 – Cat’s Basic Nature 

2 – Feline Environment, Enrichment & the benefits

3 – The Four C’s of Enrichment for felines – part 1.5 – toy suggestions/the five senses

4 – The Four C’s of Enrichment for felines – part 2 + prey drive

We have now released Part 1 on Cat’s Basic Nature, Part 2 on Feline Environment, Enrichment & the benefits of making sure your kitty cat have both available to them & also Part 3 – Cognitive and Sensory Enrichment.    

If you missed any of them, go to our website at this link:  https://www.waggs2whiskers.com/blog/

NOW, it’s time for Part 4 – Feline Enrichment MATTERS – Feeding enrichment & prey drive.  Also, how as a pet sitter we can HELP provide this enrichment during our visits with your kitty. 

First, let’s talk Feeding Enrichment:

If your kitty cat seems to be less interested in their food than normal, before thinking something may be wrong, try some of these ideas to make sure she isn’t just bored.

  • Ration their daily food by hiding it throughout the home to give them a chance to search and use their prey drive to find their food. As we learned in Part 1 of this series, cats have an excellent sense of smell and they will search out for food.  Just keep an eye on your hiding spots to be sure they are actually finding and eating it.  Then, you will know if it’s boredom or if they are losing their appetite for some other reason. 
  • Put their dry kibble and/or treats in a container of some sort or even a paper towel roll or TP roll and let them reach in and get it out. It’s not only fun for them but us as well.  Nothing better than watching a cat jump and roll around, better than TV anyday.
  • Food puzzles – You can find these in your local pet store but you can also make them! Try googling some homemade cat puzzles, lots of great ideas from things you have around the house and maybe some duct tape.
  • Snuffle mats – These are really cool and if you don’t know what they are, go to this site – these are handmade by an amazing small business – http://www.beansnbones.com/product/snuffle-mat/ These are normally made for dogs but are great for cats as well since their food is small and treats as well.  They will love it!
  • Frozen chicken broth or milk – consult your veterinarian before offering the milk, some veterinarians may suggest against it. But, if you freeze chicken broth in an ice cube tray and then put one on a plate for your kitty to lick on, this also offers enrichment to their day.
  • Slow Feeders – they have some mats, some are called lucky mats, that you can put wet food on to offer the kitty enrichment during eating rather than them just gulping it down in one sitting.

Think SIMPLE, you may think it’s really not going to make a difference but it truly does to your kitty, it’s kind of like a human having the same thing to eat day after day and never changing up what we eat or how we eat it.  Think about it, it would be very, very boring!

Cat Prey Drive:

A cat has a natural prey sequence:

1 – Stare

2 – Stalk & Chase

3 – Pounce & Grab

4 – Kill Bite and Bunny kick

A feline’s natural prey are rodents, insects, reptiles and birds.  When looking for toys for them to play with think of these preys. 

  • Try some kicker toys, battery operated interactive toys.
  • Interactive wand toys that you can play with them like one called Da Bird. You can get a 3’ or 6’ wand with a string that you can change the attachments on – there are feather attachments, birds, mice, rats, items made of deer fur, insect lures, cat charmer and worm teasers. How cool is that?  You can just switch out the toys for playtime. 
  • For shy, slow or senior cats – Try a cat charmer fleece wand, cat dancer cardboard, wire toy with long peacock feather or fuzzy worms.
Martini the cat and our owner Kelly

Cat sitting at Martini’s house is so fun

How WE can help as a pet sitter:

One thing about cats that most of us know is that they get stressed when their routine changes.  It’s sometimes hard to see this stress but knowing your cat, even the slightest change can bring the stressers out.  Which is where we as kitty sitters can swoop in and help!  The social interaction is the most important piece.  Social kitties are usually first to meet us at the door and we love that.  We talk to them and pet and scratch them, we can also provide brushing.  

Some kitties aren’t interested in making new friends.  From what we have found, we can develop a relationship over time with them if they want to accept us.  And, we are happy to try anything. 

We suggest leaving their toys out, allowing us to play with them, we can provide enrichment in all of the ways we have spoken of in this blog series.  And, we are happy to provide this service as part of our cat sits.  Sometimes, if your kitty is shy and just wants to observe us, we are happy to talk to them and even read a children’s book to them to allow them to get used to our voice and our mannerisms.  We allow them to get to know us at their pace. 

But, if they want to play, we just ask our clients to let us know where the toys are, we love to play.  We can also set up some tents for them to play in while we are away.  We can also provide feeding enrichment for them after playtime to give them something to do while we are not visiting.  We always put away and toys that aren’t suggested to be left out with kitties unsupervised such as wand toys or bags that have handles that they could get caught up in while at home alone.  Safety first is very important to us.

Just to sum up our series, in two words…Enrichment Matters!  Feline Enrichment allows for expression of natural behaviors and helps to reduce stress.  Providing enrichment for your kitty can build a lasting and positive relationship and help to avoid any negative behaviors. 

There are so many great ideas here to offer your indoor kitty cat.  Just pick a few and see what they think.  Providing enrichment for them is a gift.  As we all know, staying in the house a lot can make us want to climb the walls.  So, if your cat is doing that or using destructive behavior or are just bored, it’s time to provide them with some enrichment to spice up their lives!

Thanks so much for tuning in to our Feline Enrichment series!  I have truly enjoyed providing this series to you.  Please let me know what you think and if you have any questions!

Kelly Catlett

PROUD owner of Waggs 2 Whiskers

Medicine Hat
Ferragamo getting his belly brushed

Feline Enrichment Series Part 2

Our kitty client Burt getting some TLC from his pet sitter
Our kitty client Burt getting some TLC from his pet sitter

Part 2 – Feline Behaviors & Enrichment:

We here at Waggs 2 Whiskers have been BUSY CATS during this pandemic!  We have been taking advantage of as many trainings as we can push into our brains.  One in particular REALLY put us over the edge about Feline Behaviors & Enrichment.  It was an amazing webinar put on by our wonderful Pet Sitters International (PSI).  They are awesome providing many opportunities for continuing education for their members.

This is a 4 part blog series (YES….it was THAT GOOD).  The webinar was graciously put on by Dr. Marci Koski of Feline Behavior Solutions.  We are going to break down what we learned into 4 parts for this series:

1 – Cat’s Basic Nature

2 – Feline Environment, Enrichment & the benefits

3 – The Four C’s of Enrichment for felines – part 1.5

4 – The Four C’s of Enrichment for felines – part 2 + prey drive/toy suggestions

Last week, we released Part 1 – Cat’s Basic Nature – if you missed it, go back and take a READ!  Here is the link:

Feline Enrichment Series Part 1

It was very interesting AS IS Part 2 that we are sharing with you today!  Part 2 is all about Feline Environment, Enrichment & the benefits of making sure your kitty cat have both available to them.

Let’s get started!

Part 2 – Feline Behaviors & Enrichment:

Feline Environment, Enrichment & the Benefits of BOTH

First, cats adapt to surviving in a large range of environments.  Their most challenging is an indoor environment…surprised?  So was I especially if a kitty is raised from a kitten indoors.  But, keep reading, you will be as amazed as I on how you can enrich that environment and see your kitty come to LIFE!

A Healthy Feline Environment should include:

1 – A safe place including good health and well being

2 – Multiple and SEPARATED food & water

3 – Multiple litter boxes

4 – Places to scratch – posts, scratching boards, there are many on the market now.

5 – Places to play and places to rest

6 – Opportunity for play and to use their predatory behavior

7 – Positive consistent and predictable human/cat social interaction

Feline Enrichment:

Now that we have their space and items ready to go, lets talk Feline Enrichment, it has MANY benefits.  First and I think most important is it brings out their natural behaviors, decreases problem behaviors and stimulates their senses (we learned about those last week in Part 1).  Taking the time to find enriching activities for your kitties will significantly reduce boredom and stress in kitty cats.  Boredom is the worst for felines.  They are predatory, carnivorous beasties and they are not adapted to sitting around.  Although most of us really think that’s what they like!  Boredom can lead to stress which may lead to behavior issues such as destructive behaviors to their environment (our house or furniture), vocalizations when we don’t appreciate it (at night when we sleep), aggression to people or other pets, urinary issues, yes, stress can cause urinary issues in cats. Also, lack of enrichment can cause health issues that are related to obesity.

So, let’s get GOING, lets help our kitties be happier and healthier in our homes!

Check it out…The Four C’s of Enrichment:

1 – Challenge – Problem solving – including puzzles and learning toys

2 – Choice – increases confidence & gives them empowerment

3 – Change – reduces boredom & related stress

4 – Control – lets them have positive outcomes over their environment

We will go through a few of the Enrichment CATegories in this blog and continue next week in Part 3 – The Four C’s of Enrichment for felines continued.

The first CATegory is Social Enrichment:

This includes time with people (theirs and others) and other animals.  If you have a kitten and have the chance to START NOW, you should expose them to a large variety of people, animals and places when they are brand new to your home.  Invite people over, have a kitty shower!  Let people bring your new family member a new toy or kitty game that you can play with them.  It will be fun and be so good for your kitties’ social skills.  (See Part 4 for some toy suggestions, you can even create a Wish List for your friends!)

If you have a grown cat and she is shy with strangers, you probably didn’t socialize her when she was young or maybe she’s a rescue that didn’t get the chance to be socialized.  Either way, it’s NEVER too late.  Start slow, have one cat loving person come in several times, once a day if possible, let your cat get used to the sound of their voice, their footsteps, their movements(which should be slow and precise at first).  If your cat is one to hide under the bed, have your person go in and sit down on the floor and read your kitty cat a children’s book. Yes, they LOVE IT.  I have done this for kitty clients that weren’t sure of me at first.  Then, we were friends forever!  They can also give your kitty some yummy treats that you can provide that she likes but just for special occasions – like tuna or chicken.

Continuous socialization is important for cats and tends to go by the wayside since cats are not necessarily the most social types of animals.  I think maybe we think that if they’re shy, that is just their personality but that’s not always necessarily true.  Give them lots of cuddles, continue to offer your lap, go to them if they are in their special place in the house, talk to them in a calming voice, pet them and love on them.

When exposing cats to other cats in the household or other pets, do so gradually.  Start with a door in-between your cat and the other pet.  They can sniff under the door and get used to each other’s scents.  Then, move slowly towards having them meeting face to face.  Remember to protect your kitty if it is a dog you are introducing it to.  Especially if you don’t know if the dog is cat friendly.  Never take for granted they are going to get along.  Tread lightly and slowly as possible.  Gates are the best next step if it is a dog you are introducing.  Let the kitty rule when she is ready to meet the dog.  Some are fine with it, some are not.  Let her decide.

When preparing for a new baby, offer gradual exposure.  Allowing them to sniff and be involved in your prep work will also help them to understand it’s their new family member too.

You can also walk your kitty on a leash or harness outside to get more social time, get a kitty stroller (they are so cool, one of our client’s has one).  You can also take them for car rides if they like it – just be sure you have a soft crate or carrier to put them in when the doors are opened so they don’t make a mad dash.

The Second CATegory is Physical Environment Enrichment 

Changing your kitty’s environment for more enrichment can be VERY simple.

First thing that most cats LOVE is vertical space – like a cat tree or shelves up high where they can see out the windows or just sit.  Clear them a spot on a shelf possibly near a window or not and see if they use it.  Test a few different areas, easy peasy way to give your cat a new spot to watch everything that is going on in your house.  You can also find or make perches and viewing platforms for them to see out windows, so many cool options out there.

Cat tunnels

Found this homemade cat fort on Facebook, how cool is this?

Give them hiding spots like cat caves (you can buy these or make your own with blankets over other items in your house).  Use a box and cut a hole in the side and put a blanket over the box OR just use the box by itself.

If you have windows facing out to your yard and can put up a squirrel feeder or a bird feeder, that could be fun for them AND you!  The joy they get out of just watching is amazing.  And, as a pet sitter, we will happily keep them filled while you are away to continue the excitement and enrichment.

Napping spots – be sure they have clean kitty beds in different parts of the house – try some different types, they will let you know what they like.  A nice soft fleece blanket might be just what they love.

Blanket FORTS – Do you remember these when you were a kid?  Well, time to make one for your kitty cat!  Just drape a blanket over a chair or a few chairs to make a fort/tent for your kitty to hide under.  This is easy and can be done before you leave for work to give them something to do while you are away.

Ok, that is enough to keep you VERY busy this week trying a few things for your kitty to add enrichment to their lives!  Next week, we will talk about more types of enrichment to try such as cognitive enrichment to see what your kitty can learn – YES you can train your CAT!  Also, some ideas for sensory enrichment to simulate their five senses.

Please comment and let us know what you have tried and what is working for YOU and YOUR kitty cat!  We would love to hear some feedback!

Until then, we will be back next Monday for Part 3 – The Four C’s of Enrichment continued

Thanks for learning Feline Enrichment with us,

Take care and be safe!

Kelly – Proud Owner

Waggs 2 Whiskers, LLC

Evie has the most gorgeous green eyes, another sweet kitty client of ours.
Evie has the most gorgeous green eyes, another sweet kitty client of ours.
Doc Watson soaking some sun and giving lovey eyes to his pet sitter
Doc Watson soaking some sun and giving lovey eyes to his pet sitter

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