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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

Feline Enrichment Series Part 1

Kitties sunning

Cat's Basic Nature

 

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 going to be 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

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

So, lets get started!

Cat’s Basic Nature –

First, did YOU know that cat’s domestication with humans has been only 10,000 years VS. 30,000 years of canine domestication with humans?  Wow, right?  That just blew our mind.  No WONDER dogs are naturally more personal with their owners than most cats.  I know there definitely are those cuddly, lovey exceptions to this general rule.  Why do you think this is?  Well, for one, most of the feline relationships with humans in the beginning of their domestication was hands off.  Felines were used for rodent control in food stores and also on ships. 

Cats are very similar to their wild ancestors as they are both predator and prey, they are programmed for survival.  In the wild, cats hunt & eat, eliminate waste, avoid being eaten, sleep, secure their territory, mate, raise young, play & learn.

How do they do this you ask?  Check out the photo below of a feline’s pheromone distribution areas.

cat pheromone areas

1 – Weaponry – Their teeth are made for gripping and shredding meat, not to grind like humans.  Their claws retract for running, climbing & capturing prey. 

2 – Excellent sense of smell – Cats have 200 million scent receptors compared to dogs at 300 million and humans at a mere 6 million. 

3 – Paw Pads – Felines leave scent from their glands on their paw pads through scratching to mark their territory.  They leave visual marks as well.

4 – Feline hearing – Cats have 55 Hz (Hertz) -77,000  kHz (kilohertz) of frequency, which is a very broad width of frequencies.  Humans have 31-19000 Hz, Dogs are 64-44,000 Hz, Rabbits hear between 96-49000 Hz, Mice are from 900-79000 kHz, Bats are 10,300-115,000 kHz.  As an FYI since I had to look it up to understand this frequency system via Wikipedia & techtarget.com:

The hertz (symbol: Hz, definition: 1/s) is a unit derived from time which measures frequency in the International System of Units (SI). Frequency is how often something happens. A frequency of 1 hertz means that something happens once a second.

The kilohertz, abbreviated kHz or KHz*, is a unit of alternating current (AC) or electromagnetic (EM) wave frequency equal to one thousand hertz (1,000 Hz). The unit is also used in measurements or statements of signal bandwidth. An AC signal having a frequency of 1 kHz is within the range of human hearing.

5 – Vision – Humans have 10-12 times more cones than cats which allows us the ability to detect color.  Cats can’t see red nor can they see well in bright light.  Hence the reason for our nighttime kitty cats that like to prowl at night.  For cats, blue, yellow & green items are best if you are choosing toys for them.  Black & white also work well for them.  Cats have 6-8 times more rods than humans.  This gives them the excellent vision at night which allows them to be more active at dawn & dusk.  Cats have a wider field of vision than humans but don’t see that well 8-10” from their face.  At long range – about 20’ – cats don’t see very well either. 

Another FYI – Rods are responsible for vision at low light levels (scotopic vision). They do not mediate color vision, and have a low spatial acuity. Cones are active at higher light levels (photopic vision), are capable of color vision and are responsible for high spatial acuity.  – via https://www.cis.rit.edu/

This is all GREAT info if you have a cat, either indoor or outdoor.  It helps us to look at our feline friends in a more understanding way!  Next week on our blog, we will be continuing this conversation by expanding on our cat’s environments and enrichment tools to help them co-exist in our homes with us as a predator and prey animal.  We have a lot of exciting ideas to keep your kitty cats from getting bored – especially if they are strictly indoor kitties.  Check back next Monday when we post our next blog in this Feline series – Feline Environment, Enrichment & the benefits.   Thanks for learning with us!    

Kelly Catlett

PROUD owner of Waggs 2 Whiskers, LLC

Doc Watson the cat

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