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Let's do another kitty corner! This time enrichment!
People often laugh or are impressed when I also work with cat behaviour. What every cat parent knows "cats AREN'T small dogs."
They are truly unique in their behaviours and how they see the world. They learn the same way any dog does, but their minds work differently, and we need to keep that in mind when training them. Yes, you can train a cat; mine have done several tricks and enjoyed learning very much.
There is nothing wrong with having an indoor-outdoor cat, fully outdoor cat, or fully indoor cat. But during these cold winter months, or if we want fully indoor cats, we must consider their mental health and exercise needs!
There are many things I could speak on about cat behaviour, but let's stick to enrichment considerations.
We mentioned cat highways and using vertical space last time, but there are other enrichments too:
#1. Scent enrichment
This is an area often neglected for cats. Did you know that 40% of cat signalling is by scent? Using their nose and smelling different things is very important to cats. Consider a rotation of different scents throughout several weeks. This can be as simple as opening a window for them to sniff out for a little bit each day, rotating cat nip toys, cat grass, and other fun plants. You can even wall-mount cat-safe plants on their cat highways which get rotated.
#2. Mental Enrichment
Just as with dogs, cats are hunters. What complicates things is that cats are also prey animals! So we need to work harder to get them to activate the hunter side of their brains. But it can be done. Feeding part of a cat's dry food through fun puzzle feeders can be a great option. In the image below, you see Leo working on batting food out of the little puzzle toy mouse.
There are also great options from the company CatIt. They make a range of puzzle toys. The most popular are the spinner toy and the ones with cylinders that have different lengths, and the cats have to pull the treats out.
A personal favourite for the budget is cardboard scratchers. You can get ones with precut holes or cut your own holes and sprinkle food, treats, or even cat nip into them, so they are encouraged to dig out the treats. Bonus: it encourages them to claw and dig here rather than on your couch!
The sky is the limit as far as cat enrichment goes! Let me know if you think of any great ones your cat loves! I always love sharing this information with clients for their cats.
#3. Trick Training
Just as with dogs, this is a great way to enrich our cats mentally, build a bond, and teach them to do things that will keep them safe. I'm a huge fan of recall training, place training, and teaching cats to jump up and down on cue. Teaching them to be active participants in health care, such as willingly taking pills, can be a huge benefit in reducing stress in our kitties as well.
Below is an older video of trick training I'd done for my first cat, Toby. I was still green and learning myself back then!
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