This post and my attendance at Better With Pets were sponsored by Purina. All opinions and statements are my own. The Tiniest Tiger only shares information that we think will be of interest to you.
Indoor cats live under our rules. We control what, when, where, and how our cats eat, eliminate and create the opportunities for species-typical activities. The relationship with our cats is two-fold. Our actions influence the behavior of our cats, which in turn influence our subsequent actions based on what we think about the cat’s behavior. This dyadic relationship can be compared to the parent-child relationship. The behavior of the parent definitely has an impact on the actions of the child and your behavior towards your cat definitely has an impact on the actions of your cat.
The fiercely independent feline is what many of us find endearing and yet sometimes this independence is mistaken for doesn’t need much. Many people still assume cats don’t need attention from their guardians or that they don’t need toys, interactive play time or environmental enrichment. Some people still think it is acceptable to leave cats at home alone with just a big bowl of kibble for days at a time.
Environmental Factors More Important Than Diet To Your Cat’s Well-Being
At the Better With Pets Summit, Dr. Tony Buffington participated in the panel Stress, Our Pets, and Us along with Ragen McGowen Purina Animal Behaviorist and Heather Lewis, Animal Arts Architect. The panel was moderated by Dr. Marty Becker. Dr. Buffington is a veterinarian from Ohio State University’s Indoor Cat Initiative and a leading expert of stress and the impact it has on cats.
Dr. Buffington’s team gathered evidence that shows environmental factors could be as important if not more important than diet to your cat’s health and well-being. His study of cats with idiopathic cystitis found that environmental enrichment was associated with significant improvement in signs of lower urinary tract disease. This improvement in the cats’ health was independent of diet change. Current data shows that meeting the nutritional needs is necessary for maintaining the health of your cat but is not sufficient to guarantee their well-being.
Interior Design for Cats
Our cats spend more time in our homes that we do so shouldn’t we make sure their home environment is pleasing to them too. We furnish our living spaces to meet our needs, yet with a few easy modification, our homes can be cat-friendly too!
We need to think about our home space from our cat’s perspective. We love our cats and they bring so much joy and love into our lives. Let’s all try to keep them happier and healthier by considering their needs and how we can accommodate them with a few simple changes.
Heather Lewis told us that simply changing bars on cat cages at shelters from vertical to horizontal has a huge impact on the cat’s stress level. With the horizontal bars, the cat can view her surroundings with an uninterrupted view where with traditional vertical bars, the cat’s view is blocked causing stress. Our cats are both predator and prey so are always thinking about their own safety. Placing cat cages on the top row in a veterinary office and shelters will also reduce stress in a cat. Remember a cat likes to see but not be seen. The top row enables the cat to survey her surroundings yet feel protected.
During the afternoon at the Better With Pets Summit we participated in informal experiential learning through interactions with Purina experts. The Cat Room was a popular place to hang out and brush up on what makes for a healthy environment for our cats.
Not all stress is bad stress for cats, just like for us. Add a few puzzle feeders to your cat’s daily routine so he can work off some energy and be entertained. Provide one more litter pan than cat and placing the pans in strategic locations throughout the house. Add a few perches, some cave-style retreats, bird feeders outside a window and you are well on your way to keeping your cat happier and healthy.