We all know you love your cats but what else could you do to show them how much you adore them? How about a few simple gifts? When we assess our cat’s lifestyles, whether they are indoor only or go outside, there are a few important things to help our cats live in a healthier, more enriched environment.
The first one that is essential to all cats, indoor and outdoor, is a new litter box or a “buffet” of litter boxes. They should be non-covered, contain clumping, low to non-scented litter, and need to be cleaned twice daily. While we may all abide by these rules, it is important to remember that we also need to replace the entire litter box itself at least once yearly. Though plastic seems easy to clean, it is porous, and with your cat’s superior sense of smell, they are particularly sensitive to the accumulation of old and new odors. It is a good rule of thumb to search for a litter box that is at least twice their body length and easy to step in. No one wants to step in their own waste so a roomy clean box is a must. We should also take into account those cats with physical challenges, such as the average cat over 10 years whom likely has some degree of arthritis. Many people get creative and invent their own boxes or choose one outside of the the norm, whether it be a plastic storage bin or purchasing one online such as the “Kat Kave.” Remember too, that litter box placement is key. Try to avoid putting them too far away where we forget to clean them or the cat does not appreciate (down the stairs in the basement, near a loud washing machine, or near their food and water ). Preferably they should reside in a quieter, low traffic area if possible.
A cozy bed, especially an ambient heated orthopedic bed. These are beds that warm above ambient temperature and match to slightly above your cats body temperature. Unlike a human heating pad, an ambient heated bed will not warm up to the point where it becomes uncomfortable and causes burns. My cats, along with the Cat Hospital of Portland cats, Burt and Baker, practically live on these. In fact, I have 3 to 4 of them at all times in my home. The brand we carry and recommend is K and H thermo kitty beds. There are a variety of beds that can be purchased, with the most simple heated matt which can be laid in a pet bed of your choosing, has a washable cover, uses minimal electricity, is safe, and can be left plugged in year round. The older cats are magnets to these and truly appreciate having one. For cats that may go outside, there are weather proof beds as well. These should still be kept in a dry, cozy area outside.
A scratching post….or 3. These are essential for any healthy, well-adjusted cat. They must have an outlet for their urge to scratch, so providing a post for that purpose can save your furniture or floors from damage. Cats also use their scratching post for stretching and exercise, so obtaining suitable posts is vital to a cat’s health and well-being. Horizontal and vertical scratching posts can be mixed and matched. Ideally, a vertical scratching post should be the length of your cat’s body and in a communal area, not tucked away where they will not use it. A steady (no wobbles!), 5 foot scratching post with sisal rope and a few places to perch tend to be most useful. I’ve heard all too many times one say “I got them one and they never use it.” Often this is a result of the post being tucked away somewhere (versus in a social area overlooking the living room), a wobbly or unstable post, or too short of a post. Horizontal cardboard or sisal rope scratchers come in handy as well.
There are various other fun things to consider to enrich your cat’s lives such as catnip, new toys like those on a wand, furry mice, crinkle toys, etc. A cat’s play mimics their prey behavior; some cat like to hunt birds (feathers on a wand) while others rodents (furry mice). Then there is the laser pointer and additional sources of entertainment such as food puzzles. Make it fun and go on a feline shopping spree. You may be able to recommend a certain something to us that you’ve found helpful. Show your kitties some love and everyone will be happier.