Admit it; you like to watch cat videos at work when you’re procrastinating. We do too! Cats are fun, engaging, and incredibly athletic animals. Our homes should provide them with opportunities to use all of their senses, explore, play, and relax in a safe, stimulating, and stress-less environment.
Let’s create homes where we can embrace their antics and give our feline friends what they need to enjoy themselves and live long and happy lives.
Let Them Climb!
We know that cats appreciate the vertical environment. Let your feline friends climb on appropriate perches, shelves, and ramps. When you’re creating wall-mounted perches, be sure that they have non-slip surfaces for safety and that perches are close enough to the floor and to each other to allow your cat to jump between them easily. Freestanding climbing structures are also effective and don’t require you to modify the walls of your home, although we prefer wall-attached products because they allow cats to inhabit the edges of spaces where they can survey their environs more easily.
Make Warm Spots More Inviting
Cats need more warmth than we humans, which is why they love sunbeams and windowsills. Make it easier for them to find a safe and warm spot by building a perch into a south or east facing windowsill. West-facing windows get too hot in many climates, but west facing sills can be modified with tinted glass to make them more useable. If you plan to do a more extensive remodel, we like to construct extra deep windowsills to be more comfortable for a cat to stretch out in and inhabit.
If they’re lucky and have good, stable homes, a cat may spend years in the same house, day after day. While you can do a lot for your cats by playing with them, loving them, and caring for them, what about the times when you’re not home? Imagine how bored your cats may be! Let’s make our cats’ homes more interesting by:
- Building something interesting such as a modular climbing wall that allows for hanging perches and boxes.
- Creating some visual stimulation with bird feeders and butterfly-attracting plantings just outside your windows. (Note: Some cats become frustrated if they can see birds and butterflies but are unable to get to them. They may become agitated instead of relaxed and redirect their aggression to a person or other animal in the house. Pay attention to their behavior and remove the perch or feeder if your cat becomes upset.) If your cat is interested in TV, leave it on occasionally as well. We don’t recommend leaving TV on all the time, as cats also need quiet time and restful sleep!
- Create a safe, outside window box, or catio to allow your cats a much more interesting space where they can explore with all five senses.
One of the best ideas for making life more rewarding for your cats is to encourage natural activity and exercise. While climbing platforms will certainly help encourage exercise, and toys help engage, we also love cat exercise wheels. While some cats may not use these wheels, others do, and they get a lot out of the activity. And really, what’s better than internet cat videos? Watching your own cat enjoying an exercise wheel!
In summary, our homebound cats need and deserve an interesting and happy life, and you will benefit as well from a happy cat. Take some steps to make your home more a more enriching and fun environment for your felines.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB, is a principal of Animal Arts, an architectural firm that has exclusively designed animal care facilities, including veterinary hospitals and animal shelters, for more than three decades. Heather is a member of the Fear Free℠ Advisory Board and assisted in creating the Fear Free facility standards for veterinary hospitals. Heather is a regular contributor to various veterinary industry magazines. She has spoken on the design of facilities for the care of animals at dozens of national and regional conferences including Fetch Hospital Design Conferences, the UC Davis Low Stress Animal Handling Conference, and the Humane Society of the United States Animal Care Expo.