If you've ever looked at your cat and wondered if their life is boring, maybe it's time to think about giving them some enrichment. Cat enrichment is any form of social, visual, or tactile stimulation that requires them to use their mind. Enriching activities can keep your cat engaged to prevent them from becoming bored and/or acting out. Think of them as your cat's equivalent to your morning Wordle! Implement these easy and DIY cat enrichment ideas as soon as today.
What Is Cat Enrichment?
Even though cats are domestic pets, experts agree they're not truly domesticated. Cats don't need to rely on us to survive because they can hunt, find shelter, and protect themselves. The life of a lazy house cat is far different from that of a wild feline, but they're both the same at heart.
This is where cat enrichment comes in. Enrichment allows indoor cats to be mentally engaged in a similar way they would outdoors while hunting a bird or climbing a tree. These activities require concentration, strategy, and a few of or all of their senses. Implementing enrichment in your cat's life will help fight boredom, so they don't resort to unwanted and destructive behaviors.
Enrichment for Cats
There are several ways you can add enrichment to your cat's life. You've probably already implemented some of them without even knowing they were enrichment!
A window perch is a great way to give your cat a different view on life, literally. There are several types you can get, including ones that hook onto the window sill, or seats that suction right to the window. In a pinch, move a cat post or table in front of the window so your kitty can check it out. They can walk the birds, see people walk by, or just gaze at their reflection. Just make sure you have a secure window screen to avoid any escapes.
If you live in an area with birds, consider placing a bird feeder near the window. You can even get a feeder that suctions right onto the window, which is great if you live on the second story. Your bird can enjoy watching the birds as they approach the window, and even though there's no chance they'll catch one, you might hear your cat make some fun "Chirp" noises.
Why not get up close and personal with the birds via a bird television show? Just search for "Bird TV for Cats" on YouTube, and you'll find dozens of videos created especially with feline friends in mind. Your cat can watch the birds fly across the screen and listen to their cats, which can keep them engaged for hours.
Another great source of visual enrichment is tablet games. Most are interactive, so your cat can touch the moving object on the screen to "catch" it. If you have iOS, try Games for Cats! Your cat will be entertained for hours.
Chasing a wand can allow your cat to feel like the true hunter they are. Slowly drag the toy along the ground so they can stalk it, then move it quickly when they try to pounce. You can move the wand along furniture or your cat's tree-wherever it's safe for them to climb.
Tactile Feeding Mats
Consider feeding your cat a snack on a tactile feeding mat like the LickiMat. Licking the grooves of the mat can help soothe your cat, plus it can vary their eating experience, which can enrich their life. Smear a bit of chicken baby food, canned tuna, or some Churu Puree on the mat as a treat for your kitty. Some cats even prefer the mat to bowls, so they eat every meal on a LickiMat.
Snuffle mats are popular with dogs, but they can work for cat enrichment, too. This is a type of olfactory enrichment that forces the cat to use their nose to find their reward. Just sprinkle a bit of kibble or a few treats within the fabric of the snuffle mat and let your cat forage away. Just know snuffle mats work best for food-motivated cats.
Food-motivated cats can really put their mind to work with food puzzles. These apparatuses involve hiding pieces of food or treat within little compartments. Your cat will have to figure out how to access the treat, then use their paw to move the pieces or fish for the treats. It's a great way to keep them engaged and mentally stimulated.
Indoor cats can enjoy the enriching outdoors via a cat patio or catio. Catios are entirely fenced-in areas where your cat can stretch their legs and watch birds "outdoors" while still being secure. You can make your own or have one installed.
Some indoor cat owners elect to take their feline friends out for leashed walks. This certainly take some work, as you'll need to train your cat to tolerate a leash and safely walk on one, but if you can achieve it, it can be a truly enriching experience.
DIY Enrichment Ideas
Not ready to invest in expensive mats or perches? That's OK! There are plenty of ways you can enrich your cat's life with homemade toys.
- Boxes: It's a widely known truth that cats love boxes. Make a recycled box into a cat enrichment activity by cutting holes in the side or creating a maze within the box.
- Muffin tin puzzle: Make your own cat puzzle by placing treats in a muffin tin and then covering each section with a cat toy or balled-up piece of paper. Your cat will have to move each toy out of the tin with their mouth or paw in order to get their treat. Fun!
- Toilet paper tubes: Another easy DIY cat game is placing treats or kibble in an empty toilet paper roll, folding up the ends, then cutting a hole in the side of the roll. Your cat will have to bat the roll around to shake out a treat.
- Wand toys: You can even make your own wand toy!
Enrich Your Indoor Cat's Life
The life of an indoor cat can become mundane if you don't add in some fun activities every now and then. Aim to give your cat 30 minutes of enrichment time each day and vary the type of enrichment you choose. Remember, simply playing with your cat and petting them is also social enrichment.