Foraging Felines!

“I take care of my flowers and my cats. And enjoy food. That’s living.”—Ursula Andress 

cat enrichment
What do these lions and this bloodsicle have in common with your cats? Find out below.

It’s Caturday! Let’s get our Cat-Care-Chat on!  (OK I am a little stoked about this post.)

I had some down time today, and had a lot of fun with our cats this morning so I was inspired to share one of the tools we have been using. This particular tool helps our feline family members to feel safe, confident, and at ease with each other, and their environment, no matter where life takes them.

Today we are talkin’ bout puzzles.


Did you play with puzzles as a child?  I didn’t. They were boring and frustrated me.  But my younger brother did.  He loved doing puzzles.  Even at the age of 7 he was playing with 1,000 piece puzzles.  I couldn’t believe that someone would want to sit still for that long, for days on end.  I would have died of sheer boredom!  But puzzles were anything but boring to my brother.  In fact, he lived for them.

So what does my brother and his fascination with puzzles have to do with our animal companions?

A lot actually.


Lackluster or Enriched Lives?

Most people have limited knowledge as to how to successfully enrich the lives of their animal companions.  This results in a lack of species-appropriate enrichment with most household pets.  The lack of mental and physical stimulation is linked to a myriad of medical and behavioral issues in animals.  But we can change that!  But making a few changes to their daily routines, we can greatly enhance the lives and longevity of our animal companions!


 

Feline Facts

You may think your cat is fine just hanging out and lounging around all day while you are away, but I beg to differ.  This is a common cat misconception.  Those unwanted behaviors you are seeing are not random.  Let’s look at some startling feline facts.  Some of these stats might surprise you, but they are very real. These facts are at the heart of why I am so passionate about feline enrichment:

  • Cats far outnumber dogs in homes (96 million cats vs. 83 million dogs).  Yet cats are the number one animal euthanized at shelters due to “behavioral issues”.
  • House-soiling (litter box avoidance) is the most frequently cited behavior problem for cats, followed by aggression toward people.
  • Cats with medical or behavioral issues were the ones most likely to be re-homed to an animal shelter, (instead of being re-homed with friends or family members.)
  • Only 1-5% of house cats have access to food toys.
  • Only 0.5% of owners hide food for their cat to find.
  • House cats are significantly lacking in physical AND mental exercise.

Fact:  Many of these behavioral and medical issues can be prevented! 

Fact:  Food Enrichment can be a tool to prevent and manage many behavioral issues in homes with cats! 


“Cats are captives in these environments, akin to zoo animals, and as with zoo animals, cats’ health and welfare may be affected by their surroundings.  Because of this, they sometimes display undesirable behaviors when deprived of appropriate outlets for their expression.” – Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats, by Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVBa and C. A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVNb


 

Puzzles as Mental Enrichment

Now that I am older and more mature, I understand why my brother played with puzzles. It was mentally stimulating for him.  It kept his mind focused and it allowed him to reduce stress.  He was able to accomplish a goal and receive a reward.  Using puzzles for enrichment for our cats are not that different from this practice.

Puzzles are one tool that can be used on a regular basis to encourage an animal’s natural behaviors and alleviate boredom, reduce stress, and increase confidence.  Boredom often leads to frustration, and other unwanted behaviors.


The Value of Enrichment

Let’s take a look at a few very important reasons why enrichment (in general) should be a tool that we use in our homes on a daily basis.  Studies have shown that when animals are given an enriched, stimulating environment (a variety of things to do, smell, and explore) they live longer, are better adjusted, more relaxed, better able to develop problem-solving skills, and they remember what they learn.

Enrichment can:

  • Curb boredom and restlessness
  •  Reduce frustration and destructive behaviors
  •  Increase an animal’s natural behaviors, and as result, increase their health and longevity
  •  Teach you new ways to engage and play with your animal companion

Animal enrichment promotes naturalistic behaviors that stimulate the mind and increases physical activity.  It reduces stress and therefore promotes overall health by increasing an animal’s perception of control over their environment and by occupying their time.

animal-enrichment_pets_diy-puzzle-toys
Exotic animals in captivity have acess to enrichemt, so why dont our cats in our homes?

Types of Enrichment 

Don’t be overwhelmed at the thought of using enrichment. You don’t have to be a wild animal expert to do this at home.  And you don’t need to have a lot of time to implement this important enrichment tool.   It really can be incorporated easily!

There are a variety of enrichment options, but today we will be covering food and foraging enrichment for our felines.  Just so you are aware, enrichment is generally grouped into the following categories:

  • Food based
  • Sensory (touch, sight, smell, taste, and sound)
  • Novel objects
  • Social
  • Positive Training
  • Foraging

Foraging for Captive Big Cats 

When I was the enrichment coordinator at Audubon, we utilized foraging enrichment as management tools for several species of big cats (exotic cat species).  Offering our jaguars, African wildcats, snow leopards, and lions various types of puzzle feeders helped to reduce common stereotypical stress behaviors often seen in captivity. This could be anything from pacing in an exhibit or hiding.  We also used puzzle feeders and hiding food to improve one’s body condition (keeping them lean), and to increase exploratory behavior (encouraging them to explore their environment to prevent boredom and increase exercise). We also used food and foraging enrichment to decrease aggression, frustration, and fear.

Big cats_exotic cats_conscious Companion_amy martin
My dear feline friends at Audubon: Garth, Ditteaux, and Yaqui

House Cats Need to Forage for Food, Too!

Our fluffy cats are not that far flung from these feline ancestors. The innate desire to explore their environment with confidence, and to hunt for their food is still very alive and well within them!  Fears, frustration, aggression, and boredom are all just as common in our homes as it is for Big Cats in captivity.  A stagnant environment is a breeding ground for medical and behavioral issues.  As cat guardians we need to be encouraging healthy hunting and foraging behaviors. We need to be providing this kind of healthy mental and physical stimulation for our felines.

That’s where enrichment puzzles come into play!


 

The Semi-domesticated House Cat

House cats aren’t that far flung from their feline ancestors and modern day wildcats. But we are treating them as if they are.  Companion dogs are considered fully domesticated. Cats are only “semi-domesticated“.  In fact, the genomes of housecats have changed very little from their wild counterparts. And some house cats still breed with their wild relatives!  Scientists now say there is very little that separates the average house cat (Felis Catus) from its wild brethren (Felis silvestris).  And there is even some debate over whether our house cats fit the definition of “domesticated”.  That’s why I often refer to our cats as wee “house panthers.” Our house cats need just as much enrichment that their wild counterparts receive every day.

“We don’t think cats are truly domesticated.”Wes Warren, PhD, associate professor of genetics at The Genome Institute at Washington University

cat enrichment

 


Satisfying a Feline’s Innate Need to Forage

The concept of working for food is natural for all hunters. You may see your house cat as a cuddly cat, but beneath sweet exterior is a hunter.  House cats are hardwired to hunt and forage for food just like their feline kin, such as lions, tigers, and jaguars.  All cats, no matter the species,  are hardwired to use their highly developed senses and physical skills to hunt, capture, and kill their prey.

But are we encouraging this in our homes?

Not really.

And if it’s being done, it’s not happening enough, or done properly.

 Although standard diets may adequately satisfy the nutrient needs of domestic cats, their usual presentation may not promote expression of normal hunting (exploratory) behaviors. Meeting nutrient needs in ways that mimic cats’ natural preferences provides additional enrichment. – Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats, by Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVBa and C. A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVNb

Make Them Work for Food!

Cats in the wild hunt for their food.  Not only is it in their nature to capture and kill, but they LOVE it.  Your feline family member should be “working” for their food, too.  Even if they are not living in the wild, they still should have access to this wild instinct!  Hunting is a natural feline behavior, and our couch potato cats need this outlet.  

Why make them work for it?!?,  you might ask.  Great question.  A study showed that when dogs solved a problem and earned a reward they wagged their tails more.  These dogs were also more likely to try to solve the problem again, rather than if they were just given a reward.  The study also found that food was a preferred reward, compared to spending time with another dog, or being petting by a familiar human.

I have yet to see any studies that parallel this with cats , but from my professional experience with exotic cats and personal experience with house cats, all of these species get very excited when they have to work for a treat or for their meal!

Cats who are living in the wild will forage and hunt on and off for hours. They will also eat 10 to 20 small meals throughout the day.  But with our house cats, when we provide commercial cat food, we have removed the ability of housecats to hunt for survival.

But that innate desire and need to hunt is STILL present within your feline friend.

Housecats need foraging opportunities!  Most of them spend as much time eating out of a food dish as they would be foraging and eating in the wild!

“This has led to an obesity epidemic in pet cats.  Many of these cats eat out of boredom. But foraging allows cats the activity and the entertainment of ‘the hunt.’” – Ilona Rodan, veterinarian and co-chair of the AAFP’s Feline Behavior Guidelines.


Foraging Felines

One food-based enrichment foraging tool that you can try at home (or at your shelter) is a “puzzle feeder.”   The old school (traditional) method of feeding animals out of a bowl does little to stimulate complex feeding behaviors.  Food based and foraging enrichment keeps animals active and interested, while encouraging natural behaviors!  These help to satisfy a cat’s natural instinct to search for their food.

I have written about this topic at length, but if you are a cat guardian who’s new to this blog, and new to the idea of food enrichment, consider trying out something simple such as the Maze Bowl.  It’s an interactive slow feed bowl for cats.  In the video below Knox shows us how much he loves using it. (And King Albert peeks in at the end to see if there is any leftover.)

Note: If your cat has a sensitivity to Whisker Stress, this might not be the best enrichment feeding tool.


 

Pick Puzzles That Are Perfect for Your Pussycat.

The Maze Bowl is what I consider the beginner puzzle level.  But it’s not for every cat.  It’s easy and fun for very food-motivated felines. Two of our four cats will use it; the other two would go hungry before they used it. – mainly because of their Whisker Stress. That’s why it’s important to know that there are many other styles of puzzle feeders out there!

Here are a few that our cats, or my client’s cats have had great success with, or I trust the people/companies who make them:Catit senses food puzzle maze - small

Note: We don’t feed dry food to our felines any longer. We rotate between premade raw, canned wet food, and various freeze-dried meats.  But for those of you who are feeding dry food, another option you can explore is this feeder. 

Interactive Puzzle Feeder for Cats
Mr. Beaux, one of our senior cats using an interactive feeder. Beaux is an example of a cat who needs plenty of space to feel safe and secure while he “hunts”.

DIY Puzzles

I don’t know what I would do without recycling for enrichment. I have depended on it for nearly 20 years in both a professional and personal setting.  If you love to recycle and if you/someone in your family is creative, there is no end to the puzzle feeders that you can make!

Puzzle feeders can be made of almost anything, as long as it’s safe for the cat. There are mobile devices, stationary, sturdy devices, and even devices that you can hang and they swing. Do It Yourself Puzzle feeders can be used to provide either wet or dry food


Puzzle Feeder Feeding Stations

I should mention that each of our four cats have their own puzzle feeder “feeding station.” In the wild cats are solitary hunters.  Cats who are now living indoors are not exempt from this feline fact.  That means at mealtime in your home, they should be solo (away from other cats).  Forcing our feline family members to gobble down in a group can be very stressful to some cats.

In our home Knox is the food-frenzied feline. He used to inhale his food, then race over to the elderly cats, shove them out of the way, then gobble down their meal like a Meal Monster!  Not only is this rude and stressful, but Knox is on a very portion controlled diet, so he is not allowed to have “second breakfasties.”  Secondly, only one of the other cats (King Albert) will disagree with this rude behavior and set Knox straight.  Mr. Beaux, the more meek and gentle senior cat, will wander off and let Mr. Eats a Lot devour his dinner.

Not cool.

And it’s really not cool for us as cat guardians to allow this behavior to occur.  That’s why I love using Maze Bowls for the food frenzied feline. And that’s also why I give the senior boys their own quiet places to eat in peace.

And speaking of dining alone, any puzzle feeders that you use with your cats should be placed accordingly and safely around your home.  We want these to be novel areas, and novel enrichment items, not new feeding stations that encourage competition for a highly valued primary resource (food).


 Preference and Choice Matters!

 It’s very important to be aware that whenever we are considering changing a high value resource (food), or how it’s offered to the animal, we must offer the new resource adjacent to the familiar resource.  So if you want to try out a new puzzle feeder, such as the Maze Bowl, offer it in close proximity to where your cat’s current feeding platform or feeding bowl is currently.  This allows the cat to display his/her preference for one feeding mechanism or the other.  We don’t want to force our felines to use “this or that”. Cats need choices.  Choice encourages confidence!  When you offer your feline family member a choice, you will quickly see which one your cat prefers, and which one he/she wants to use (or ignore).

Imposing unfamiliar, undesirable resources on a cat may create an additional stressor in the cat’s environment.  –Herron, DVM, DACVB and Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVN


Encourage your Cat!

 Be there with your feline family member as he discovers his new foraging toy or feeder.  Encourage your cat every time she makes a small success!  Don’t just leave her alone with the new toy or puzzle feeder.  You wouldn’t offer a puzzle to a child, then leave him/her alone in a room to “figure it out.”  You would guide the child, and encourage the child when they make progress!  The same is true for our feline friends.  Encourage them.  Praise them when they make small progress, and reward them even when they are just trying to figure it out!

Note:  Many cat guardians perceive their cats to be “finicky eaters,” recent evidence suggests that food refusal is a common feline response to environmental threat.  So it’s important to look at the big picture. See what could be causing your cat to refuse to even explore a new feeding option. Remember to encourage your cat by making changes gradually.

senior cat enrichment_DIY cats
Senior cats like King Albert the Grey need gentle foraging options. This glue-free paper towel roll makes a fun feeder tube at one of his mealtimes during the day. Albert needs a lot of encouragement while foraging.

Keeping Peace with Puzzles

Food puzzles have been an excellent facilitator for making friends among felines. A couple of our cats would rather hang with us, or the dog, when given the choice. -Having another cat all up in their space is less than desirable.  But puzzle feeders have bridged the gap between cats who could care less about each other.

Puzzle feeders have also been a saving grace at times when we want to keep the peace in close kitty quarters.  One example of this is when we were moving.  As I talked about before, all of us were confined to various hotels across the country for nearly a month.  Puzzle feeders (and feeding stations) helped to keep the peace and increase kitty (and canine) confidence.

Since they Kitty Boys (and Hocus Pocus) were already acclimated to various puzzle feeders and their own feeding mats (stations) prior to the move, we were able to easily encourage each of them to focus their minds and energy onto something positive and highly rewarding while we were all crammed together.  Rather than focusing on what might be a very stressful situation to them (new sights, sounds, and smells) they were so excited to forage for their food!  Rather than becoming aggressive to one another, or having a full-on-feline-freak-out-fear-fest every time we had to relocate into a new hotel every day, each animal knew that once we got settled in, play time (puzzles time) was coming their way.

Puzzle feeders saved the day. And night.

Every dang day.

Cat DIY puzzle feeder_conscious Companion_hotel with cats
Thanks to a cough medicine box, King Albert the Grey was able to eat in peace, and Knox overcame his fear of the hotel room door. It was a quick and easy DIY puzzle feeder during our move.

 


Positive Side to Food Puzzles

Not only do feline food puzzles encourage cats to engage in (part of) their natural predation sequence of stalking, capturing, and consuming their prey, but there are other benefits as well.  If your feline is a tubby tabby like ours was, food puzzle toys can encourage cats to lose weight!  And in some instances, the successful introduction of food puzzle toys has helped to resolve litter box issues. (Yes, you read that correctly; mental and physical enrichment can help with other behavioral issues in your home!).

When a cat is actively engaged in getting their food (rather than having it served to them in a boring bowl) this foraging activity encourages cats to be more active. This kind of activity increases confidence, helps to reduce stress levels, and … here’s my favorite part: cats become less demanding of their owners.

Hallelujah!

DIY puzzle feeder for cats.jpg
Knox having a field day with some foraging enrichment

More to Come for Cats!

On October 10th I will be hosting a free member webinar on this topic. It is entitled, “Foraging Felines: Providing House Cats with Necessary Mental and Physical Stimulation Through Fun with Their Food.”  I would love for you to join us!
If you missed it, you can  sign up here for the replay!

For now offer your felines some food foraging fun!

cat enrichment _big Cats
Someone is enjoying a post-foraging-fun nap.

 

Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them. – Jim Davis


Recommended Reading and Videos:

Supplemental Videos for PPG Webinar: ” Foraging Felines: Providing House Cats with Necessary Mental & Physical Stimulation Through Fun with Food”

Senior Cat Enrichment – Scent Work for Senior Felines!

 What’s Environmental Enrichment and Why your Cat NEEDS it.

 Environmental Enrichment for Cats

 Puzzle Feeders for Cats

Food Puzzles for Cats

 Your Cat Would Like Food Puzzle Toys

 Ask Smithsonian: Are Cats Domesticated?

 More cat resources

Boxing Day is Everyday for Cats After Christmas!

unnamed
Mr. Beaux (19 years of age) and his buddy Knox (9) enjoying some Box Time under our Christmas Tree



Many people around the world are celebrating Boxing Day today! Different countries celebrate this annual event with their personal heritage and traditions.

But here in our home, this is how our feline family members celebrate Boxing Day …

cat in a box boxing day

No matter the stage, size or species, all cats love boxes. Whether they are a tiger or tabby, a kitten or senior, a Good Box Makes Life Better.

Cats actually need boxes!

📦 Not only are boxes perfect for cats, who are both Predator AND Prey, but experts believe a cardboard box is just as important as food, water, and a litter box!

📦 Cardboard is insulating! It helps to maintain their body temperature in both hot and cold environments.

📦 Boxes offer much needed mental and physical stimulation for cats, while providing safe places of refuge and security.

Albert_Low sided box for senior cats.jpg
Senior & Geriatric Cats need low-sided boxes.

Did you know …?

Cardboard is insulating for cats!

When a cat burrows down into a box, the cardboard assists in maintaining the cat’s body temperature.  This is how cats maintain their “thermal neutral zone”; cats can more easily maintain their body temperature without having to expend a lot of precious energy.

Conscious Companion_cats_hiding_dezi and roo tunnel _cat tunnel_why does my cat_why cats love boxes_house panther_coyright Amy martin


Boxes can also be used for Stationing! 

Check out how, in the short video below:

Using a Box 📦 for Stationing 📍

https://youtu.be/8Q6eFLDzAmo




These are a couple of recent pics of our sweet Knox appreciating the gifts of tissue paper & Christmas boxes. 🐱


Discover all the fun facts in my article,

➡ “Why Cats Like Boxes”!


knox-in-his-box

Rather than tossing out all of the tissue paper and boxes after the Christmas commotion, consider offering your feline family member a great box! Giving your cat a box not only helps him/her, but is also a cool way to recycle.


Learn more at our Website!


Related Reading:

“Why Cats Like Boxes”!

It’s More Than Just A Box!

Lions! Tigers! Leopards and Boxes! Oh My!

Covert Cougars!

Rocky, my brother’s adolescent cat enjoying a deep, high-sided box after playtime.
Boxes should be sized appropriately for each cat’s age and stage in life.

Heading Back to School or Work and Leaving Our Feline Companions Behind

Only the lonely 
Know the way I feel tonight 
Only the lonely 
Know this feeling ain't right

There goes my baby
There goes my heart
They're gone forever
So far apart

But only the lonely
Know why
I cry
Only the lonely 

- Only The Lonely Know The Way I Feel ~ Roy Orbison 


I hope my humans come home soon.

 

Last week’s post discussed the effect that our sudden and prolonged absence has on our canine companions.  But dogs are not the only ones that feel the effects of our changing and sometimes hectic schedules.

Our feline family members can feel the strain and stress of our busy lifestyles. There are steps that we can take to help our feline companions cope with our absence. This post is here to help you with that!


 




Unless you have a techno laser light club like that set up at your house while you are gone for long hours, you are going to need to provide some entertainment and fun for your feline family members. We have to remember that many animals, especially cats, do not display their feelings as outwardly as dogs do.  It is naïve to think that feline companion cannot experience loneliness or boredom.  Their anxiety and depression flies under the radar; too often their humans don’t notice. Professor Dodman, director of the small animal behavior clinic at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, states that a countless number of cats will display signs of separation anxiety or exhibit increased levels of anxiety if they are already prone to it.  This separation anxiety can come in  numerous forms.  It is important to understand and appreciate that cats can experience anxiety and boredom. 


 

Separation Anxiety in Cats

Cat separation anxiety syndrome (SAS) was described in felines for the first time by Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, a board certified veterinary behaviorist, in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2003. According to Dr. Schwartz, separation anxiety syndrome is an emotional response that triggers misbehavior when separated from an attachment figure.  Of course, its’ not misbehaving according to the cat, but cats experiencing SAS will engage in normal cat behaviors, just at very  inappropriate times or locations by our human rules or standards.  When our feline family members “misbehave” they are not being spiteful, vengeful or vindictive.  When we label them as such, we are projecting our human traits onto them.  


Signs that your cat could be experiencing Cat Separation Anxiety (SAS):

  • Excessive meowing

 

  • Scratching furniture

 

 

  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box (specifically on your personal items)

 

 

  • Knocking items off shelves, counters, or dressers

 

 

  • Stops greeting people

 

 

  • Sleeping more than usual

 

 

  • Grooming excessively

 

 

  • Reduced appetite or a complete loss of appetite

 

 

If your feline family member starts to display any of these behaviors, there are three simple (yet very effective) tools that you can implement to help them adjust to your changing schedule and prolonged absence: companionship, exercise, and enrichment.




 

“Happy owner, happy cat. Indifferent owner, reclusive cat.” –Chinese Proverb

 

Companions Wanted

We share our home with both young and geriatric cats.  They are not unlike most domestic cats; they sleep roughly 13 to 16 hours per day, and although they enjoy sleeping as much as they can, on the days when I am not working/home from work, they will follow me around the house.  They want to be near me whenever they can.  Regardless of what most humans think, cats do enjoy and seek out human company! In their former, more adventuresome and riskier lives, my felines had access to outdoors.  When I came home from work every day, they could hear my truck rumbling down the street.  Each of them would come running from different directions in the neighborhood to greet me in the driveway. They never missed an opportunity to greet their human mother. It always brightened my day. Some people would see them running down the sidewalk and assume it was their dinner time signal, but they had access to food around the clock.  People couldn’t believe that cats were running to greet me, merely because I was home.  Yes, cats do love to be around their humans.  Despite the many stereotypes of felines, most cats are not solitary, stoic loners.


 

Run Cat, Run!

If you have an indoor-only cat that is young, or older and still full of energy, they will need ways to express that energy, or they will find creative ways to do just that.  If your feline companion has more of an aloof or elusive demeanor, don’t let them fool you.  Cats of every temperament need plenty of activity to stimulate their mind and body.  Cats benefit from at least 30-40 minutes of exercise each day.  An indoor cat left home alone all day, with no one to play with and nothing to do, may become either listless or destructive.

Enrichment

Exercise is only one piece of the Content Cat Puzzle.  Enriching your feline companion’s environment is a must.  Toys are a necessity for any kitty stuck inside for several hours. A constantly rotating selection of interesting and interactive toys is helpful for not only entertaining them while you are gone, but this will also provide exercise and healthy playtime while they are alone.  If they are busy with enough things to play with, hunt, pounce and attack, they will hardly notice your prolonged absences. There are countless toys, games, and activities available for your feline companion.  There are interactive toys that scurry, fly, and jump to entice them to run, pounce, and leap away all of his or her stored-up energy.  Enrichment toys are tremendously rewarding for cats that are home alone all day. Keep their hunting skills sharp with Undercover Mouse.  Twist ‘n Treat Teaser   and Doorway Dangli are creative ways to give them treats while you are away, but they really have to work for them! TIP:  Take fifteen to twenty minutes before you leave for school or work to play with your feline companion.  Be sure to gradually decrease the fun and games to ease them into a calmer state in preparation for your departure. Ending a play session abruptly leaves your cat wanting more and this is bound to end badly, usually for the human. Make sure the toys that you offer them while you are away are safe or they could end up like this.


 

Think Outside the Cardboard Box

Toys are an easy additive to your cat’s Adventuredome, but there are other types of at home enrichment.  Do you know if your cat enjoys television or movies?  “Mewvie the Motion Picture for Your Cat – Backyard Buffet”  could be your cat’s favorite genre! Another easy form of entertainment that can reduce boredom is setting up a bird feeder by a window so your feline companion can watch wildlife while you are away.  This can provide hours of entertainment for a cat stuck inside all day.


 

Alternatives to Home Alone

Another option to consider is hiring a pet sitter to stop by your home once a day.  If you cannot afford a sitter, ask a neighbor to stop by once or twice a day.  If you are not comfortable asking your neighbors to come over, ask them to listen for any unusual meowing.  Be sure that this person is comfortable being around your cat and that your cat approves of this person.  The last thing you want is a human coming over and freaking out the felines.

Holistic Options

If the toys and enrichment are not helping your feline friend cope with your absence, there are non-prescription or holistic remedies that may help reduce anxiety.  Rescue RemedyFeliway, and Spirit Essences can help cats to relax, and feel confident and secure in their home environment.  Aromatherapy oils can be used around our animal companions to help with calming.  Discuss any holistic options with your veterinarian.

Consider All Possible Causes

It is important to consider that a medical issue could be the cause of these new or destructive behaviors.  If you or anyone in your family notices a sudden change in your cat’s behavior, it is important to investigate.  Don’t assume that he or she is merely acting out or “misbehaving” because of your absence.  A visit to your veterinarian may be in order.  Remember to explore all of your options before coming to any conclusion.  Be open to all possibilities.

Is Your Stress Stressing Them?

Our animal companions are quite adept at picking up our human emotions, even if we don’t wear them on our sleeves.  Cats are very sensitive and emphatic; they can sense human emotions.  So if you or someone else in the household are showing signs of stress, they will pick up on it and that will alter their behavior accordingly.


 

Strengthen Your Bond

 

“Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” ― Colette

 

Maintaining a strong bond between you and your feline companion will help them adjust to your hectic or demanding schedule that keeps you away from home.  Exercising and grooming your feline friend is an excellent time for bonding.  Time spent doing these activities will strengthen the human-feline bond.   Set aside a minimum of 15 minutes a day to devote to your feline. This will reassure them that you are still there for them and that you haven’t forgotten about them.  Remember that they enjoy affection as much as you do.  Give them your time and undivided attention. No matter how stressful your day has been, I promise that you will feel worlds better after taking a few moments out of your day to be with your feline friend.




Going back to work and school doesn’t have to result in our feline companions being left behind in a lonely, dull home.  Boredom and anxiety can be prevented if we plan ahead and give them enough exercise, enrichment, and quality time.  Cats are just as sensitive to changes in their environment as humans are.  Take the time to discover what makes your feline companion anxious and what makes them purr.  You are the one that can change their world.

What can you do to make their world a stress-free and happy home?

This is part two of a three part series.  Part three will discuss our bird buddies.  Stay tuned!