Meeting the needs of indoor cats can be more challenging than many people realize when they adopt a cat. Cats are often chosen over dogs for pets due to the perception that they are “easier”. Yes, they don’t need to go outside to be walked (nor do the majority want to!) BUT they still have a list of basic needs to exist happily and healthily. This is one of four posts that will focus on some of the major needs for healthy cats. Incorporate these tips, and you’ll have a healthier cat with less stress. This directly correlates with fewer behavior problems and better overall health.
One must understand the natural behavior of cats to appreciate their needs. The genes of our domesticated cats only slightly differ from their ancestral wild cats. After almost 9000 years of living with people, the “house-cat” remains only semi-domesticated. In fact, a study done by a geneticist in Korea revealed that our furry domestic cats share 95.6% of their DNA with wild tigers! What does this mean for cat owners? It means meeting your “wild” cat’s environmental needs are critical to keep them mentally content, physically fit, and in turn healthy. It’s never too late to start:
Cats tend to be solitary feeders in the wild, so they can feel challenged when they’re around others (cats, other pets, people) at meal time. Providing at least two different food and water bowls that are separate in their home gives them options. Cats that feel threatened are more likely to overeat or eat too quickly, which can lead to problems like vomiting or regurgitating undigested food. This is not a normal symptom for a cat, and if your cat does this regularly, their health and their environment needs to be evaluated.
Wild cats eat approximately 10-20 small prey per day. Their day is spent hunting, and if they are lucky they will capture 1/2 of their intended victims. This exerts energy – both mental and physical! How can we help our indoor cats get this satisfying and necessary experience without letting fuzzy mice loose in our homes 15 times per day? There are two simple changes to make to your cat’s daily feeding routine that can change their life:
- Feed multiple times per day, a more natural process to mimic those multiple hunts. Instead of providing one bowl of food filled with dry kibble, try to adjust your routine to allow at least three feedings per day for cats (example morning, right when you get home from work, and night). This can dramatically improve a cat’s feeding satisfaction and give them less tendency to obesity.
- Put cats to work! Bowls are OUT. Puzzle feeders, feeding balls, hide-and-feast, or clever new inventions like the NoBowl feeding system are IN! Start getting creative with feeding time. Puzzle feeders can be home-made creations or store bought engineered contraptions. Make your cat work for their food – with a mock hunt, where they start to learn they have to search around the house for their favorite snacks AND with devices that make them use their brain and dexterity to get their kibble out.
Feel free to share your tips and ideas for clever feeding times with us. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Environmental Needs of cats: Safety Zone. Most of all, have fun with your cat!