Did you know that September is Happy Cat Month? That means it’s a great time to talk about cat enrichment ideas for indoor-only cats. But first, let’s look at why enrichment itself is important for your cat.
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What is Cat Enrichment?
Cat enrichment is a way to improve your cat’s mental and physical well-being by offering different activities, toys, and environmental stimuli. This is especially important for indoor-only cats, whose scenery may not change often.
By providing exercise and mental stimulation opportunities, you are allowing your cat to use their natural instincts (like jumping, chasing, pouncing, and stalking) to play and alleviate boredom and stress.
If you’re having trouble with issues like inappropriate scratching or elimination, aggression between cats, or even dealing with obesity, cat enrichment activities may help.
Overall, cat enrichment can lead to a happy cat, which is what all cat parents strive for. Now, let’s take a look at some cat enrichment ideas and activities.
10 Cat Enrichment Ideas for a Happy and Healthy Cat
As a cat parent, chances are, you’re already offering cat enrichment opportunities to your furry friend, whether you realize or not.
Each cat is different and will respond differently to certain enrichment activities. You may find one works better for your cat than another. Check out our list of cat enrichment ideas and see which activity you might want to try with your cat!
1. Provide a variety of toys
Giving your cat toys is an easy way to provide enrichment, and you’re probably already doing this. Offering a variety of toys that pique your cat’s natural hunting instincts is a great way to provide mental stimulation. You can also try interactive toys that move on their own in case you’re not around to play.
It’s also important to rotate the toys to keep your cat interested. I’m sure you’ve experienced your cat finding an old toy behind the couch and loving it again when it’s rediscovered.
In our house, a popular toy is the peacock feather wand – all four cats love them!
Another thing to keep in mind is that some toys may not be right for all cats. Here’s one of our former foster cats playing with the Catit Senses 2.0, Play Circuit. Cute little Zest was blind, but she could hear the ball rolling around, so this toy was a good fit for her.
Read our post on Ripple Rug and how it’s great for interactive playtime!
2. Don’t throw out the trash
I think we’ve all experienced a cat’s love for boxes and packing paper, right? (If not, is your cat even a cat? Only joking.) But sometimes one of the easiest ways to provide enrichment is with stuff you don’t even have to buy (well, except for whatever arrived in the box).
Next time you get a delivery, save the box and packing paper for a few days to give your cat some new smells and stimulation.
When we received a particularly large box one time, we cut holes in it, and the cats loved it. We also covered the outside with wrapping paper for some added fun. The box lasted several years and was used daily.
Cat enrichment ideas can even come from something as simple as a paper bag (without handles).
3. Get involved with playtime too
Many cat toys on the market are ones where you toss it to your cat and then walk away. It’s their toy, after all. But some toys are designed specifically for your interaction as well, like the ever-popular wand toy. Or, the sometimes divisive laser pointer. (Some argue that the elusive red dot may frustrate your cat since they can never actually “catch” it.)
Playtime with your cat is for your benefit as well as theirs. It offers bonding time for you both. Next time your cat looks bored, grab a toy and spend some quality playtime with them.
I recently purchased this mini cat pool table, and it was a lot of fun playing with the cats.
Chek out this cute video of Dexter in action!
4. Set up cat shelves or a cat wall
If you’re a regular reader here on the blog, you’ve likely seen our cat shelves in our cat room. Giving your cats vertical space to climb and explore speaks to their natural instincts of jumping and climbing.
Suggested reading: Selecting the Perfect Cat Shelves: 8 Things to Consider
5. Allow for window watching
Even if you can’t install cat shelves on a wall (maybe you’re in an apartment that doesn’t allow for wall attachments), you can set up a cat tree and place it next to a window.
Commonly referred to as Cat TV, being near a window gives your cat an entertainment opportunity to watch any birds or squirrels passing by. (Or lizards, like in the summer here.) Window-watching helps with mental stimulation and activates their prey drive. And you might get to hear that cute eck eck eck sound cats make.
Here’s Woodrow and Olive checking out a lizard.
6. Bring the outdoors in
While not all cats are into catnip and cat grass, many are, including all four of my cats. If your cats like catnip or cat grass, you can try growing your own. Or, you can do what I do and buy some when you’re out (to my garden-loving mom’s dismay, I don’t have a green thumb). Fortunately, cat grass and catnip are sold at most pet stores.
I recently signed up for a grass subscription service from Kitty Lawn, which my cats love. Below, Dexter shows off his cute legs while standing on the Kitty Lawn.
Another thing we do around here is put catnip in a box – the best of both worlds! Catnip and boxes, what more could a kitty want? And it’s easier to clean up for us humans.
7. Teach an old cat new tricks
Maybe that’s not the right saying, but you get the idea. Did you know that cats can be clicker-trained? And while some may want to teach their cat cute tricks like high-five or turning in a circle, clicker training can also be used to teach functional tasks like presenting a paw for nail trims or walking into their crate.
Check out this short video from Jackson Galaxy on the very first step of clicker training a cat.
8. Try food puzzles or interactive feeders
Food puzzles can be great for a couple of reasons, one being to slow down cats who eat too fast. But they can also be great for mental stimulation since it requires them to solve a problem to get to their food. Food puzzles tap into a cat’s natural hunting instinct.
While there are a lot of food puzzles on the market, like this Catit Food Tower, a DIY cat food puzzle might be fun to put together as well. For example, you could take a paper towel cardboard roll, cut small holes in it, put some kibble or treats inside, and pinch the ends closed. See how long it takes for your cat to get the pieces out.
9. Set up a catio (or cat tent)
If you have the space, consider setting up a catio, which is an outdoor enclosure for your indoor cat. It allows them to be outside with all the sights and sounds of nature, including access to fresh air and sunshine – but from the security of a catio, giving you peace of mind for their safety.
If you can’t install a catio, a good alternative is a cat tent. My mom bought us this cat tent that we used for a while before our catio. I personally wouldn’t leave a cat unsupervised in the tent until I know if they’re comfortable and can’t escape.
10. Go adventuring
If you think you may have an adventure cat, consider leash training your cat. With a properly fitted harness, a non-retractable leash, and proper training, taking your cat for walks outside is a great way to offer enrichment. And while I say adventuring, it could even just be a visit to a park or grassy area, not a long hike or walk.
If you think leash training is out of the question, you could also consider a cat stroller for some outside time and fresh air.
There are so many things you can do to provide your cat with enrichment. And many are DIY and don’t require purchasing something new for your cat. But whatever you provide, I’m sure your cat will be happier for it.
What cat enrichment ideas do you have? Let us know in the comments!
Fun Fact: Happy Cat Month was created by CATalyst Council. The month of September is meant to “educate and inform cat owners in what they can do to ensure their pet is happy and healthy.”
Finally, I leave you with this cute video of Sophie vs. the Butterfly.