Is your cat sensuously satisfied?
Ok, don't get excited. We are not taking about THAT kind of sensuous here... we are talking about sensuous meaning pleasing to all 5 of your cat's senses - touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Is your cat's environment stimulating and satisfying to all their senses?
Cats have the same five senses that we do, but their nature as predators means they are looking for different things than we are in their environment. Their senses of hearing, smell, touch and vision are specially adapted to successfully hunt prey, even at night. Cats with outdoor access may hunt, but this is unlikely to fulfil all their sensory needs as they generally spend a lot of time indoors, too. And if you are concerned about the local wildlife, you may want to keep your cat indoors at dawn and dusk to reduce their hunting behaviour. Add to this the fact that many cats in the UK are now indoor only, and it becomes clear that the provision of a diverse environment - satisfying all of a cat's senses - is becoming more of a challenge. It's something we've given a lot of thought to in designing our new cat hotel. Although our rooms are much bigger than traditional cattery pens, that doesn't in itself make them more stimulating or satisfying for our guests. Adding features that stimulate all 5 of the cats senses is an important part of what is referred to in animal welfare as "environmental enrichment". So without further ado, let's take each of the senses separately and consider what you can do at home to give your cat a sensuously satisfying life!
We all know cats have amazing vision. Their sight is especially tuned in to movement, which helps them to locate prey. So providing toys that move will help them use this sense to the full. Toys that move unpredictably, or mimic prey, are the best. Fishing-rod style toys, with feather or fluffy attachments, are especially engaging. Also they need a human on one end, so they provide a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your cat. Our go-to favourite is Da Bird, but we saw a new insect shaped one featured on a Katzenworld blog recently and we can't wait to try it out!
Da Bird recommend finishing your play session with a high protein snack (to complete the "hunting" experience in a satisfying way.
Always put your fishing rod toys away when you are finished - this prevents your cats from destroying them and keeps the toys special for playtimes with you.
When you don't have time to play with your cat, or are out of the house, there are other great visually stimulating toys to keep your cat happy. We love the Cat-it Senses circuits.
You can get a flashing ball for even more visual stimulation - we have one cat who loves it and one who is bemused. But you can buy replacement balls of either type which fit all the systems, and if you buy more than one set you can expand it and build amazing complicated tracks. This should appeal to anyone in the family who likes Lego (like my husband, he's an engineer!). We also love the Funny Butterfly toy from Zooplus, which moves like a real butterfly. The only downside is that it doesn't turn off automatically so you need to be at home when you use it. But it does help to get the kitties out from under your feet when you are trying to cook dinner!
Finally one of the best ways to ensure your cat is visually stimulated is to give them easy access to your windows so they can watch what's going on outside. If you have deep enough windowsills to sit on, or even better put a bed on, that's great. If not, consider putting a cat tree in front of the window so your cat can find a comfortable perch to enjoy the view. If your cat is elderly, think about including a set of steps or platforms so they can easily access the window. You can also get cat beds which attach to a window. Think about which ways the windows face and where the sun comes in, and try to make sure at least two different windows are easily accessible to your cat. One facing the street and another overlooking the garden would be perfect. Is there any way you can enhance the view to make it more interesting for your cat? Could you put up a bird table or a feeder? Or what about a garden spinner that moves and sparkles in the wind?
Cats have much better hearing than we do, which enables them to hear the tiniest rustle which might help them find prey. Crinkly toys which mimic this rustling noise appeal to some cats. We have a crackly tunnel in which we hide small toys for our cats to find. Some cats also enjoy toys with a tiny bell or a squeak. And the fishing rod feather toys already discussed actually stimulate your cat's hearing too, since they mimic the sound of a bird in flight.
Lots of cats enjoy relaxing music. Try David Teie's acclaimed Music for Cats. It can be a great way of calming down a boisterous kitten when it's nap time. If you're going to be out for a while, consider leaving the radio on - we like Radio 2 for it's mix of cheerful music and human voices. And when you're at home, do talk to your cat. This comes naturally to some people, but if you feel awkward just tell your cat about your day, or what's on the news, or anything really. Cats can make 100 different noises but the "meow" noises are reserved for communication with humans. So if your cat isn't shy about talking to you, you don't need to be shy about talking back! Cats may not understand the words we're saying (although sometimes I wonder!) but they will pick up on the tone of voice, and of course prefer gentle, calm conversation.
We're all familiar with catnip and the stimulating effects it has on some cats. It's widely available in dried form (our cats like Yeowww), but it's also easy to grow in the UK if you have a garden. Fresh catnip has a more powerful scent, especially if you bruise the leaves, and cats may respond to it differently than the dried form. Look for Nepeta cataria at the garden centre, or closely related catmint, Nepeta mussinii.
But did you know there are also other plants that cats love the smell of? Cats who don't respond to catnip may like valerian. There's also silvervine, a popular herb used in Japan for cats, which has similar but more powerful effects than catnip. You can try silvervine in these beautiful fish kicker toys from Katzenworld, or try all 4 of these different herbs in a mixed bag of "Sweetiez" from Purrs in Our Hearts.
These herbs have a powerful effect on cats for about 5-20 minutes at a time and then they will lose interest. Take the toy away, air dry it, and then store in a sealed container to preserve potency for next time!
We're also excited about a new herbal spray called SoulMate No. 1 which contains herbal extracts to calm and soothe your cat. You spray it on your hands and then stroke your cat. Unlike catnip, valerian and silvervine, this product smells fabulous to both humans and felines. We'll be reviewing it in a forthcoming blog.
If your cat suffers from stress, you can use a feline facial pheromone diffuser or spray (eg. Feliway) to fill a room with a reassuring scent that humans can't detect, but your cat will appreciate. These products are great in times of change or stress, such as when moving house, introducing a new cat to the family or the arrival of a new family member.
Finally, if you can allow your cat some outside access they will love the different smells they can experience in the great outdoors. If your cats are indoor only, why not investigate installing a catio so they can enjoy the outdoors safely, or install a screen so they can enjoy an open window - check out Flat Cats.
Super soft bedding is a must here - some cats enjoy kneading or rubbing against plush bedding, possibly because it reminds them of their mum and siblings being cuddled up together. Scratching posts are available with different surface types for scratching and scent marking, and cats may have their own preferences. Our cats adore the texture of carboard scratchers. We like these ones as they are nice and big, and reversible so they last twice as long. But cardboard scratchers are also available in lounger and bed shapes for cats who love to relax on cardboard as well as scratching them. And while we're on the subject of cardboard, it does seem to have a special sensory appeal to cats, so don't forget to let your kitty have an empty box sometimes, to play or sleep in,
Finally, some cats love to be groomed, and this is a lovely way for you to enjoy touch together. If your cat doesn't like being brushed, you could try using a Zoom Groom or grooming gloves as these give a different sensation. Let your cat investigate the grooming gear first and build up gradually. International Cat Care have a great video on getting your cat used to grooming:
Delight your cat's taste buds with a combination of their favourite, familiar foods, spiced up with small treat foods for variety. Fresh cooked chicken, fish or tuna are great. But keep the amounts tiny, as you don't want to create a fussy eater or have to deal with a digestive upset. If you are going to give shop bought treats, read the ingredients carefully and stick to "clean" ones with a high meat content, And why not use treats in combination with teaching your cat a trick, or clicker training? The training / rewarding process helps you bond with your cat, giving them a more fulfilling life. You could even try making your own treats - we found some great ideas here.
Finally, how about growing a bowl of cat grass - it's easy to do just on a windowsill, and if you have an indoor only cat, it will give them a different taste to try out.
So there you have it, how to make your cat's life sensuously satisfying! Do you have any other ideas on how to satisfy all of your cat's senses at home? Please share them with us!
Cawthorne Cat Hotel is a new kind of cat hotel - with a comfortable and welcoming home-like atmosphere. We provide a lot of "environment enrichment" to ensure cats enjoy a happy, stress-free stay with us. Find out more about how we care for cats here.