Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Environmental enrichment for indoor cats

Indoor cats need exercise and mental stimulation

I have owned many cats in my life.  The ones who stayed indoors or stayed close to home died of old age and diseases associated with old age.  The ones who tended to roam often met with tragic ends earlier in life (hit by car, attacks by other animals etc).  So personally, I have opted to keep entirely indoor cats because of this experience and the last two cats (which includes a current one) live inside the house.

In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) encourages veterinarians to educate their clients and the public about the dangers associated with allowing cats unlimited access to the outdoors. According to the AVMA:
Free-roaming cats may be exposed to injury, suffering, and death from vehicles; attacks from other animals; human cruelty; poisons; and traps. Additionally, these cats are more likely to be exposed to feline-specific and zoonotic diseases, and will prey on and can negatively impact native wildlife populations.
One of the challenges of having an indoor cat is making sure that they have enough physical exercise and mental stimulation.  Indoor cats are often sedentary and obese which are risk factors for diabetes.

There are many ways to enhance a cat's environment so that they do not become bored or inactive. My current tortoiseshell kitty needs lots of mental stimulation (Did I say lots?  I meant tons). Otherwise, she gets into all sorts of trouble in the house.   Since June is "adopt-a-cat" month, we will explore some ways to enrich your cat's life.  One thing that you can do is get rid of that food bowl and use interactive toys so that your cat has to "hunt" for her meal.  There are many interactive toys for cats on the market and even some dog toys work just as well for cats.  Here is a video showing how some of these food dispensers work:

Here are some links to the more common cat and dog toys that you can use for your cat:

Twist and Treat by Premier

In the video above, I used the small dog twist and treat.  There is a cat version as well but it is made out of slippery plastic instead of rubber.  I like the slightly larger dog version because it does not get under furniture so easily.  I also like the twist and treat shape better (regardless of whether it is the cat or dog version) because it does not roll under furniture as much as the round, ball type toys.



This is another food dispenser for cats.  This one has adjustable openings to accommodate different sized kibble.  Because of the shape it rolls around more which means more running around for your cat but it can also get lost under furniture.

Nina Ottosson Puzzles

These puzzles were designed for dogs but work just as well for cats.  They stimulate your cat's tendency to explore crevices and openings.  My cat loves these puzzles.

Kong Cat Wobbler

This is another toy I recently purchased for my cat although it was not featured in the video.  She also enjoys using this toy.  It does not move around as much as the other toys in terms of distance but it keeps the cat engaged and can help slow down eating.  Because my cat is used to puzzle toys, she figured out how to use this one fairly quickly.  As you can see from the video, I also use more than one toy at any given time so she does not get bored.

Have you used any interactive toys with your cat?  If so, which ones?  Next time we will talk about training your indoor cat as a way of increasing mental stimulation. 

Los Angeles Dog Trainer:  http://www.pawsitivefeedback.com


  1. I love it! I need to get some of these for Sabrina, my cat that looks just like yours. :))
    Great article and love the video! :)

    1. Thanks Pam. I leave 2-3 of these toys out at a time. Without these toys, I think my cat would get into all sorts of trouble.