A place for a cat in the apartment: how to organize it [behaviorist advice
Place for the cat in the apartment
Currently, it is estimated that cats are the most numerous domestic animals, and their numbers are even greater than dogs! Cats accompany us every day, we often meet them on our way, but often we still do not know much about this species. Do you know how to provide your cat with adequate space to live in your apartment? Maybe it should be enriched with some elements? What should be within the cat's territory and how to provide it? Read on to find out how to create the right living environment for your little one, no matter if he lives in an apartment or at home.
In this article, I focus primarily on indoor cats that live with us in our apartments and only go outside under controlled conditions, for example, for walks. Of course, I recommend introducing the following tips on how to enrich the living environment of a cat to all cat keepers, including cats that go outside freely. For these animals, their home, i.e. the place where they receive food, have shelter and their household members, is the very center of the territory and its most important place. Therefore, it is also worth making sure that it is as well organized as possible.
- What do we know about the feline past?
- Natural cat's needs
- Enriching the environment
- Adequate fun
- Spaces available at different heights and passageways
- Cat shelter and resting places
- Feeding the cat
- Marking the territory
- Bond with the guardian
- Sufficient number and quality of litter boxes
- Environmental variability
- Access to the balcony and walks
What do we know about the feline past?
To know what the natural needs of our cats are, it is worth first delving into the history of their origin. How did it happen that these wild animals once lived in our apartments and houses? It is believed that our domestic cats (Latin. Felis silvestris catus) is a descendant of the Nubian cat (Latin. Felis sylvestris lybica). We have to go back to many thousands of years ago. During this time, people began to create settlements and granaries with food supplies. Some of the Nubian cats found an opportunity to hunt rodents, which often plundered granaries, which is why they began to approach the living people. These cats had a large food base in the form of rodents and the advantage of sheltering in a granary. Moreover, due to the proximity of people, the threat of a predator attack was also much lower. People did not mind cats, and even saw them as allies in the fight against rodents, therefore they tolerated their presence. Thus, the phenomenon of cat domestication occurred, which is estimated to have occurred around 9,500 years ago. Interestingly, however, unlike dogs, cats did not become so addicted to humans. It is commonly believed that if humanity suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, dogs would die with us, while cats would cope in such an environment. Cats can survive without the help of humans, because they still have a strong hunting instinct and defense mechanisms when confronted with threats to health or life. Our cats still have a lot in common with their wild ancestors.
Natural cat's needsNatural cat's needs
Cats are predators that are territorial. This means that they have their own space where they fulfill all life needs and actively defend it against other individuals. The fulfilled life needs are sleep, rest, hunting, play or food gathering places. Cat record holders have territories of over 150 hectares! Suburban or city cats typically have territories of around 1 hectare and the radius of the territory is typically 600-1000 meters. The indoor cat, on the other hand, that is, one that lives in an apartment, needs a territory of about 200 square meters. Does this mean that we cannot have a cat in an apartment with a smaller area? Of course we can! It is rare for an apartment to have such a large area, but fortunately not only the size of this area is important, but above all its quality. In addition, the area of our apartment can be enlarged by building communication routes at height and sharing the space at various other heights, i.e. we also enlarge the area with objects located vertically.
Enriching the environment
Cats, especially indoor cats, have many natural needs that they must fulfill in order to have a good mood and feel good in a given environment. Outgoing cats can actively hunt and fulfill their needs outside, but it is still worth enriching the core of their territory, which is the most important element for them. The diversification of the cat's living environment aims to create conditions for our pet where he or she will be able to present all natural behavior patterns. Such enrichment of the environment prevents the emergence of behavioral problems and can even be an extremely important element in the treatment of behavioral disorders recommended by the behaviorist. Read on to find out how to create the right living environment for your mentee.
One of the most important elements that we often forget is the cat's play. Sometimes it seems to us that the cat is chasing the ball on its own or we turn on the laser for a moment and this is enough for our domestic cats. Unfortunately, this is a misconception. Cats, as predators, have the needs of hunting, so it is best to provide him with such "hunting " in the form of play. In this way, we stimulate the cat's hunting instinct, and through successful hunting, we directly improve the well-being of the cat. If you want to know more about cat games, I encourage you to read the article "Playing with cats: why we should play with our cats ". Below, I briefly describe the most important aspects of playing with cats.
- The games should be intense but short. Don't make your cat gasp - these animals aren't made for that. The game should last up to ten minutes.
- While playing hunting with cats, our goal is to provoke the cat to present all the elements of hunting behavior that cats present in their natural environment. Do not focus only on the chase itself, try to encourage the cat to track the toy beforehand, sneak up on it and finally have the opportunity to eat (not a toy, of course, only a treat or food).
- The hunt should be successful, i.e. let the cat hunt down the prey. Successful hunting is stimulated by ending it by targeting or providing other food to give the cat a sense of success.
- Choose the right time of the day - cats most often play in the morning and in the evening. Waking up from a nap during the day, the cat rarely feels like having fun.
- Choose the right toy. I recommend a rod-type toy the most, but you can use many other toys available on the market or make them yourself. Cats prefer toys that resemble their natural victims, so I consider a mouse or feathers on a rod to be the best idea.
- Remember to swap toys, cats get bored of them quickly, so provide new ones, and hide the old ones and take them out in a while.
Spaces available at different heights and passageways
Cats are so-called semi-arboreal animals. Like their close wild cousins, such as wildcats, lynxes and pumas, they spend a lot of time in places high above the ground. Access to such places is possible thanks to their body biology, i.e. exceptional jumping ability, agility and claws enabling climbing. Thanks to the availability of such places, the cat has a sense of security and can observe what is happening around. In natural conditions, the cat instinctively climbs onto the nearest object it meets, which it can climb high and feel safer. Therefore, it is extremely important that he also has such an option in our apartment, especially if other cats, dogs or children live together. Trees, shelves, platforms or furniture for cats, on which the animal can walk, work very well. It is also very beneficial to organize the so-called "catwalks ", i.e. communication routes that allow you to traverse the rooms at a certain height. Thanks to this, our cat can, for example, avoid the playing dog or running children without having to go down to the ground. It is important not to force and pull cats out of such paths, because they provide a sense of security and improve self-confidence, and taking a cat out of its lair will not be seen as effective. Such hiding places and passageways are also beneficial when our cat has problems with making contact with guests at home - observation from a safe place allows us to get used to strangers without the need for direct contact with them.
Cat shelter and resting placesCat shelter and resting places
Our cats rest most of the day. It is believed that cats can only be active 4-6 hours a day, and rest the rest of the time. Such behavior is the most natural for predators, and our purrs go to the order of predatory mammals. It is very important to provide your cat with suitable places of shelter and rest. Ideally, these should be secluded, dark places where the cat can hide and hide from the sight of other household members. Cats most often use many different places, so it is worth taking care of more than one such place. Usually, these animals prefer to relax alone, although it is not a rule. Cats like various types of booths or boxes, but they can also be cabinets or wardrobes. Look around your apartment, maybe you don't even realize that you are able to provide your resident with an additional place to rest, maybe just move the wardrobe door aside?
Feeding the catFeeding the cat
Food is one of the cat's most important resources. The right location for serving meals as well as their number is very important. Cats should eat a minimum of four meals a day, but may also eat more. It is estimated that free-living cats eat up to twelve meals a day. If you have more than one cat in your home, it's best to feed your cat separately: either in separate bowls or at different times. Naturally, cats are not adapted to eating in company. Interactive feeding, i.e. from toys from which the cat has to take food, also works great.
Marking the territory
As I mentioned, cats are territorial animals. Accordingly, the boundaries of the territory are clearly marked and patrolled. Outgoing cats mark the boundaries and refresh the traces, informing other animals at the same time not to approach the area. Cats mark their territory with smells in the form of urine, feces, fragrances from the area around, for example, the cheeks, and visually in the form of claw marks. These behaviors are natural for cats, and even cats that have never been out of their home (not counting visits to the vet, of course) also have a strong territorial instinct. Therefore, you should provide your cat with places that he can scratch freely and mark his territory in a way that is acceptable to us, and not, for example, our leather sofa. Special cat scratchers, which can be vertical or horizontal, cat trees or cardboard boxes, work well in this role. They should be placed in many places, including the entrance to the house and the rest area.
Bond with the guardianBond with the guardian
The bond with the handler is another important aspect of the cat's life. Of course, not all cats are cuddly cats, there are also those that do not like lounging on our laps and are more independent. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't improve your relationship. These are tightened not only by petting, but also by feeding and games that stimulate hunting games. You need to know that the popular belief that cats are more attached to places than people is a myth. Yes, they are territorial, but relationships with humans are extremely important to our domestic cats.
Sufficient number and quality of litter boxesClosed cat litter box
One of the most important aspects is also access to litter boxes. The cat litter box must be easily accessible, but at the same time located in a quiet place, far from the hustle and bustle or loud devices. The general rule as to the number of litter boxes is the number of cats + one extra, i.e. if we have three cats at home, we should provide them with four litter boxes.
Provide a variety of the environment in which your mentee lives. Remember to rotate toys as cats get bored very quickly. Provide new elements for exploration and learning, such as cardboard boxes and paper bags, where cats can also jump into. Interactive toys, i.e. those from which the cat has to take out pieces of food with its paw, are also great. This makes feeding fun while meeting hunting needs and preventing boredom. DIY toys and various challenges, such as building cardboard tunnels, also work very well.
Access to the balcony and walksCats on the balcony
We can also enrich the environment by providing the cat with access to a balcony or terrace. Of course, the balcony must be properly secured with a net. Cats like to use balconies very often, observing the environment outside. It is also worth providing a kind of garden on it, planting grass in pots, trees or shrubs on it. Of course, make sure these plants are safe for your cat!
You can also try taking your cat for a walk under controlled conditions, such as on harnesses and leashes. Such a restriction of freedom, however, for cats can be quite difficult to accept, so if your cat becomes numb and runs away at the mere sight of the harness, do not take him for walks by force.
Remember that cats are territorial and feel safest in a familiar environment. Therefore, unlike dogs, trips to new places, for example to friends or to a plot of land, are not always a good idea. Cats may lose their sense of security because, for example, in a country house, they will find themselves in the territory of another cat, with whom they may have a lot of arguments and after returning home, the cat may also feel less confident than before.
I strongly encourage you to take a look at your cat's environment. Maybe you can enrich them? Maybe it is enough to hang an additional shelf to create a whole cat's communication route? Providing an optimal environment for your cat is both a prophylaxis and a frequent element of behavioral therapies, so regardless of the situation, it is worth trying to provide the best living environment for our cats.
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