What is Environmental Enrichment?
Pay attention, Catvocates. This is the important stuff.
When we bring cats indoors, we are providing for them, loving them and keeping them safe. A human home is made just right for humans, but it lacks some things that are essential to the health and happiness of a cat. Without meaning to, we are also depriving our cats of their natural habitat. Some Veterinarians and Behaviorists have devoted entire careers to figuring out exactly what these essential things are and how we can make our homes into a habitat where cats can thrive.
The experts agree that to give your cat the life it deserves, you need to provide an enriched environment in your home. In fact, the American Association of Feline Practitioners encourages Environmental Enrichment (EE) as a way “to obtain and preserve optimal physical and mental health for our feline family members." (We Catvocates like “feline family members.” Sums it up nicely.) When cats lack an enriched environment, they become stressed and anxious. For cats, stress and anxiety can express itself is a variety of ways, including urinating outside of the litter box, aggression, food obsession, and destructive behavior.
On the face of it, feline environmental enrichment—FEE--can seem overwhelming. Simply put, when we understand the natural state of the cat, we can create an indoor living environment that fulfills his or her physical and mental needs. And it’s not hard to do so.
Environmental enrichment can be broken down into five main categories:
1) Physical resource system--space
2) Nutritional system--food and water
3) Elimination system--litter box
4) Social system--social contact
5) Behavioral system--body and care
Stay tuned for this five-part series. We will explore each of the five categories of environmental enrichment, with information and tips on how to make your cat happier.