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Ask A Vet: 4 Ways To Fulfill Your Cat’s Emotional Needs

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Especially in the past, humans have discounted that animals have emotional needs. It is much easier to write them off as because if we consider that they have emotions, then as their caregivers, we must take responsibility for those as well.

But cat lovers know (and appreciate) that felines have feelings. They’re our companions and our friends. Humans have taken them from their wild environment and expected them to mold completely and effortlessly to our domesticated existence. But as their guardians and friends, we have an obligation to make their lives as full as possible.

It is easy to imagine that living in our houses and apartments could be boring for an animal who evolved to exist independently. Wild cats can roam, explore, interact with other beings, hunt, and play. They can choose to build relationships or be solitary. They get to decide where and what they eat, where they sleep, and how they spend their time. In exchange for the ease of existence we provide, they have had to trade off these freedoms, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could simulate some of the best aspects of the “wild life” for them?

Resting places- Think about a cat’s preferred “space”.  He would have places that he feels safe hiding in. He knows that he sleeps a lot and he is vulnerable while he sleeps. Some cats prefer to feel hidden away and some cats prefer a window perch that feels safely above everything. Try to provide “safe places” to meet your cat’s need for rest and to feel secure.

Opportunity to scratch and climb– Wild cats scratch and climb. They mark their territory with the scent glands on their paws. Scratching is an instinct for a cat. She needs durable and appropriate scratching options. She also needs opportunities to climb, as she likes to feel safe up high and be able to survey her domain while stretching her climbing muscles.

Environmental Enrichment-Cats are intelligent and complex. They are built for speed and stealth. A happy cat is one that can use his brain as well as his brawn. Toys designed to encourage exercise and stimulate thought are ideal for indoor cats. An affordable alternative to purchasing enrichment toys is hiding healthy treats around the house. Make sure you hide some inside his cat carrier, so he can associate the carrier with good things.

Family Bonding– Don’t forget that you are your cat’s family. In the wild, cats groom each other as part of their bonding experience. Make sure you take time to pet and play with your cat friend.

Run your hands all over her body so that you will know if something is wrong on her skin or coat. Any abnormality must be mentioned to your vet. If you find mats in her hair, you can brush or comb them. If your cat is not used to a brush, you can try a grooming glove. Whatever you choose, if you are gentle and patient, she can learn to tolerate and even anticipate this special time.
Any effort you can make to entertain and enrich your cat’s life is worth it. Try to think like a cat. If you were her, what would you like? Don’t forget what amazing and complicated little individuals they are!

Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm

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