American Association of Feline Practitioners

Veterinary professionals passionate about the care of cats

Core Resources: Your Cat's Environmental Needs

What Every Cat Needs to Feel Secure

To understand "core resources" think about moving to a new apartment/house - what do you need to do to feel comfortable and make this new place your home? I typically clean and stock the bathroom and kitchen, make up the bed with my own sheets pillows and blankets and then decorate with my curtains, pictures and personal items. Our cat’s needs are similar.

A Health Environment Provides These Resources 

Pillar for Health EnvironmentSource: AAFP Environmental Needs Guidelines

These Five Items are the Basis for a Secure Environment

  1. Food - Predictable meal times and individual food bowls for each cat.
  2. Water - Clean fresh water in a location that appeals to your cat.
  3. Toilet - A convenient clean private litter box serves for a kitty toilet. As a general rule of thumb, you should have one for each cat, plus one. Many cats prefer the litter box to be one and a half times the length of their body and at least one and a half inches deep.
  4. Safe Place to Sleep - Soft bedding, as well as familiar smells and sounds supply security.
  5. Familiar Territory - Face rubbing and scratching surfaces mark the territory with a personal touch. Be sure to supply plenty of scratching posts.

Each cat in the household needs a set of these resources. There can be some overlap, but sharing requires accurate assessment of each cat's relationship with the others. Resources should be located in an area that has at least two ways where a cat can enter or leave. Also avoid noisy places, high traffic areas, or places where a cat may feel threatened or stressed.

Be sure to discuss each of these items with your veterinarian and each routine preventive care visit.

Cat’s Need the Opportunity for Play

Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior. Play and predatory behaviors allow cats to fulfill their natural need to hunt. Play can be stimulated with the use of interactive toys that mimic prey, such as a toy mouse that is pulled across a floor or feathers on a wand that is waved through the air. Cats need to be able to capture the “prey”, at least intermittently, to prevent frustration. Early in a cat’s life introduce interactive play so they learn to avoid going after your hands and feet for play. Using food puzzles or food balls can mimic the action of hunting for prey, and provides more natural eating behavior. You can encourage your cat’s interactive play by rotating your cat’s toys so they do not get bored and rewarding with treats to provide positive reinforcement for appropriate play. If you have more than one cat, remember to play with them individually. Play also provides your cat with much needed exercise which is critical in maintaining a healthy body weight and preventing your cat from becoming overweight or obese.


Resources

Your Cat's Environmental Needs
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Submitted by: Deb Givin, DVM