We are cat lovers because they are cuddly and cute, at least usually! However, we also love them because of their wild side. Since they have not been domesticated as long as dogs, we admire their untamed instincts that connect us to the natural world around us.
Though not as needy as our doggies, their independence does not mean they are without need of human companionship. Without certain needs met for feline well-being, a cat can suffer both physical and behavioral issues which detract from their quality of life, and as their guardians, from ours as well.
Of course, we are there to provide initially for their physical needs. Since cats are no longer jungle dwellers, it is up to us to supply a healthy, carnivorous diet to nourish feline bodies and minds. Second, it should go without saying that we should ensure their health and well-being with regular exams by a veterinarian. The vet will tell you how to provide at-home preventive care and maintenance for any health issues they may manifest, especially as they get older. However, there are a number of not-so-obvious factors that contribute to Kitty’s overall well-being and happiness. Let’s look at a few.
Gimme Space: Territoriality. Intent mainly on hunting and mating, cats of old were more territorial and independent than their canine counterparts with their pack mentality. Though they are now domesticated, your house cat is still chock full of the ancient instincts. She craves a stable, predictable environment where she can feel safe and in control of her world. You will notice Kitty patrolling from room to room, looking in closets and under beds. In obsessive/compulsive terms, she is a “checker”! She is driven multiple times during the day and especially at night to make sure everything is in its place. Your job is to give her the safety and constancy of a stress-free territory whether this means keeping noise levels down, or not having too many changes to her living space at once. Try to cat-proof your home for safety. With too much stress at home, there can be high levels of anxiety resulting in destructive behavior and “acting out.”
Don’t Go Changing to Try and Please Me. The importance of routine cannot be stated enough. Predictability helps Kitty establish a stable and dependable territory in which to dwell. Feed her on schedule. Play with her on schedule. She can’t understand why there needs to be any variation to her routines. If you want to redecorate, do one room at a time. Any changes should be introduced slowly. From a new litter brand to a brand-new Armarkat cat tree, introduce it slowly and never force her to use it. Chances are, she will discover her cat tree on her own--and wonder how she ever did without it!
R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Each cat has her particular personality, and it is up to you to suss out her druthers! Some cats are gregarious and love attention from visitors while other cats will shy away. She will decide when and how she wants to interact. Whatever her personality, let her come to you. She will show you what she will tolerate. She will let you know when it is time to pet and time to play. Cats can hold grudges, so let her decide.
Enrichment. The hunter in your cat needs her senses stimulated when she goes on the prowl. She needs to feel she can outwit and capture her prey. Your job is to provide objects and activities that will fulfill these needs. Whether it is a laser toy whose light she can chase, a feather wand she can capture, or any of Armarkat’s two hundred different cat trees where she can survey her territory from above, you are ensured a happy feline.
Cat Awareness: Because You’re Mine, I Walk Feline! Try to empathize and see life through Kitty’s eyes. Try to develop an understanding of how she sees her world. Look through her eyes and notice the sights, sounds, and smells in addition to light levels and temperatures from her perspective. Your cat has certain superpowers that dwarf our senses when it comes to hearing and smelling, so she is especially affected by loud sounds and even subtle scents. You might notice that her visual acuity is especially sharp in dim and dark light situations instead of in daylight. In the end, her world is defined by her needs and her reactions to the environment which can differ significantly from your own. By putting yourself in her paws, you will find that she views you not as a person but as a kind of large, maternal caretaker. So, the more you can do to assuage her fears, keep her territory safe and her environment predictable, the better a relationship you will grow. She may even thank you with head butts and purrs.
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