Environmental enrichment recommendations for cats with locomotion disorders

by Laurence Williams
17 September 2018, at 10:30am

There are five pillars of feline environmental enrichment and some top tips on to help with post-surgical recovery.

Environmental enrichment allows cats to perform their natural behaviours and helps to prevent behavioural problems and obesity. Animals with mobility disorders or in post-surgical recovery might not be able to climb, and it’s necessary to adjust the environment and physical activity plan accordingly.

Feline environmental enrichment focuses on five pillars:

1. Physical space - Cats like comfortable, elevated places from where they can safely observe the environment and have an easy escape, so they don’t feel trapped.

2. Social interaction - Although commonly known as "independent" animals, cats greatly value contact with tutors and other cats (if they consider them part of their social group).

3. Access to resources - Felines like to make several small meals throughout the day and to drink fresh water from running sources. An excellent way to stimulate cats is to divide the recommended daily doses by several containers and interactive toys scattered over the available area and to place small water fountains.

4. Elimination area – Cats are very clean animals and they don’t like to eliminate in unclean places, nor to share litter boxes. The ideal solution is to provide a litter box per cat and one extra, all placed in different rooms, in quiet places and with more than one point of exit, so so they don’t feel trapped. Cats also prefer open, spacious boxes and fine, soft sand.

5. Activity - Indoor cats redirect their predatory and exploratory instinct to play activities if they have the opportunity to do so. We recommend dedicating 10 minutes per day stimulating each cat with toys that simulate prey movement and to always provide other toys for individual play. Placing scratch poles (or likewise) near cat resting places and at the entry/exit points allows cats to mark their territory without destroying furniture.

For animals with mobility disorders and on post-surgical recoveries, Blue recommends:

  • Create safe, comfortable and easy access areas in the main divisions of the house, to avoid social isolation. Placing ramps or steps to make high places more accessible is a good strategy
  • Raise the bowls of food and water and place several feeding stations, so as not to force the animals on long journeys
  • Place horizontal scratchers, which reduce the lumbar load
  • Provide litter boxes with easy entry/exit systems, so the cat doesn’t have to jump or cross partitions.