Your cat isn’t going to tell you if you live in a cat-friendly home. But if you want your cat to live a long, happy and healthy life (and who doesn’t?), there are a few simple ways to improve your living spaces.
1. Give them some height
Cats like climbing. Climbing is great exercise for them, too. Cats feel safe if they can look down on you from a height. So step one is giving them access to varying heights in the house.
You could do that with a nice tall cat tree, so they can climb up it. Some people put shelves up their walls in a series of steps so the cat can go up.
It can be as simple as allowing them access to the top of a wardrobe. You can do this by putting a shelf so they can then get on the wardrobe and look down. It’s really good for their emotional wellbeing, but it’s awesome exercise as well. Exercise is important, as we all have a problem with cats getting overweight in middle age. So if they’re climbing up, that’s really good for them.
2. Give them some shade
When a cat gets scared, or someone new comes into the house, they like to be able to hide. So offering hiding spots is a great thing for cats. It can be as simple as a cardboard box. It could be access to behind the sofa. It could be something like a tube on top of a high spot, so they can get into the hidey-hole and peer down on everybody.
The only thing to be mindful of when creating hidey-holes is if you have more than one cat, sometimes they can feel trapped. They may crawl into their hiding spot and then can’t get out, because another cat is sitting there staring at them, and they’re worried that if they leave, they’re going to get attacked. You want to avoid those nasty confrontations between cats that might not be best friends at that point of the day. Sometimes cats that share a house are friends, and sometimes they’re not friends. You have to allow for them falling out and then loving each other again.
Tubes and cardboard boxes with holes in both ends are awesome because that solves the problem of being trapped by allowing them to get out at either end.
3. Give them many spots to drink and go to the toilet
Cats in the wild do not go to the toilet near where they hunt, or where they drink. That makes sense if you think about it, because if you’re pooing near your feeding spots, you’re going to infect yourself with worms and run the risk of food poisoning.
If they’re eating mice and rats, they don’t want to drink near where they catch them. Because if the mice or rats have urinated in that water, the water will be dirty. The cat, as a natural predator and survivor, will go to a separate spot to drink.
So you should reflect that in your house. Offer the cat a few options. So some cats like to eat and drink in the open and go to the toilet in the open, and some like to do it in private. If you have a couple of litter trays and a couple of water bowls, and a couple of feeding stations, it will encourage them to move round the space and be active. But it’s also more pleasurable for the cat to do that.
How many bowls and litter trays, do you ask? We recommend one litter tray per cat, and one extra. So if you own three cats, you’d have four trays. If you own two cats, you’d have three trays. Similarly with drink bowls—one for each cat, and an extra one.
For food and water, metal or china bowls are better than plastic bowls. Plastic bowls tend to take up the stale scents of old food, whereas metal and china don’t. Cats also like big flat dishes, especially flat-faced breeds like Persians. They don’t like getting their whiskers dirty on the edge of the bowl, so you have to allow for that.
4. Give them playtime
I’ve already said that we want to encourage activity in cats. It’s good for their brain, good for stress, and keeps them slim. You need to offer them a selection of toys to see which one they’re going to go for. It might be something that runs along the floor, or it might be something on a bit of string, like some feathers you twiddle around.
The important thing is to have a few options. Cats like novelty. They’re like small children in that way. You may want to put some catnip in a toy to tempt them in, because cats love catnip.
One sure-fire winner is scratching posts. It might be one you buy or one you make. You can scent the scratching post with a product called Feliway Scratch. It’s a new product that’s just come out that is a pheromone spray. It has the same scent as the smell from round their claws. It encourages them to scratch where you want them to scratch, rather than your sofa, or your leg, or any of the other things they might like to sharpen their claws on.
5. Give them warmth
Cats do not like the same temperature as humans. Cats were a desert-loving creature originally—that’s where they first developed—so their preferred temperatures in the low 30s. Whereas human beings are happier in the mid to low 20s.
Offering your feline friend warming pads or igloo beds, and nice fluffy beds in the sun, is ideal for them. It means they can escape the uncomfortable (for them) cold of your house. They’ll really love you for offering them these options.
The perfect cat-friendly home
You don’t have to make major adjustments to your house to make it perfect for cats. But a few minor, strategic changes will make all the difference.
Giving them somewhere to climb, somewhere to hide, a few places to drink and go to the toilet, and somewhere to sleep makes for the perfect cat-friendly home.