Sunday, April 10, 2016

Environmental modifications for feline residents

The dedicated cat owner who designed this space thinks like a cat: shelves aren't just for books and why should you have to touch the floor to move around the room?

A multi-cat household can be difficult to manage, but this week I received an email from one of our clients who has gone to great lengths to provide a healthy feline environment.

Her cats have been experiencing some inter-cat aggression and one kitty is suffering from feline lower urinary tract disease as a result. We discussed environmental management as part of the solution – things like the use of synthetic feline facial pheromones, positioning of key resources to minimise conflict, increased availability of water and so on. Then she mentioned she was thinking of getting some shelves in. Well, she did. This is one of the best feline-oriented home modifications I’ve seen.

Strategically placed treats...
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society for Feline Medicine, there are five pillars of a healthy feline environment.

  1. A safe place – a place where cats can go so they can avoid and evade threats, noises, unfamiliar persons or objects, and other cats. Perches or shelves ideal. This house fits the bill perfectly.
  2. Multiple separated KEY environmental resources – food, water, toileting areas, scratching areas, play areas and resting areas. Cats should be able to access these without being challenged by another cat.
  3. Opportunity for play and predatory behaviour – toys and food balls that cats can chase and engage with are ideal.
  4. Positive, consistent, predictable interaction with humans – with most cats preferring “frequent, low-intensity interactions” (i.e. not getting excited, running over to a cat, scooping it up and rubbing your face in its belly fur).
  5. An environment that “respects the importance of a cat’s sense of smell” – this is hard as we’re not always sure how they smell as opposed to us, but strong smelling detergents and cleaning products can put them off. As can the scent of a rival’s urine.

Obviously cats need time to adjust to environmental modifications like this and strategic distribution of treats helps.

These shelves were made for these cats.
Cats putting their new shelves to good use.
Check out another environmental modi-feline-ification here


Carney H et al  (2014) AAFP and ISFM Guidelines for Diagnosing and Solving House-Soiling Behaviour in Cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 16:579-598