black and white cat

Meet Our Cat’s Needs: 5 Pillars of a Healthy Feline Environment

Last Updated on May 3, 2021 by Holly Anne Dustin

Our relationship with our furbabies provides us with comfort, companionship, and some significant health benefits too. Just 15 minutes with your kitty improves your health and wellbeing. A feline friend can be a lifeline for people, especially those who don’t have much support. But in return, it is our responsibility to meet our cat’s needs to give them a happy life.

Understanding your cat’s motivations and behavior will help you create a safe, fun and challenging environment for your furbabies will make them truly happy.

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5 Pillars of a Healthy Feline Environment

The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine developed the 5 Pillars of a Healthy Feline Environment to help cat guardians create a secure and happy environment to meet our cat’s needs.

tabby cat and kitten on pin graphic for meet our cats needs

Provide a Safe Place.

Cats need a place to hide out. Somewhere they can go if they feel stressed or want some alone time. It’s especially important if you have a multiple cat home.

Tall cat trees or wall shelving specifically for cats can also provide safe places. The more options, the better. There should be enough safe spaces for the number of cats you have in the home.

Cardboard boxes and enclosed cat beds can provide a sense of privacy and safety for cats. Carriers make perfect hiding spaces. Put her favorite bed or a blanket she has slept with into the carrier to make a cozy space for her. I have carriers out all around my house and there are always cats sleeping or hanging out in them.

brown tabby in a box under packing paper has a safe space, one of the ways we meet our cat's needs
Cats need a place to hide to be happy

Provide Adequate Environmental Resources.

Provide as many resources as you have cats – plus one extra. It is important that multiple cat households have adequate resources to reduce competition and bullying. Our cats need high spaces, hiding spaces, scratching posts, litter boxes, and feeding stations.

Spread your resources around so that one cat can’t block his roommate’s access to a litter tray or food bowl. Cats don’t want their food bowls near their water bowls. And they don’t want to eat near their bathroom facilities. Would you?

Speaking of bathrooms, make sure Kitty’s litter box set up is cat friendly. Cats like their box 1.5 times as long as the cat itself, probably uncovered, and with unscented litter.

Read more about outdoor enrichment for indoor cats

Environmental enrichment is an important part of meeting our cat’s needs. By enriching their environment, we let our cats be cats. Use the 5 senses to make the indoor environment more exciting. Try music and videos. Explore different textures.

Enrich your cat’s space by bringing the outside in with cat-safe plants like cat grass, catnip, silvervine, Tartarian honeysuckle, and cat safe herbs. If you have the space, put in a catio. If not, at least set up a window perch for some bird watching and sun puddle snoozing.

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Provide the Opportunity for Play and Predatory Behavior.

We meet our cat’s needs when we give them the chance to exercise their inner tiger. Cats need to exercise their natural predatory instinct. But we don’t have to let them wreak havoc on the local wildlife. We can let them work it out on toys.

Play keeps our cats mentally healthy, reduces obesity, and builds the bond between us and our cats. It increases Kitty’s confidence and improves his relationships. Interactive toys, wand or fishing pole style toys, and catnip toys can each play a role in meeting our cat’s needs.

Read more about choosing toys your cats will like.

Provide Positive, Consistent and Predictable Human-Cat Social Interaction.

Building a trusting bond is crucial. Your cat will be less stressed if he’s can choose whether to interact with you, rather than having interactions forced upon him.

Most cats want “high frequency, lower intensity” interactions. Learn to speak cat. The angle of their ears, their tails, or even the tone of their purr might communicate information about how they’re feeling. Handle them in response to the information they’re giving you. Give them the “purrsonal space” that fits their personality.

Understand that cats won’t do things just because you say so. Don’t put people’s emotions on cats. They lack the ability to create revenge, jealousy, or anger at you.

Stereotypes of cats as independent and aloof have been debunked. Studies show that the relationship between cats and their people is a deep and secure attachment, based on communication and understanding of how cats show love. Our kitties want us to spend time with them.

Click here to Discover the Essentials of Cat Communication

The relationship is like the friendship between two humans. They influence each other. Some findings suggest your furry friend remembers when you do pleasant things for them and reciprocates. Have you found a toy in your bed? Kitty wants to share and say thanks.

Yelling, punishment, trying to scare him, or putting him in a dangerous situation breaks that trust and relationship. So put away your spray bottles and cucumbers. And remember, he’s your furry friend, not a social media prop.

woman and cat - meeting her cats needs keeps kitty happy
Bond with your cat

Explore Ways to Relieve Your Cat’s Boredom

Provide an Environment That Respects the Importance of a Cat’s Sense of Smell.

A cat’s nose is many times more sensitive than ours. Cats mark objects in their environment by scratching, rubbing their cheeks and tail on items to release natural pheromones. Having their scent on objects makes cats feel comfortable.

When we use scented products, we compete with Kitty’s own scented areas. Use unscented cleaning products and skip the candles, oils and air fresheners.

We can meet our cat’s needs by adding appropriate places to scratch and rub like cat trees, self-grooming corner brushes, toys and boxes.

Meet Our Cat’s Needs

Understanding our furbabies’ behavior and communication will help us meet Kitty’s needs to exercise their natural instincts. Your cat is not just a low maintenance couch potato. He can be just as much a best friend as a dog. Treat him accordingly and you will thrive together.

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