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Keeping Kitty Busy Keeps Kitty Healthy

Busy KittenInappropriate elimination (ie; urinating or defecating outside the litter box) is a somewhat common and unfortunate occurrence in our feline companions. While urinary infections, anal gland problems or arthritis can be medical factors that contribute to this behavior, there are environmental factors to consider as well. Environmental stress can contribute to the activation of a cat's immune system and inflammatory pathways and, as a result, can activate sickness behaviors such as litter box aversion. Simply put, a bored or anxious kitty can turn into a sick kitty. To minimize this occurrence, there are things you can do in your home to enrich your cat's environment. First of all, you want to ensure that all of the cats in your house have easy access to basic resources and as much control over their environment as possible. Basic resources include:
  • A food container (ie; a bowl or treat ball), water, and litter box in a safe, quiet area. This means no food or litter boxes where the dog can startle them, where unexpected noises can start (ie; furnace, washing machine, dishwasher), or where they could be trapped by another cat in the house.
  • Available materials that your cat can scratch and climb on. Providing your cat an elevated perch allows them a safe and isolated place to rest or observe the rest of the house. Each cat in your house should have access to their own perch so they do not have to share or be bullied away from the site by a housemate. For cats that have not been declawed, you should offer horizontal and vertical scratching posts, as well as different substrates (cardboard, rope, carpeting) since many cats have different preferences.
  • Uninterrupted rest areas. These can be elevated perches or cat condos, or even a room with a closed door that has a kitty door cut into it so small children or dogs cannot disturb or startle them while they are resting.
  • Opportunities to play and interact with other pets and people, but on the cat's terms (ie; don't force your cat to play with you, the kids or the dog when they want to take a nap). Interactions should be tailored to your cat. Some prefer to be brushed and petted while others like laser pointers, treat balls, or stuffed mice.
If you have several cats in your house, you can help prevent resource guarding by ensuring that there is plenty of everything (toys, food and water bowls, litter boxes, and attention when desired) to go around. Now, these rules are not a guarantee that your cat will never become ill, but they do help to ensure that your cat will live an engaged, content, stress-free life.