What Your Cat Needs to Feel Secure

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Like humans, cats have needs in order to make them feel happy and secure. To help understand the “core resources” your cat needs, think about when you move to a new apartment/house.

What do you do to feel comfortable and make this new place your home? Typically we clean, stock the bathroom and kitchen, make up our bed with our own sheets and pillows, and then decorate with curtains, pictures, and personal items.

Your cat’s needs are similar and you want to make sure you have an environment that makes your cat feel comfortable.

Meeting the Needs of Your Cat

Provide a safe place – Every cat needs a safe and secure place where it can retreat to so that it feels protected or which can be used as a resting area. The cat should have the ability to exit and enter the space from at least two sides if it feels threatened. Most cats prefer that the safe space is big enough to fit only themselves, has sides around it, and is raised off the ground.

Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources – Key resources include food, water, toileting areas, scratching areas, play areas, and resting or sleeping areas. These resources should be separated from each other so that cats have free access without being challenged by other cats or other potential threats.

Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior – Play and predatory behaviors allow cats to fulfill their natural need to hunt. Play can be stimulated with the use of interactive toys that mimic prey. Cats need to be able to capture the “prey”, at least intermittently, to prevent frustration. Using food puzzles or food balls can mimic the action of hunting for prey, and provides more natural eating behavior.

Provide positive, consistent, and predictable human–cat social interaction – Cats’ individual preferences determine how much they like human interactions such as petting, grooming, being played with or talked to, being picked up, and sitting or lying on a person’s lap.

Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell – Unlike humans, cats use their sense of smell to evaluate their surroundings. Cats mark their scent by rubbing their face and body, which deposits natural pheromones to establish boundaries within which they feel safe and secure. Avoid cleaning their scent off these areas. Some smells can be threatening to cats (i.e. unfamiliar animals, or scented products or cleaners) which may lead to problematic behaviors such as urinating outside of the litter box or scratching in undesirable areas.

Review Your Cat’s Environmental Needs Brochure above for more information about each of these.

Five Items for a Secure Environment for Your Cat

  1. Food – Predictable meal times and individual food bowls for each cat in your household.
  2. Water – Clean fresh water in a location that is appealing to your cat.
  3. Toilet – A convenient, clean, and private litter box to serve your kitty.
    1. As a general rule of thumb, the number of litter boxes should be one more then the number of cats in your household.
    2. Many cats prefer a larger litter box that is one and a half times the length of their body, and at least one and a half inches deep.
    3. Litter should be scooped at least once daily.
  4. Safe Place to Sleep – Soft bedding, as well as familiar smells and sounds, provides security for your cat. Some cats also like to be provided with soft, cozy places to hide.
  5. Familiar Territory – Face-rubbing and scratching surfaces leaves your cat’s scent, and marks the territory with a personal touch. Be sure to supply plenty of scratching posts to encourage appropriate scratching.

Five pillars of a healthy feline environmentOther Tips

  • Each cat in your household needs a complete set of the resources listed above. There can be some overlap, but sharing requires that you have an accurate assessment of each cat’s relationship with the other cats in your household.
  • These resources should be located in a low traffic areas, which is free of excess noise (i.e. not near a noisy laundry area), and has at least two ways where your cat can enter or leave. This allows your cat to flee or escape if they feel threatened or stressed.
  • Cats also need to be provided with the opportunity to play in order to allow them to fulfill their natural need to hunt and stalk, as well as provide mental and physical stimulation.

Check out some of the basic supplies you will need for your cat to feel secure.