Monday, 10 March 2014

Enrichment for cats

 How can we help the cats at CP

We take pride in caring for all our cats at the IOW AC and our team of socialisers play an important role to make sure the cats are happy in our care. We really strive to do our best to help our cats who find living in a confined space very stressful. Being at CP is a really strange experience for the cats as they are surrounded by other cats and there are lots of different visitors to the centre looking at them. With no familiar scents around them they find it very disorientating. Thinking about the cat’s needs is very important to us and when a cat arrives we let the cat settle in at its own pace and try to avoid adding to any stress it may be experiencing.

Some cats cope in their new surroundings by trying to hide. Having somewhere to hide is sometimes quite difficult with a glass door pen so if the cat needs privacy we like to give the cat a hidey bed or cover the glass to make him feel safe. We  also consider that the cat may also want to spend time outside. This is where we can help by using plastic steps or play tunnels (see picture) which have more than one exit for shy cats. We don't want to make the cat feel cornered, so it can either come out to say hello or move away depending on how it feels. Socialisers will take care to build up the cat's confidence with a reward and play technique to make the cat feel much braver and happier and in turn then be more friendlier for the public when it's time for rehoming.

As our new arrivals settle into their new environment most prefer a regular routine but with some enrichment such as a rotation of toys and regular socialising.  Sometimes we can get cats that just get over-looked (usually for no obvious reason or for being the wrong colour!) and can be in care for several months! These are the cats that become bored and depressed. Cats like this need extra stimulation as we know that it's just a symptom of how they are feeling and not their true personality. Cats showing a change in behaviour may require a daily plan to encourage mental and physical activity to promote natural eating and hunting skills which helps reduce frustration and aggression. This can include being groomed, playing with dangly toys, using cat nip and using puzzle feeders which is fun for the socialiser and the cat!

v  Hunting is an innate behaviour in all cats, they are born with the instinct to hunt and this will be an instinct that continues throughout their life.

v  Initially, hunting will not be high on a newly admitted cat’s list of priorities, instead it will want to hide until it feels the new environment is safe and predictable – different cats will adapt at different rates.

v  Each cat needs to be given the chance to exhibit hunting behaviour once they have settled in.

v  By providing feeding enrichment toys, we can help manage the frustration associated with being in a pen.

v  This feeding toy allows us to add and change the different tubes so that we can adjust the challenge according to the individual cat’s capabilities.

(Aikiou Stimulo Feeding Bowl)

The Catit Senses Food Maze is another clever way to feed cats, as it allows you to challenge his abilities at the same time. The food maze can be set to various levels of difficulty.

The cat must move food or treats though the maze using his paws through the side openings until the food is dispensed into the food tray.

The food maze appeals to not only the cat's taste buds, but his sense of touch too, and keeps him physically and mentally stimulated whilst he works for food.

A challenge like this can prevent boredom which in a cattery can sometimes leads to over eating or frustration.
These are just two of the options available that could help cats like Noodles who has been at CP since November. It doesn't help that he is a black cat but now he is bored and fed up and having something like the above could give him a challenge to break up his long, lonely days. To find out more about Noodles please check out our facebook and website pages.

If you think you could help our cats by donating an enrichment toy to the centre, there are so many varieties of interactive cat toys and feeders so please have a look at our Amazon wishlist. This will give you lots of ideas of how you can help make the cats stay at CP more challenging, rewarding and stimulating so they are happy cats which will make them more homeable. (We try to use items that can be washed and reused to help as many cats as possible).

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