Compared to other pets (read: dogs!), cats are low maintenance. You don’t have to take them out for walks, they don’t require training, and they even take care of their own grooming.
But that doesn’t mean they are a ‘set and forget’ member of the family. And considering cats spend most of their time at home, it’s important you create a cat-friendly environment where your pet can be happy and thrive.
Don’t quite know where to begin? We’ve put together several steps you can take to make your home their home.
Access to Outdoor Space
Most cats love going outside. Part of creating a cat-friendly home is to ensure they are not trapped. Give them access to outside space; flaps are perfect for this, as cats love their independence to come and go as they please.
Of course, not all cats can go outside. Some need to be kept indoors for a variety of reasons (e.g. medical). But it’s still important to give them the opportunity for plenty of exercise.
You can do this by creating a ‘catio’, a space akin to a garden but within a secure environment. Fill the space with plants (those that are suitable for cats, of course), add exercise equipment, and just make sure it’s their space.
Privacy is Key
Cats are fiercely independent. They love your company, but in moderation. It’s important that cats have the option to have some alone time, just like you’d want it.
If you can, create a quiet corner in a room that is not often used by you or your family. Make it a safe space, comfortable, and 100% theirs. And if you fancy a cuddle, wait for them to come to you!
Think About Placement
Where cats feed, drink, sleep, and use the litter box is very important (and individual to each cat). You want to make sure the spaces are all separated. Place food and drink bowls away from doors or flaps, as your cat will otherwise worry about external threats. Remember to keep food and drink in different places!
Further, toileting and sleeping areas should be as far away from each other as possible. Cats often like sleeping in high positions, so think about a mounted cat shelf, for example. The spaces should be comfortable, warm, and quiet.
Understand the Why
In addition to the practical steps we’ve given you already, take some time to understand why. It will help your entire way of thinking about pet care. In 1965, the British Farm Animal Welfare Council developed a guide to ensure animal welfare, which lays out exactly what a pet needs to lead a happy and humane life (the so-called Five Freedoms):
Freedom from thirst and hunger.
Ensuring your pet is well fed is your top priority. Provide fresh water on a daily basis, and research your cat’s diet requirements in detail. This will differ based on breed, age, and general physical condition.
Freedom from discomfort.
Your cat needs a comfortable place to sleep. This doesn’t just mean a comfy bed, but appropriate levels of noise and a suitable temperature. Your cat should also have plenty of access to natural light.
Freedom from disease, pain, and injury.
Your cat relies on you for their health and wellbeing. Ensure they have all necessary vaccinations, and have suitable pet health insurance to cover any unexpected costs. Monitor their physical condition and if anything seems out of the ordinary, visit your veterinarian.
Freedom to express themselves.
All cats have their own individual personalities. Your environment should allow your cat to express themselves freely. What this means is proper facilities and plenty of space for play and rest.
Freedom from distress.
We often underestimate the levels of fear and distress cats can go through. It’s just as important as their physical health, do not ignore your cat’s pleas for help. Stress is often caused by not having the elements discussed in the other four ‘freedoms’, and can quickly deteriorate into serious physical health conditions.
Your Cat is Family
We’ll leave you with this final tip to bring everything together: treat your cats as part of the family. The problem many pet owners have is that they often don’t properly appreciate just how much care cats require.
Yes, they’re independent and want their own space. You can often leave a cat to its own devices, with no problem at all. But they are still part of your family, they’re your (legal!) responsibility, and they rely on you for their physical and mental well-being.
Give your cat the love they deserve. Treat them as family and stay focused on providing the five freedoms.