Way to a Species-Appropriate Everyday Cat Life

The promotion of mobility and the motivation for physical activity is important. How can we also meet the natural needs of indoor cats?

Dogs are walked several times a day. Many dog ​​owners also regularly do sports and even dog sports together with their darlings. Brain teasers are also regularly used to keep dogs busy. There are already numerous scientific studies on the perception and cognitive abilities of dogs.

When it comes to the activities of cats in everyday life, the saying goes: “The cat plays when it wants to, it has everything it needs”. Does she? Unfortunately, there are very few studies. Some very insightful ones come from the research group led by Prof. Toni Buffington at the University of Ohio. Research is mainly carried out into the needs of “indoor” cats in general and against the background of chronic diseases.

In their research work, Prof. Buffington’s working group divided the cat’s environment into five so-called “systems”. These include:

  • physical resources
  • Feed and water (“nutritional system”)
  • Toilet (“elimination system”)
  • social contact (“social system”)
  • Body care and activity

When designing the environment of house tigers optimally, it helps to first consider these systems separately and then to see where there are good points of contact for the individual patient and his needs.

Interior Design

The resource space should correspond to the natural territorial behavior of our house tiger. Here is explored, marked, scratched, nibbled and there is room for retreat. In practice this means:

Make high hiding places or vantage points accessible, the cats can withdraw there, enjoy the peace and watch from there. This should always be considered but is especially true in households with multiple pets and small children. This is best done through many levels with only small offsets, such as B. Shelves, wall boards, small steps, stools, stairs, and the like. In this way, movement in the third dimension remains possible even when the cat is no longer quite so mobile and places of retreat can be reached at any time.

Retreats with a view make climbing even more attractive. They correspond best to the natural behavior of the cat. Again, we need to ensure that climbing up and down is easy and the construction is secure. Once a cat is startled or injured, it will consider the area unsafe and will likely stop using it. Combinations of climbing and scratching furniture are also nice. Places of rest should be connected in the third dimension if possible. Wall shelves and hammocks as well as small suspension bridges are suitable for this.

“Catering” – Feed and water as a resource

The basic needs for all cats are a quiet environment for food and water intake and the possibility of separate feeding in multi-cat households. The author Simon from Simons Cat shows many situations around feeding that all cat owners are familiar with and illuminates them together with the cat behavior specialist Nicky Trevorrow from Cats Protection in Great Britain. (This charity provides a wealth of information and inspiration for cat owners with their educational materials across all social media.)

Active feeding is the most species-appropriate nutrition for house tigers

All cats need space to hunt and play and regular feeding opportunities. Therefore, depending on their needs, food should always be available so that they can eat regularly throughout the day, or small amounts should be actively fed several times a day. Here, too, continuity plays a very important role.

A good way of doing this is with food toys, so-called “activity toys”, which offer movement and variety. Thus, the cat will be challenged both mentally and physically and will usually be more relaxed and content with the same amount of food.

Another way to provide continuity and small meals is with feeders. These offer the nice side effect of slowing down the intake of food, which is particularly advantageous for patients who often vomit after a hectic intake of large amounts of food.

These types of feeding make it possible to put together an individually tailored “prey” offer for each patient and each daily routine, i.e. exercise and food intake several times a day, even and especially for overweight patients.

In multi-cat households, “activity toys” or “activity feeders” can be used with the individual amount of food in different rooms, e.g. B. to avoid tension and compensate for differences in feed speed.

Business – resource litter box

The litter box is a very important resource that links elimination behavior and marking behavior. Here, too, undisturbed access and a quiet environment are essential. Hygienic conditions and a sufficient number of toilets (number of cats +1 as a rule of thumb) are a matter of course.

Now on the subject of movement, the aspect of good accessibility: We should not build in any hurdles or challenges at this point. On the contrary: Especially with older or chronically ill cats, we should break down the hurdles that e.g. B. caused by a cover or a high entrance. There are quiet little places that offer privacy, but may no longer be easily accessible for older cats and can also represent a trap in multi-cat households.

Shared flat

The social environment of our cats includes all living beings in the household, whether friends, foes, or potential prey. Whether conspecifics and other animals such as dogs or humans are perceived as attractive social partners, possible competition or prey is shaped by individual experience. Social interaction should always be positive and reliable. Although regular exercise is desirable, repetitive hunting and fighting situations should be avoided at all costs. If animals are consistently interacting in a predominantly aggressive manner, advice from a behaviorist should always be recommended and animals will certainly need separate access to all relevant resources.

Activity – something is going on here!

scratch mark

Scratch marking is also a sport. You should offer as many scratching opportunities as possible and attach scratch mats or boxes, especially in the peripheral zones of the “territory”, as well as in places where cats meet again and again. This does not have to be expensive and may also look pretty. For example, you can get small carpet samples in specialist shops and attach them to corners and edges, offer shipping boxes for scratching or make scratching furniture yourself from old cardboard.


Chewing and gnawing is the reward after successful hunting. Not being able to act out this behavior quickly leads to frustration. The safest option here is the classic cat grass, as many other plants are poisonous to cats.

game offers

The repertoire of play behaviors of cats includes sneaking, chasing, jumping, and biting. These behavioral patterns should be taken into account when offering games. The hunting instinct is quickly awakened, especially with spring games and classic play fishing rods. Touch and smell are also involved here. The attractiveness increases for the cat through stimulating movement patterns and activating smells such as valerian and catnip. Characteristically, short windows of activity are distributed throughout the day. So it’s quite normal for cats to go back to rest after a short game. Owners usually interpret this behavior as boredom and then often no longer offer the game. It is important to take eyesight and species-typical behavior patterns into account, then it won’t get boring.

Care should be taken with light or laser pointers since only the sense of sight is used here. The cat has no real hunting success and many small tigers then get into a heightened state of excitement and cannot be calmed down. If such toys are used, then only for a clearly defined, short round of play. The cat must then receive a reward for success. The light source must be tested and judged to be harmless to human and animal eyes. Otherwise, four and two-legged friends risk irreparable eye damage.

When it comes to the range of games, the main thing is to adjust the level of difficulty to the preferences and abilities of the individual cat.


Cats have unique behaviors and needs that run deep. We best grasp the situation of the individual cat patient by considering all five areas of the cat’s environment, asking detailed questions, and listening carefully. With the help of the information gained about the cat and the owner, even small changes can make the cat’s everyday life more species-appropriate and allow it to exercise more.

The support that we as a team in the veterinary practice offer to the owners is crucial for the success of these measures.

Practical tips

Offer owners a small collection of ideas with pictures and handicraft instructions.

Install small wall boards in your treatment rooms for patients to climb on. So the tigers can romp and masters and mistresses can be inspired. Provide supplementary information on training with the transport cage as part of veterinary training.

Show ways to optimize the cat’s toilet behavior, whether with pictures or a list of links. Most cat owners are very grateful for this.

Frequently Asked Question

How do the cats live?

Cats live in the same house as humans. The house cats stay in the apartment. But most cats are outdoor cats. They sleep in the house at night and during the day they are out in the garden, on the meadow, and in the fields.

What are the cats drinking?

An adult cat needs about 50ml of water per kilogram of body weight per day. She takes in the majority of this through food, provided she is fed wet food that consists of around 80% water. However, this minimum quantity is absolutely necessary.

What do cats like to smell most?

There are some perennial favorites among cats’ favorite scents: above all, the two well-known scent dispensers catnip and valerian, which are used in many cat products. Both plants have a euphoric effect on cats.

What does a cat need to feel good?

Also very important: is the high-quality lining. To be happy, your cat also needs a scratching post to sharpen its claws and set its own individual scent signal, as well as one or more draft-free retreats such as a cat house.

What the cats don’t like?

The less attractive smells include the smell of tea tree oil, menthol, eucalyptus, and the aroma of coffee. Onions and Garlic: The smell of onions and garlic also seem to be off-putting to cats.

Can a cat cry?

People cry when they are feeling down or sad. Cats are quite capable of experiencing these feelings as well. But the house tigers express themselves differently. They withdraw, mew pitifully, or scream.

Why do cats like to be petted on the bottom?

Especially the back of the velvet paw is a very sensitive region since many nerve endings run here. If you stroke the back of your fur nose and it then stretches its buttocks up, it means that you are doing everything right. In a way, your kitty demands that you continue right there.

How easy is a cat to take care of?

Cats are independent, easy to care for, and can be alone at times. You can cuddle, play, pet, and comfort your cat on bad days. Owning a cat has many benefits. But the biggest advantage of having a cat is not having to walk it.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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