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Did you know cats need both mental and physical enrichment to help keep them healthy and happy? Maybe you already do a lot to keep your cat engaged and busy. Maybe you have things you’ve been wanting to do with your cat but haven’t gotten around to it for one reason another. Or maybe you’re under to the common misconception that cats don’t require much from you – that they are aloof and don’t even want your attention.
I will be the first to admit that I fall into that second category. I have all these grand ideas of things I want to do with my cats – take them on adventures more frequently, have clicker training sessions every day, have interactive play all the time. Life tends to get in the way though, and while I am still able to provide my cats with full and happy lives, I know I could do more. In an effort to make a change for the new year, I have decided to create Cat Enrichment Plans for my gang!
What is a cat enrichment plan?
It’s quite simple, really. Just as you might have a planner, schedule, and/or to-do list for yourself, a cat enrichment plan is basically that but for your cat. It may seem silly at first, but there is something to be said for making a schedule, writing things down, and keeping track of what you’ve done. You’ll be more likely to do that clicker training session with your cat if it’s on a daily enrichment plan or schedule. Having it on a to-do list of sorts will make it harder for you to keep pushing it off until “tomorrow.”
What you include and how detailed you make your cat’s enrichment plan is a matter of personal preference. Obviously you’ll need to take your personal schedule into consideration and set realistic goals for yourself and your cat. Scheduling 8 hours of activities per day might be a little too much to expect. It’s better to start with smaller goals and be able to meet them than to set goals that are too big and not be able to keep up.
Why should I make an enrichment plan for my cat?
I lightly hinted at the common misconception there seems to be that cats don’t require much care and attention. This belief just simply isn’t true. For cats to truly thrive and be happy, they need enrichment and attention. A cat left to their own devices can often become depressed and/or destructive. Some cats are more high energy and crave more activity than others, it’s true. But all cats need something.
An enrichment plan gives a sense of accountability for you to do more with your cat. As an added bonus, the more you do with your cat, the more activities you share together, the stronger your bond will become. And don’t we all want a strong bond with our kitties?
What should I include in the enrichment plan?
There are several categories of activities you may want to include in your cat’s enrichment plan. Below is a list of general categories that I think are important. While it’s best to have a wide variety of activities, you may only have a few that you want to focus on. Or maybe you have even more besides the ones I’ve included below. Think about your goals, what you want, and what your cat wants and enjoys.
- Physical Exercise
- Mental Exercise
- Sensory Stimulation
- Instinctual Behaviors
- Social Interactions
After you’ve made your category list, brainstorm a list of specific activities/things you’d like to include for each category. They can range from small things like brushing your cat to big things like building a catio so your cat can enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world from the safety of an enclosure.
Here are some examples:
- Physical Exercise – hikes/walks, adventures, cat wheel use, interactive playtime
- Mental Exercise – food puzzles, clicker training
- Sensory Stimulation – catnip toys left out, bird feeders in the yard, time on the catio, cat TV videos
- Safety – harness and leash training, backpack training, carrier training, recall practice
- Instinctual Behaviors – foraging toys, hunting games, toys
- Social Interactions – introductions to friends/family, visiting the pet store to “meet” new people, meet up with other cat adventurers, dog desensitization
- Behavior – training out an undesirable behavior (counter surfing, scratching furniture, etc.)
- Environment – scratchers, beds, cat grass, vertical space, cat trees
- Hygiene – brushing, nail trimming, teeth brushing, bathing
- Diet/Nutrition – rotating protein sources, trying new treats
How do I make the schedule?
Now that you have a list of areas and activities you want to focus on, it’s time to make your cat’s enrichment schedule! The first step is to prioritize your list. What is most important to you? What does your cat need the most? The activities and categories you deem most important should be given a bigger time allotment on your schedule. Those that might not be as big of a priority should occupy less time on your schedule.
For example, if harness and leash training is big goal for you, you could make sure you schedule time every day to work on that with your cat. Whereas you probably only need to work on teeth brushing once a week.
Grab a pencil and your written activity list and number the activities to reflect their importance. I use a scale of 1-3, 1 being most important and 3 being least important. Once you establish the priority level of each activity, you can begin to determine how often you should incorporate it in your schedule and for how long at a time.
Our Top 5 Cat Enrichment Plan Accessory Recommendations
- Trixie Pet Products Activity Boards/Food Puzzles
- Snuffle Mat for foraging
- Cat School Training Kit
- Cat Teaser Wand Toy
- Yeoww!! Banana Catnip Toy
Tips for Creating Your Cat Enrichment Plan
- Take your own personal/work schedule into consideration – don’t overload yourself
- Set a realistic, achievable schedule. If you think you and your cat can only achieve one goal per day, that’s great!
- Change up your cat’s enrichment schedule as often as needed or desired. You and your cat may need to focus on different things at different times, so don’t be afraid to make a new schedule.
- Keep an editable version of the schedule on your computer so you can easily add/delete/change things as needed.
- Check off the tasks as you complete them. It will give you a sense of satisfaction and achievement!
- If you have multiple cats, you may or may not be able to use the same schedule for each one. It just depends on your goals and your individual cat’s needs.
- Have fun!
Here is an example of an enrichment plan I created for one of my cats, Gryphon. I took his specific needs into consideration, and I estimated that I’d be able to spend about 15 minutes per weekday working with him individually. Some of his activities, like interactive playtime and catio time, can include all my cats, which is awesome!
Cat Enrichment Plan Downloads
I’ve created some blank enrichment plan templates to help make it easier for you to create an enrichment plan for YOUR cat! There is both an Excel spreadsheet version and a PDF version, depending on your preferences.
Or maybe you prefer using a planner or even a planning app on your phone. Whatever will be easiest for you to keep track of is what you should do.
Looking for additional help or feedback?
Sometimes it’s great to get input from others! Our Facebook group is a great place to reach out for guidance or help. Feel free to ask questions or even post your enrichment plan there to get some insights from everyone.