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Posted on 11-26-2013

Environmental needs of the cat are those things that relate to the cat’s physical surroundings or the social interaction with other cats and humans.  This can be associated with the number of resting places, food or water bowls, and the number or type of litter boxes in the house.  Sometimes when the needs are not met, the behavior that results are thought of as bad, inappropriate, or even aggressive; when instead the cat is tense, confused, or bored.

There are many benefits to being aware of the cat’s environmental needs.  It can increase acceptable behaviors in the home.  The cat tends to be healthier. The cat is also easier to handle.  The bond between the family and the cat usually strengthens.  And most of all, the cat tends to be happier.

The cat was designed as a solitary hunter with a defined territory.  As such, they prefer a familiar and stable environment.  In other words, they do not like change.  But as a hunter, they do need a variety of activities to both exercise their minds and their bodies.  When something or someone new enters their environment, most will hide or avoid the object, person, or animal. Fighting or other aggressive behavior is a last resort when the cat feels it cannot get away.

The cat is not a pack animal, but it can live in groups if there are enough resources such as enough food, water, shelter and toileting areas.  Females tend to live in larger groups than males.  In general, males need more space.  Multi-cat households can cause a lot of stress in the resident cats but we tend to not notice unless there are fights or behavior problems.  Humans tend to assume that cats like each other if they gather together to eat or sleep.  The cats may do this because the food and sleeping space are in a single spot. 

The cat has very acute hearing (the better to hear that mouse) and loud sounds can scare the cat easily.  Scent is also very strong in the cat.  That is why they rub or mark on the corners and doorways or scratch the furniture.  This is a way of saying “I am here” as well as making the group smell somewhat alike as mentioned above.

With these characteristics in mind, the American Association of Feline Practitioners developed five pillars of a healthy feline environment.  They are:

Pillar 1:  Provide a safe place.

Pillar 2: Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources: food, water, toileting areas, scratching areas, play areas, and resting or sleeping areas.

Pillar 3:  Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior.

Pillar4:  Provide positive, consistent and predictable human-cat interaction.

Pillar 5:  Provide and environment that respects the importance of a cat’s sense of smell.

Over the next few blogs, the pillars will be discussed.

Pictured above is Charlotte, one of our foster kittens in 2013 for Magnificent Mutts Rescue.

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