Creating the best home environment for your cat
Posted by American Homes 4 Rent Team
6m read time
Aug 5, 2022
August 8 is International Cat Day, marking the perfect occasion to dedicate a little extra attention to our feline friends, and to their wants and needs. Because cats tend to be more territorial, they require a unique environment to feel safe and happy. Check out some of our tips below to get started on creating the best home for your cat and being a better pet owner.
Give cats space to rest, both high and low
An adult cat sleeps an average of 15 hours per day, about 3-5 of which are deep sleep. All that snoozing helps keep a cat’s reflexes sharp for future hunting and chasing adventures. Spending two-thirds of the day (or more!) asleep means cats need plenty of space to rest, ideally in a variety of settings. Since cats love to climb — they feel more secure in higher spots — it’s a good idea to offer a few different resting places for them.
If your home has multiple stories, a cat may regularly climb to the top of the stairs, perching at the top from a safe vantage point. You can also give them resting spots simply by strategically placing items around the home. A wardrobe with ample room on top can serve as a place to rest or hide. Some scratching posts include modular spaces for climbing, giving cats a creative challenge as they find a place to close their eyes. Additionally, open space on a bookshelf or in portable cube storage organizers provide cozy nooks for cats to catch a few Zs. Just don’t keep anything fragile on the shelves, because… you know, the claws.
Cats also enjoy private areas. Keeping a safe, warm space under the bed or in a cupboard helps them feel safer. Since many cats prefer a familiar scent, they’ll also be more at home with bedding that reminds them of you. Placing a blanket in a sunny spot provides ample kitty comfort. While you can certainly invest in a cat bed to place in an elevated spot near sunlight, they may very well climb into your own bed to snuggle with you at night!
Choose prime litter tray locations
If your cat stays in your home, a litter tray or box is essential. A good rule of thumb is to have one litter tray or box for each cat in the house, plus an extra if you have a larger home.
Litter boxes tend to be better for humans, too. The hood of a box helps keep the smell from permeating throughout the home, and you don’t have to watch your cat use the bathroom. However, litter trays are often more inviting for cats themselves. A box makes them feel trapped; though the likelihood of a predator blocking the entrance and attacking them is extremely low, they don’t know that. A box could make them extra anxious, maybe even too nervous to regularly use the bathroom.
Whether you choose a litter tray or a litter box, be careful where you place it. Much like we want some privacy during a bathroom break, a litter tray should be kept in a corner. You want to avoid it being too close to food and water, for sanitary reasons, as well as doors, large windows, or areas where there’s a lot of foot traffic in the home, which can add stress to your cat’s bathroom breaks.
Last but not least, be sure to maintain a regular cleaning schedule with any litter boxes or trays. Scoop out litter soiled with either urine or poop every day, and clean the entire box or tray and refill it with new litter once per week.
Food and drink considerations
A wild cat will spend several hours a day foraging for food. At home, you’ll provide their meals to them. It’s less of a challenge, but you can still create the best environment by choosing proper bowls. Plastic often causes allergic reactions to cats, so stainless steel and ceramic are better options. Make sure bowls are large enough to hold one to two cups of food, depending on the size of your cat. Cats tend to be messy eaters, so a placemat can help keep everything relatively tidy. It doesn’t need to be fancy, either. You can upcycle some cardboard or newspaper, or use an inexpensive plastic version.
While it might make sense to keep food and water bowls close to each other, cats often eat and drink separately. They’ll likely be happier if the water is in a different spot so they can drink when they’re thirsty and eat when they’re hungry. Water bowls should be filled to the brim; cats don’t like to dip their head in a bowl or rub their whiskers against the sides. As with litter boxes, keep one water bowl per cat, plus an extra one around the house.
Scratch their itch (of wanting to scratch)
Cats primarily scratch for two reasons: to keep their claws in good condition and to mark their territory. A scratching post helps them accomplish both while leaving your furniture safe from their claws. After all, a lack of a post just means the cushioning of a sofa or table leg is the next best target.
Consider multiple scratching posts and areas throughout your home. Vertical posts will give your cats more room to stretch when they scratch. Just like us, cats prefer a variety of activities, so offering a mix of scratching options will make your cats happy. Not sure where to start? Here are some top cat scratching posts to keep your felines busy.
Other tips to make your home cat-friendly
You’re well on your way to creating a cat’s paradise. Here are a few other tips to make your home nice for cats:
Challenge their minds.
While cats appreciate welcoming and comforting environments that offer a sense of security, they still crave activities that stimulate their mind. Use wand toys and ball toys for entertainment, but be sure to put them away after use. Other brain-teasers include automatic cat toys and cat trees with lounging platforms. Your cat may even enjoy watching you play a video game such as Stray, in which you guide a feral cat around a city full of robots.
Avoid massive windows.
Cats enjoy taking a nap in sunny spots, but a large window can disorient them and make them nervous. If your home has any areas with floor-to-ceiling windows or a similar layout, don’t use those rooms for litter trays or feeding spaces.
Provide catnip and grass.
The majority of cats react well to the smell of catnip, which can be used occasionally on toys. Many cats also need grass to assist with their gut health, which helps clear out hair they swallow while grooming themselves. There are special types of grass and plants specifically designed for cats, so use those instead of adding a plant that’s toxic to cats inside your home.
Give them some fresh air.
Cracking a window open from time to time helps rejuvenate a cat. Even better, you’ll get the same benefits, including improved sleep quality.
With International Cat Day right around the corner, these tips will help your home look more meowvelous than ever! Looking for even more advice on keeping your furry felines safe and content? We’ve got you covered.
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