A cat’s mind is a terrible thing to waste, says CVC educator Steve Dale, CABC. And a wasting body often follows a wasted mind. According to 2016 data from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 59 percent of cats in the United States are overweight. “Millions of our purring pals are brain dead,” says Dale. “They’ve lost it upstairs while gaining it around their middles. And their owners have no idea because that’s how they expect cats to be.”
Dale turns to zoos for part of the solution. By providing enrichment (think environmental artifacts like perches and swings and behavioral activities like painting orangutans and computer-using chimpanzees), zoos have been able to enhance exercise (and decrease the amount of overweight animals), slow the aging process, lessen or eliminate anxious behaviors and increase the animals' natural tendencies. “Presumably, if enrichment techniques can help zoo animals, they can help our companion animals,” says Dale.
As with zoos, cat enrichment in the home can come in many forms (and prices). But enrichment doesn’t have to be costly or difficult, says Dale. “It can be as simple as cutting a hole in an empty box that the cat can climb through or taking an empty egg carton and dropping kibble in some of the holes to encourage cats to use their paws,” he says. Not simple enough? Clients can even let cats bat an empty milk carton around. “Encourage families to be creative, but make sure the options they pick are safe—especially for kittens.”
To hear about economical enrichment options in Steve’s own words (and you really should), watch the video below. And then click to the next page to watch our kitten model Raven try out more penny-pinching options.
3 DIY enrichment ideas