Feline Enrichment

If you are a fan of the popular Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell” starring Jackson Galaxy you are familiar with the essence of “catification” of your human home. The concept is used to help resolve unacceptable behavior that cats have developed in response to a particular situation. This issue has also become more main stream in veterinary medicine, even small animal vets who are not “cat people” or behaviorists still need to be able to integrate the idea of environmental enrichment into the overall wellness and treatment of their feline patients. While it is obviously safer to house cats indoors this can lead many of our indoor feline patients to suffer from lifestyle disease. As a result of boredom, lack of mental and physical stimulation and unseen stress from a less that favorable household situation cats can become obese, develop behavioral problems such as scratching, litterbox issues, aggression and medical conditions including obsessive disorders, skin problems, gastrointestinal problems and urinary tract disease.

One of the most important things to consider in medicine generally is prevention of predictable problems is much more effective than treating after the fact. We are only just starting to understand the interconnection between stress and disease in cats due to their profound ability to hide the signs of illness and the perception that a fat, sleeping cat is a happy cat and cannot possibly be under any level of stress. If your cat exhibits behavior changes or medical symptoms such as urination in unusual places, straining to urinate, acting constipated or crying in the litterbox-IT IS AN EMERGENCY! Male cats in particular can develop urinary obstruction which can be fatal if left untreated and is extremely painful. Any change in behavior should be investigated by both you and your veterinarian promptly, the best outcomes come with early intervention.

Since I was a toddler my self proclaimed mission statement was “to take care of kitties.” As a result I have a home that is more cat friendly than most people would consider normal. I have had dozens of cats at this point in my life, usually with a rotating count of 5-7 cats as well as 1-2 dogs through my adulthood. As a result I have extensive personal (as well as professional) experience with the challenges that arise when sharing your home with multiple cats. I am not advocating this choice for anyone that is not fully on board with cat hair, random bodily fluids, litterbox maintenance, regular play, grooming and individualized attention as parts of the daily routine. I have chosen this lifestyle and adapted my surroundings to help my kitty family live better lives. I have included a gallery of my own feline family past and present enjoying our world.

I am so proud to be a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. AAFP is instrumental in educating vets and owners about all topics in feline care and I encourage you to check out their website (catvets.com). Attached are 2 relevant handouts on “Getting Your Cat to the Vet” and “Cat’s Environmental Needs.” In the next few months one of my first goals as I take the helm at Hart Road Animal Hospital is to complete the process of becoming a Cat Friendly Practice. Dr. Bennett has already laid the ground work with cat specific scheduling times, low-stress feline handling and cat specific training of staff members. The result is 2 very chilled out clinic cats (Huggie and Tobie) and happier lives for our feline patients.