Environmental enrichment is the first line of therapy to reduce the risk of recurrence of whatever clinical signs are present.10-12 Environmental enrichment for indoor-housed cats means providing all necessary resources, refining interactions with owners,
achieving a tolerable intensity of conflict, and thoughtfully instituting changes.13,14 The broad categories of food, water, litter boxes, space, play, conflict management, and pheromones should all be considered
based on their influence on the health and welfare of indoor-housed cats.
Have clients fill out the household resources survey (click here to download the survey) to help pinpoint areas to focus on. To use this survey, review answers on each of the basic needs (space, food and water,
litter boxes, social contact, and body care and activity) with clients after they have completed the questionnaire. First,
thank the client for completing the survey. Next, identify any rows marked "DK" and clarify the intended meaning for the client
to get an answer. Then praise the owner for all "Yes" answers, and explore the importance of any "No" answers. The objective
is never to blame the client for any deficiencies but to identify areas of improvement in the basic needs systems that the
client thinks are changeable. The priority box can be used in conversation with the client to decide the order in which to
address improvement in areas where "No" responses were identified.
Household Resources Survey
Because of the dearth of controlled trials, it is not possible to prioritize the importance of any of these suggestions or
to predict which would be the most appropriate in a particular situation. Appropriately designed epidemiologic studies might
be able to identify particularly important factors, after which intervention trials could be conducted to determine their
efficacy in circumstances in which owners successfully implemented the suggested changes.
Cats prefer to eat individually in quiet locations where they will not be threatened or startled by other animals, sudden
movement, or an air duct or appliance that may begin operation unexpectedly while the cat is eating. Although canned food
may be preferable for some cats because of the increased water content or a more natural mouth feel, some cats prefer dry
foods. If a diet change is appropriate, offering the new diet in a separate, adjacent container rather than removing the usual
food and replacing it with the new food permits the cat to express its preference. Specific ingredients or nutrients in food
have been found to be of minor significance to patient outcome when an enriched environment is provided.10-12
Natural cat feeding behavior also includes predatory activities, such as stalking and pouncing. If a cat is interested, an
owner can simulate these feeding situations by hiding small amounts of food around the house or putting dry food into a container
from which the cat has to extract individual pieces or move to release the food pieces. Some cats have specific prey preferences.
For example, some cats prefer to catch birds, while others may prefer to chase mice or bugs. Identifying a cat's prey preference
allows the owner to buy or make toys that the cat will be more likely to play with.
Cats also seem to have preferences regarding drinking water. Water-related factors to consider include the freshness, taste,
movement (water fountains, dripping faucets, aquarium pump-bubbled air into a bowl), and shape of the container (some cats
resent having their vibrissae touch the sides of a container when drinking). As with diet, changes in water-related factors
should be offered in such a way that permits the cat to express its preference. Additionally, food and water bowls should
be cleaned regularly unless individual preference suggests otherwise.