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How to Keep Your Cats Happy

Interacting with your cat, observing behavior, and making your home feline-friendly will help keep your cat mentally and physically healthy.

Marilyn Krieger  |  Jan 15th 2016


Everyone who loves cats recognizes when their kitties are happy and free of stress. We delight in hearing the purrs and chortles of contentment, seeing the sweet body language and facial expressions and the endearing interactions with household members. And, typically, we will do everything we can to keep our little ones happy.

Happy, contented kitten

Happy, contented kitten by Shutterstock

Here are some easy steps you can take that will help keep your cats contented.

Spend quality time with your cats

Cats and their people mutually benefit from spending quality time hanging out together. The definition of quality time varies, based on each individual. Some kitties are hands on — reveling in cuddles and naps with their favorite people — while others are content just being in the same space. There are shy cats who are satisfied by a soft voice or a treat tossed in their direction, and those kitties who enjoy intense play sessions, treasure hunts, and clicker training.

Spend quality time with your cat every dayeveryone will benefit.

Spend quality time every day with your cats by Shutterstock.

Spend quality time every day with your cats. Photo by Shutterstock

Increase the resources

Although cats can live happily together, sometimes there are tensions and squabbles between them. These are often triggered by too few resources and living in tight quarters. Cats are territorial. Sometimes they have problems sharing.

If you live with more than one cat, help promote harmony by distributing additional resources throughout your home. Like with some human siblings, you can reduce the competition by having at least one of each coveted object for every kitty.

Each cat needs her own feeding station. One communal food bowl for a clowder or even shared between two cats isn’t enough. Instead of clustering bowls together, put space between them or place them in separate areas. In addition, put a number of water sources, scratching posts, litter boxes, toys, and vertical territory in different areas of your home.

Multiple resources promotes harmony between cats

Multiple resources promotes harmony between cats. Photo by Shutterstock

Provide stimulation

Cats of all ages need a combination of activities and enrichment to keep them from changing into bored and obese couch potatoes. Some kitties, lacking exercise, become lethargic and dull. Although many homes are full of interesting objects, they might be uninspiring and blasé to the feline residents.

Providing enrichment for your cat doesn’t mean you have to transform your home into Cat Disneyland or spend a fortune. Cardboard boxes, paper bags without handles, ball-and-track toys, soft toys, ping pong balls, and other toys will keep your cats engaged and occupied for hours. You can make these objects more appealing by rotating them every week and periodically rubbing them with favorite treats.

In addition to using toys, engaging your cat in play, clicker training, treasure hunts, and other activities will also help her stay alert and stimulated. An added benefit is that these games will strengthen the bonds between you.

Keep in mind the age and health of your cat. What is stimulating for a 14-year-old cat may be boring to a 6-month-old kitten. Personalize the activities according to the needs, age, and condition of your kitty.

Cats like novelty. Rotate their toys

Cats like novelty. Rotate their toys. Photo by Marilyn Krieger.

Get health checks

It isn’t always easy to recognize when cats are feeling under the weather. Cats are subtle, they don’t show they’re sick and injured until the problem has significantly progressed. Although it would benefit household cats to show when they aren’t well, their behavior helps them survive in the wild. Compromised kitties are weak and unable to escape threats quickly. Hiding injuries helps trick predators into thinking they’re not easy targets for dinner.

Sometimes the only hints that cats have medical issues are through changes in their behavior. These include eliminating outside litter boxes, aggression, crankiness, and hiding, among others.

Pay attention to your little one’s behavior. At the first sign of a behavior change, schedule an appointment with the veterinarian. Also, be proactive and have her examined yearly. An ounce of prevention is worth … well you know the rest.

Cats need to be examined by veterinarians when there are behavior changes

Cats need to be examined by veterinarians when there are behavior changes. Photo by Shutterstock

Manage the litter boxes

Poor litter box management can cause problems for cats and their owners. Cats become stressed and unhappy when their litter box situations are not ideal. The type and number of litter boxes, their locations, and cleanliness determines whether they will be used consistently.

Being mindful about litter boxes can stop problems before they begin and contribute to your cat’s well being. Because cats prefer doing their business in clean litter boxes, scoop them at least once a day. Make sure there are enough large, uncovered litter boxes  for the number of cats in your home. You need one box per cat and one extra. The locations of the boxes can also influence where cats eliminate. Place them throughout your home, in areas where your cats won’t feel they can be trapped or ambushed.

The best types of litter boxes are large and uncovered

The best types of litter boxes are large and uncovered. Photo by Marilyn Krieger

Procure vertical territory

Cats need to have the option of climbing, jumping, and napping on high shelves, cat trees, and other tall furniture. Vertical territory helps keeps the peace and promotes harmony between cats. Felines demonstrate their social positions in the household by where they hang out in relation to each other and the other residents. It isn’t static — the same cat doesn’t continually occupy the top tier of the status ladder. Depending on the circumstances, they take turns. High places can also become safe areas for cats. In addition to being out of reach of dogs and other dangers, they can observe from up high the household activities.

Encourage harmony between kitties and reduce their stress by placing vertical territory around your home.

Provide vertical territory such as cat trees and shelves throughout your home

Provide vertical territory such as cat trees and shelves throughout your home. Photo by Marilyn Krieger

These are just a few of the things you can do that will help keep your cats contented, happy and stress free. Can you think of others?

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Got a cat behavior question for Marilyn? Ask our behaviorist in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. If you suspect a behavioral problem, always rule out any possible medical issues that may be causing the behavior by first having your cat examined by a veterinarian.

Marilyn, a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, LLC, solves cat behavior problems nationally and internationally through on site and Skype consultations. She uses positive reinforcement, including environmental changes, clicker training and other behavior modification techniques.

She is also an award winning author. Her book Naughty No More! focuses on solving cat behavior problems through clicker training and other positive reinforcement methods. 

Marilyn is big on education—she feels it is important for cat parents to know the reasons behind their cat’s behaviors.  She is a frequent guest on television and radio, answering cat behavior questions and helping people understand their cats.