Meet Mimosa, or Mimi as her humans affectionately call her. Mimi is a spayed calico cat residing solely indoors here in Texas. And, while a lady never reveals her age or weight, our sources discovered that Mimi is 5 years old and weighs in at a hefty 15 pounds.
You probably know that calicos, with their exceptionally feisty personality traits, are one of the “spicier” feline breeds. But, lately Mimosa’s attitude has been packing even more of a punch than normal. Lashing out at her loving caretakers, urinating and defecating outside the litter box, grooming excessively to the point of hair loss, and tearing deep gouges into the new sofa are straining relations between the cat and humans within the home.
So, what can we do to repair this relationship and help Mimi tone down her spunky attitude?
Behavioral or medical?
Any time a pet’s behavior changes, we will first work to rule out any underlying medical issues. In Mimi’s case, she came in to see us for a complete physical examination and work-up. During her visit, we drew blood to rule out any metabolic imbalances, checked a urine sample for a urinary tract infection, searched for fleas as the cause of itching and hair loss, and palpated her spine and joints to see if she appeared to be suffering from pain.
Our diagnostic testing revealed good news: There was nothing medically abnormal about Mimi. But, if Mimi wasn’t suffering from arthritis or dental disease or a urinary tract infection, why the sudden changes in her behavior?
Indoor cats and behavior problems
There were no changes in the household, no other pets, and nothing upsetting occurring in Mimi’s life. But, she was also lacking environmental enrichment—her food was handed to her; she had never seen a toy, cat tower, or scratching post; and she had outgrown her sole litter box.
A lack of environmental enrichment for indoor cats can lead to:
- Inappropriate elimination
- Eating disorders
- Attention-seeking behavior
- Excessive grooming
Mimi appeared to be a classic case of bored indoor cat. Once we had a diagnosis of stress due to lack of environmental enrichment, a game plan was formed to get Mimi back to normal.
How to enrich an indoor cat’s environment
Here are four ways we recommended keeping Mimi occupied and happy:
- Utilize puzzle feeders. Instead of constantly filling Mimi’s food bowl, we advised measuring out her food and splitting her daily food allotment into three meals. These meals could then be put into different food puzzles, toys, or balls, which would keep her mind occupied and control her weight. Swapping out puzzles would prevent boredom and teach her a variety of skills needed to reach the food. In addition to puzzles, hiding treats around the house would help satisfy her natural urge to hunt.
- Provide climbing towers and scratching posts. In an attempt to redirect Mimi away from the furniture to appropriate scratching areas, we recommended spraying some newly purchased scratching posts with Feliway or Feliscratch. These pheromone sprays attract cats to a specific area to satisfy normal feline behavior. With the addition of a multi-level cat tree with built-in scratching areas, Mimi was in heaven, exploring her new perches and hiding spots. As well as providing lofty lookouts, this cat tree was placed in front of large window, overlooking a bird-feeder and several flowering plants that attracted critters that interested Mimi. Now, she spends hours each day being entertained by the birds, bees, and butterflies.
- Choose toys that mimic prey animals. Cats may no longer need to hunt for food, but they still enjoy stalking and pouncing on their “prey.” To help encourage fun playtime activities with Mimi, we advised filling a toy basket with a variety of toys and swapping out the toys regularly to keep them fresh and exciting and to determine her preferences. Some cats enjoy squeaky mice filled with catnip, while others prefer feather wands.
- Furnish top-notch bathroom facilities. Cats are finicky, especially when it comes to bathroom habits. The rule regarding litter boxes is to always have one per cat, plus one. So, in Mimi’s case, she would prefer two, ideally situated at opposite ends of the house. Since she is on the larger side, we recommended purchasing shallow totes to use in place of standard litter boxes. Mimi has always preferred unscented, clumping litter, just like most cats, so that was not changed. Rather than next to the washer and dryer, like her old litter box, Mimi’s two new boxes were placed in quiet, secluded areas in the home.
A month after these changes were implemented, Mimi was back to normal.
Cats are sensitive creatures that can easily become stressed and anxious. Minimize stress by providing plenty of social, mental, and physical stimulation, and you are on the way to a happy, healthy cat. Need help incorporating environmental enrichment into your feline friend’s lifestyle? Give us a call.