Aug. 15, 2011 -- Cats can be the perfect house pet. They're clean, they're affectionate and they're intelligent. Indoor cats live longer, safer lives than outdoor ones, but that doesn't always mean that they're happy and fulfilling lives.
Veterinarian Marty Becker has some great new toys and tips that are sure to keep your cat happy and active.
Cats are born to be free-roaming, so indoor cats often struggle with behavior problems triggered by boredom, and healthy problems linked to obesity and inactivity, but it doesn't have to be that way, said Becker. Borrowing from the pioneering work of zoos, house pets can benefit from what behaviorists call "environmental enrichment," simple tricks to turn a normal home into a vibrant feline jungle.
Think Outside the House, Inside the House
Few cats would skip the chance to slip out the door if offered, no matter the risk to their lives, according to Marty Becker. Letting your cat roam can also be annoying to your neighbors, who don't appreciate cats using flower beds as litter boxes, and indulging in noisy territory spats and finally, there's also the problem of predation, since free-roaming cats are happy to hunt birds.
You can give your cat the pleasure of the outside with none of the problems by adding a cat enclosure to your home. Several companies sell them ready-made, in modules that can be configured to suit your available space, from small patio to multistory monster. Check out a couple of Marty Becker's favorites.
The "Tower of Meows" by Cats on Deck is great for people who don't have a lot of floor space. You can attach a few together, giving the cats many levels to play on. The price range is $495 to $995. The ramps are sold separately.
The Kritter Kondo Delux by Kritter Kommunity is just right for your outside space. It comes with a roof and it is collapsible with a strap for easy storage. This is $130.00 without the "roof" and $154.99 with the red "roof."
Allowing cats to exercise natural instincts to claw, climb and explore, the Catty Stacks modular units can be mixed and matched to create unique shaped and sized cat climber houses. It won the best in show second place prize at the 2011 Global Pet Expo. It is only $14.99 per unit.
The CatsTrapeze is good for active cats and kittens, they can climb and play on this instead of curtains and furniture. The cushions are great for little cat naps as well. It costs $75.00.
Cat's Need to Scratch and Claw
Clawing is normal behavior for cats, who use it to mark territory, keep claws sharp and functional and keep muscles well-stretched and ready for action. Clawing is also highly satisfying to them, Becker said.
Offering your cats attractive and varied scratching options will go a long way to keep them from scratching furniture. Not all cats are alike in their scratching preferences, according to Marty Becker. Whether in terms of texture some cats like corrugated cardboard, carpet or just natural wood or position some cats prefer horizontal and others like vertical posts. However, all cats should have a a secure cat tree and to that add a variety of scratching items based on your cat's preferences. A little catnip rubbed on the scratching place will help attract your cat and reward the desired behavior.
Scratching beds by Imperial are fun for them and fun for us. Check out the cool designs. They are made with recycled paper. The Daschund and the Ocra each cost $25.99
The Scratchkabin lets cats exercise their natural instinct to scratch, or their even stronger instinct to relax. They can also rest in the small alcove and the kat-kushions are removable for wash. It costs $99.00.
You might say that cats need toys. Becker says they need really mental stimulation and food puzzles are a welcome addition to the world of enrichment for pets. Simply put, they're objects designed to make an animal work his body and mind to free the food inside.
The Smart Cat Peek-A-Prize toy box lets you hide toys or food throughout the box, which keeps your cat active and entertained during long days at home. This toy costs $29.99.
Toys that allow you to interact with your cat are wonderful and these include laser pointers, fishing poles and gloves with tiny cat toys dangling from the fingertips. Some toys are interactive without you needing to be there like the Frolicat line that was Marty Becker's best in show at the massive Global Pet Expo trade show a few years ago. With one press of the button a cat will have a ten minute play session. The Frolicat Twitch by Brilliant Pet is $19.95.
Marty Becker also suggests putting a little catnip on any of the toys to give the cat a little reward and keep them active.
Sojos Organic Cat Nip is hand-harvested and dried to preserve its maximum effects on cats. It induces a harmless euphoric state in cats that lasts five to 15 minutes.Cost: $6.95 per 1 oz. tin
All the cats and kittens seen on "Good Morning America" are available for adoption through the Humane Soceity of New York.