Q: I just got a new kitten, but I don’t have much extra money for enrichment. Does it matter for a cat?
A: Enrichment is as important for your cat as it would be for dogs or people! But that doesn’t mean you have to spend money or much time creating enrichment for your cat.
Training is a form of enrichment. You can teach your cat many tricks such as mat training, hand targeting, come when called, high 5, and so on. This doesn’t require much more than some tasty treats such as canned cat food, cream cheese, tuna, or chicken as well as some time and patience. Cats learn just as quickly as dogs; it’s just a matter of finding what motivates them. You’re not only working your cat’s mind, you’re opening up a new way to communicate while creating a wonderful relationship.
Homemade toys are enriching as well. Fill empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes with a couple of treats, then crimp the ends closed and toss them for your cat to wrestle and shred. Fill small cardboard boxes with brown packing paper and place a few treats in the bottom so the cat can dive in the box to find the treats.
Teach your cat to “go find it”. Hide pieces of their kibble or a few treats around the house. Begin by showing your cat the first treat and let them see you “hiding” it right in front of them, for example behind a chair leg. When they find that one and finish eating it, they will likely look at you for another. Walk across the room, show them another treat, and tell them to “go find it” as you “hide” the next one. Do this until they learn the cue and then you can start hiding treats in different rooms.
Cardboard boxes make great cat forts. Cut out windows and doors for them to explore. Attach multiple boxes together and create elaborate cardboard cat trees with cardboard “tunnels” connecting them. Hide a treat in different “rooms” of the cardboard cat shack.
If your outside environment is safe, you can train your cat to walk on a leash using a harness. The smell of the dirt, trees, plants, and grass provides endless enrichment.