Six Ways to Make Your Cat Feel at Home

True Nature Series

Our cats at home display behaviors and preferences that stretch back generations to their time in the wild. This sometimes runs counter to how we live our lives, particularly when it comes to our home environments. How can you get on the same page?

Here are a few ways you can make your cat feel more comfortable in your home.  

Topic 17

1/Perches

In the wild, African Wildcats often take to the trees. This keeps them hidden from predators, and gives them just the right vantage for surveying their territory and opportunistic hunting.

How can you introduce these elements to your home?

You may already have some nice architectural features or furniture to work with. Fireplace mantels, tall bookcases, wall shelves, even the back of a sofa or chair can serve this purpose.

Your cat gets to show off her natural agility and grace to get up and down. Plus it brings her a sense of comfort by getting her up off the floor.

If furniture is off limits, you can increase the vertical space in your home with cat trees or cat clouds. These are cleverly designed climbing structures and wall shelves made especially for felines.

2/Connecting to the Outdoors

Because of the dangers associated with cars, exposure to disease from prey, and conflicts with wild or domestic animals, we don't condone outdoor cats. That's not to say indoor cats must be sealed off completely from the outside world.  

Beyond supervised outdoor activities like leash walking, it's important to provide her with a place to interact with her surroundings. This can be through a window or door, even a screen porch. It's healthy to see and hear birds and other wildlife, as well as people and pets in the neighborhood. As is smelling new smells.

3/Hideouts

While out on the prowl, it's quite common for an African Wildcat to hide in abandoned burrows or conceal their presence in a canopy of foliage.

There are many interesting options available that play into your cat's desire to see without being seen. Play tunnels are made of insulating fabric and can double as a bed. Some end tables have an enclosure that hides a cat bed inside. How about an indoor structure that's a cat's interpretation of a doghouse?

Your cat may already spend time under your bed or behind the sofa. But here are some other low-cost ways to achieve the same effect: pull books towards the front of a shelf to create a hiding space behind them. Or place a basket on end on the bottom shelf of an end- or coffee table to create a little cave. You can even drape a blanket or towel over a table to make a fort like when you where a kid.

4/Scratch Posts

Scratching is in your cat's nature, so it's important to give her an alternative to your furniture, rugs or curtains.

African Wildcats will use both standing and fallen trees for scratching in order to keep claws fit for climbing, hunting and self-defense. So a sturdy scratch post or horizontal surfaces can be used to replicate this activity. They can be made from corrugated cardboard, carpets or natural rope fibers.

5/Feeding

To create a calm environment for feeding, consider the type of dish you're using and where you place it.

Since your cat uses her whiskers for navigating, communicating, and measuring the width of openings, a dish that causes her to bend her whiskers can be irritating. Instead, use a plate or a shallow dish with short sides. This way, she can grab bits of kibble without touching her whiskers.

As for placement, it's important to understand the pressures of feeding in the wild. Active hunters know the value of a meal, so they stay alert for rivals coming in to steal the kill. Factor in that African Wildcats are quite vulnerable while eating, it's easy to realize why they can be jumpy at mealtime.

In your home, it may be another cat that puts her on edge. Perhaps it's a dog or a young child. So rather than placing her dish in a corner, try putting it more out in the open. This can put her at ease by giving her clear views of the space around her and access to more avenues of escape. Both of which appeal to her instincts.

6/Litter Box

Sometimes African Wildcats want their presence to be known. Other times, they prefer to keep it hidden. But the fact is, every time a cat goes to the bathroom, they leave a trail of scent that can serve as a means of communication. So it's not uncommon to relieve themselves in different locations, and reserve specific spots for specific duties.

That said, here are our guidelines for litter boxes. You'll want one litter box for every cat in the house plus one extra; or one on each level of your home, even if you have one cat. This helps prevent territorial behavior, and allows for flexibility of use. Also, be mindful of placing your litter boxes in a quiet place that doesn't get much traffic. Even cats appreciate a little privacy.