When we think of a “ Zen ” state of mind and environment when it comes to people, we might envision sitting in a meditation pose, basking in peace and relaxation, and saying “Om” while the scent of lavender oil wafts around the room.
Our cats also benefit greatly from a blissful, calming state of Zen – a word that originated from a type of Buddhism – but some of their needs are different, experts say. Cats need a little bit more stimulation in the form of objects, lest they get bored from too much calm, says Marilyn Krieger, a California cat behaviorist who runs The Cat Coach.
“When you’re talking about Zen, usually people want an uncluttered type of environment,” claims Krieger. “With cats, you need a lot of things. You need a lot of environmental enrichment because cats are so smart. They enjoy a little bit of clutter,” she notes.
Lynn Stitt, who is founder and “head can opener” at The Best Little Cat House in PA, a Harrisburg-area cat hospice that was specially designed and built for kitties—knows all about creating a comforting space for cats that need it. Stitt says that Zen for cats in a multi-feline environment is about creating more space in interesting and unique ways.
Here are some helpful zen tips for making your cat’s home environment more peaceful and relaxing, while keeping in mind her need for stimulation.
1.) Provide a good amount of toys. These can be as simple as toy mice and balls, or something more interactive, complex toy. Krieger prefers ball and track toys, where cats can chase and manipulate a ball encased in a track, often circular. You could change up the toys regularly, and add a novelty – like my rubbing dehydrated chicken on the cloth toys, Krieger suggests.
2.) Pay closer attention to your food bowls. If you have more than one cat in your home, having the cats eat out of the same bowl, or putting the bowls right next to each other, causes stress. They will be much happier and more relaxed if they have their own space to eat, Krieger says.
3.) Provide water that moves or drips. There’s just something special about water that is soothing to people. It’s the same thing for cats, and some love to drink moving water, Krieger believes. You can even purchase a motion-sensitive faucet for your kitchen sink, and your then cats can activate the water to drink. You might also think about purchasing a special cat-drinking dish with a flowing fountain.
4.) Create a vertical territory. This is especially important in a multi-cat household because cats show their positions in the hierarchy by how high they perch, Krieger says. Cats also just love to check things out from above, and they feel safe in high-up places.
A cat tree is should be an obvious and good choice for meeting this altitude need, especially if it has a few layers where cats can sit. Search for one that is about 5 to 6 feet tall for maximum feline enjoyment, Krieger encourages. Cats also will love bookshelves and armoires. Don’t put anything fragile on the shelves, Krieger recommends, and perhaps consider clearing out an area for the cats.
5.) Consider building catwalks. If you’re a handy type of person, you can build something in your house for your cats that is actually fairly simple to execute, Stitt says. You can add a ladder along a wall in a room that the cats can climb, then install a wood or metal beam that stretches across the room at least a foot below the ceiling. This will give your cats their own catwalks and high-up places to explore and relax. You can also purchase ready-made shelves at a hardware store and install those by a ladder. Turn the shelves into Zen-like lofts adding cat beds, so kitties have a human-free retreat to themselves.
“It’s just creating space where we don’t walk, but yet it’s perfect for them,” Stitt states.
6.) Buy a good scratching post. As scratching is a very natural and soothing behavior to a cat, it’s important to provide a place where they can file those claws. If you don’t provide a good scratching object, your cats claim may end up being your couch or carpet.
“Not only do cats mark their territory when they scratch, they scratch when they’re feeling a little stressed and conflicted,” Krieger notes.
7.) Increase the bed count. Our cats may love sleeping with us in our beds, but you also should let them have access to additional beds around the house for cats, who spend a great amount of their time napping, Krieger encourages.
8.) Consider playing some cat-friendly music. There are some audio albums which are designed to comfort and please cats are available for purchase or download. These types of compilations usually feature classical-style music and some cats love them, Krieger says.
9.) Never ignore the litter box. Be more conscientious with your kitty’s litter box, which can be a major source of stress, Krieger says. If you think it stinks, then it especially stinks to your cat’s nose which is more sensitive than yours. Having a few litterboxes around the house, and also keeping them very clean and uncovered makes for a pleasant and Zen environment for your cat.