But before we can catify the home, we have to get to know where in the vertical world our cat finds his or her mojo: the specific place or places in the home where they feel their greatest sense of territorial ownership. And we call this magical place...
The Confident Where
Cats see territory in a three-dimensional way that other species (including humans) don’t. They walk into a room and take in every square inch from floor to ceiling, assessing possible rest spots, advantageous perches where they can survey the comings and goings of other beings who share their turf, and spots where they can camouflage themselves to prey/play or just disappear from the world. So our first order of business here is to figure out exactly where on the vertical axis they find their greatest mojo. And the first thing we’ll want to do in figuring this out, is to assess which of the following classifications best describes your cat so we can catify accordingly:
Bush Dwellers are the cats waiting under the coffee table or behind a plant. They are often waiting to hunt or to pounce and prefer to have all four feet on the ground.
Tree Dwellers can be found anywhere off of the ground. These cats get their confidence from being up high and seeing what’s going on, preferring to be on a chair or on top of the couch.
Beach Dwellers also prefer having all four feet on the ground. But rather than waiting under a coffee table, they like being out in the open, as they send a message to you and everyone else in the home: “You have to walk around me.”
Once we have a sense of who our cat is, the next step is to embrace the idea of...
Cats largely define that sense of belonging by finding things they can soak their scent into. So by definition, a signpost is something your cat has left a visual sign or scent on, thereby signifying territorial ownership for them.
Popular signposts include: beds, towels, blankets, scratching posts—since cats leave scent and visual markers through their claws—and, of course, the king of scent soakers, and the mother of all signposts… litter boxes. This is why the locations you choose for your litter boxes are key. Having one box hidden behind a washing machine, another tucked away in the garage, and a third secluded in a guest room closet will not help our cause here. Instead, I would like for you to consider the idea that litter boxes should go in socially significant areas of your home: in or near the heart of the action. (I realize this is not an especially popular idea to most humans, but I wouldn’t ask this of you if I didn’t think it was absolutely paramount.)
Once we have some of these “base camp” signposts in place, our next step in catifying your home for harmony is checking out a little mind-stimulating entertainment for your cat in the form of...
Did you know that cats spend an inordinate part of the day not sleeping (as is typically presumed), but looking out the window? Cat TV takes the most important story line for cats—hunting—and puts it in a “box,” so that they can experience the same relaxed sensation: an exercise I call “passive engagement.”
Just as you might design your living room with the TV as the focal point, look around your home for prime windows for creating Cat TV, and add things outside those windows to attract natural prey such as birds and insects. Think: a bird in a birdbath, bees visiting flowers, squirrels at a feeder.
Make the window a destination location with a cat tree, perch, or cat bed that invites your cat to sit and binge-watch Cat TV to his heart’s content. (A bird-feeder is an excellent starting point.)
For extra variety—or if windows are at a premium in your home—consider an aquarium. I’m not a fan of them, but they do provide quality TV time without the benefit of an actual window (just take really good care of those fish!). A better alternative would be one of these “plastic fish” aquariums, which basically achieves the same goal: it gives your cat something to do with their mind, as they remain passively engaged in their hunter way without actually having to hunt.
A final idea to consider in our catification efforts here is...
As you probably know by now, I’m not a big proponent of cats going indoors and outdoors at will. Catios are an amazing compromise…. and a real game changer. A catio is a space you can make for cats (which of course you can share with them) by enclosing your existing patio or creating an enclosure. There, you can offer great vertical spaces, wooden objects that they can scratch on, different grasses including catnip that you can plant and they can enjoy—even hunting that can happen when critters make their way inside. They can also get some vitamin D from the sun and essentially enjoy much of the upside from being outdoors without risking the downside inherent to roaming beyond the safety of home base.
In the meantime, I know you and your cat (or cats!) will find these suggestions helpful. Try implementing some of these ideas into your home environment and watch the harmony expand...