I am sure most cat owners require that their cat fit in with the human indoor environment (why isn’t there human furniture that is designed to be cat scratched?). In multi-cat households some consideration should be given to the quality of the space in which the cats live – from a cat’s perspective.
As we know, the domestic cat evolved from the African-Asian wildcat. This wild cat species could be described as ‘semi-arboreal’¹ meaning it likes to be in a tree from time to time. This means the domestic cat, which is a cigarette paper’s width away from the wildcat’s characteristics, also likes to occupy high vantage points from time to time.
Apparently cats in pens or enclosures (shelter cats or breeding cats) spend less time on the floor than off it, on raised surfaces². High vantage points are more popular than low ones.
Cats need these vantage points to feel comfortable. In short, cats live in a vertical dimension as well as horizontal. Humans are very much horizontal in mind set.
A indoor environment that has a vertical dimension should therefore include such structures as:
- shelves that a cat can climb to;
- specialist cat furniture that might also include a place to hide. It would seem sensible if it was placed near a window so a cat can alternate between sleeping high up and looking out;
- walkways – it is unlikely that home owners would build walkways around a room! However, it has been done. It depends how much a person wants to modify the human environment and make it primarily a cat’s environment;
- accessible windowsills. Cats like to spend time looking out of windows anyway, so a high and wide window sill would be perfect provided there was access to it.
As to the kind of material cats prefer to lie on, apparently a study³ concluded that:
- cats prefer polyester fleece to cotton looped towel and;
- cats prefer wood to plastic as a support surface (or a pizza box!) and;
- materials that maintain an even temperature such as straw, hay, wood and fabrics4.
In multicat households these facilities should ideally be available to each cat separately. Cats also need a place to retreat to and which feels safe. Such a place could be:
- a box;
- an igloo style den (such as seen in commercial cat furniture);
- a high sided cat bed.
Cats also like to be alone and out of sight of other cats from time to time (does this also refer to us as we are perceived as cats, I would suggest, to our cat companion?). To meet this requirement there should be areas that are compartmentalized (dividing screens, walls etc.).
Finally, as to toilet facilities, there should be a sufficient number of litter trays of the correct size, which as a minimum should be one tray for two cats and ideally one tray for each cat. I am not sure if this is practical but it is the suggestion of scientists involved in research studies. Litter trays should be positioned away from food and resting sites.
As cats are individuals each cat will probably have preferences as to litter type and tray style. Those preferences will extend to other aspects of a cat’s ideal living space.
- I Rochlitz, The Welfare of Cats page 181.
- Podberseek and others from 1991 research
- Howthorne and others 1995
- Roy 1992