We all want our cats to be happy but they are sometimes a perplexing species. As I write this, my cat, Mango, is happily climbing into the paper recycling bin in my office. Somehow, that is logical to him. More to the point, when our cats are unhappy, or stressed, they may do things that make our lives more difficult such as inappropriately urinate. Thank you to the AAFP for sharing the following information:
Behavioral problems are the number one reason cats are surrendered or euthanized. When we understand cat behavior we enhance their health and well being and even save lives. They have environmental and social needs just like everyone else. In considering these needs, remember that cats are:
Solitary hunters that need to protect themselves from danger.
Cats use vocalization, posturing, and scent to communicate their stress if they feel threatened
Cats are territorial and will feel threatened if that they perceive that territory is challenged.
They have a very strong sense of smell and hearing and may be threatened by smells and sounds that we don't think are significant.
Cats are social animals but don't really like living with other cats, unless they are siblings. Cats often don't live in a three cat household. If a dwelling has three cats, they actually live in a three cat apartment building with distinct regions for each and that can create stress.
To meet the environmental needs of your cat
Provide a safe environment. Cats prefer to rest alone in an enclosed space with several avenues for exit.
Provide separated and plentiful key environmental resources. All cats need access to litterboxes, food and water without the threat of challenge. This usually means one of each resource per cat plus one (ie, a 3 cat household would have 4 litter boxes).
Provide play and predatory opportunities. Use of interactive toys like feathers and strings pulled across the floor trigger necessary activity
Provide positive and predictable human to cat social interactions. Each cat has an individualized amount of interaction it needs regularly.
Provide an appropriate environment for their sense of smell. Keep odors to a minimum but avoid harsh detergents and over sterilization of their environment. They mark their world with their face and body. If that is removed when a new cat is in the environment they may find that stressful. Feliway, or other synthetic pheromones may be calming.
A happy cat equals a happy owner.