The Three Keys to a Happy Cat

Cats are strange, sensitive animals—and while they’re one of the most common house pets in the United States, they’re also one of the most poorly understood. Read on to learn more about how to provide a happy home for our strange, beloved feline companions.

  1. Provide Options

Cats love options. The happiest cats have multiple locations where they can access food, water, litter boxes, and perches. Not having options can lead to extreme shyness—guests come around and your cat disappears—or aggression toward strangers and other pets.

Try setting up perches around your house—clear away the top of the refrigerator, stick a carpet sample on a book shelf, or nail a milk crate to a wall for an artsy cat perch. Cats are ambush predators who hide (usually from a high perch) and then leap out at prey. For this reason, they are most comfortable when they have multiple perch options.

The same goes for litter boxes, food, water and scratching posts. Try setting up multiple feeding stations and litter boxes so that your cat has options when they go to use the resources they rely on. And by having multiple scratching posts around your home, you’ll help cater to your cat’s natural desire to scratch without sacrificing your furniture. 

2. Keep it Open

It’s natural to want to stick the litter box in an out-of-the-way place, where you and your guests won’t have to think about (or smell) it. However, these out-of-the-way places are often cramped closets, or tight corners in bathrooms.

While many cats will use them regardless, they prefer open, easily visible places when nature calls. They’re desert animals after all, and there aren’t dark closets in the desert. If your cat sometimes opts to go to the bathroom outside the litter box, try moving it to a more open location.

The same goes for your house in general—cats like to be able to scope out the area easily for predators. They’ll be happiest in homes with open spaces paired with nooks that they can survey the world from.

3. Stick to a routine

Cats are creatures of habit. They sleep at certain times, play at certain times, and groom at certain times. You can set your cat up to feel safe and secure by giving them a set schedule they can rely on.

Try to feed them at the same time every day, clean their litter box regularly, and set aside daily time for play and affection. That way your cat knows what to expect when. This helps them deal with other disruptions to their lives, like visitors, strange smells you may carry home on your clothes, and other animals they may glimpse out the window—like other cats. For a cat, even subtle disturbances can be upsetting. A solid routine can ensure that they don’t have behavioral issues the rest of the time.