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Keeping your cat happy, enriched and healthy is
very simple to do when you think like a cat. Providing a
stress-free environment is as simple as one, two, cat tree!

5 Essential Must-Haves for a Happy Chirpy Cat

5 Essentials for a happy cat

Last updated September 15th, 2020

How to keep your cat happy

It seems that cats have it made. The internet worships them and judging by those viral Youtube Best Cat compilation videos, they rule their households with a firm furry paw. And we like it.

“Hey Mr. Dog, I need your bed if you don’t mind, thanks, you’re too kind!”

But despite this overall perception of a cat’s elevated status as Ruler of the Drooler, cats are still largely misunderstood. Cats are viewed as independent, aloof and in need of less medical and preventative care than dogs, but this could not be further from the truth.

September is Happy Cat Month, an event in its 9th year running, created by the Catalyst Council, to help promote the health and well-being of our purry felines, focusing on the different ways to ensure your cat is happy, enriched and healthy.

Why are cats misunderstood?

Let’s start with the good news. There are many more people adopting cats because of rental restrictions not allowing dogs or due to lifestyle changes. Hooray, more cats in forever homes! But because of prevailing myths such as “cats are low maintenance” and the thinking that they can be left alone for long periods of time, many cats are cooped up in apartments with no vertical space, no environment enrichment, no mental stimulation or exercise. An environment in which cats just exist with no outlet provided to do all things “cat”, soon opens the doors to boredom, stress and behavioral problems. Make no mistake, Mr. Tiggs is not being a jerk by scratching your couch, but enacting his natural instinct to scratch and mark his territory. Cats are not small dogs and require different approaches to training and positive reinforcement.

Living in a threatening or unenriched environment is stressful for cats, according to veterinarian and CATalyst Council board member Dr. Tony Buffington, Clinical Professor Department of Medicine and Epidemiology UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

“When cats perceive a threat or don’t get adequate stimulation, their stress response system is triggered,” says Buffington.

“Happy Cat Month is a time to promote feline wellness by highlighting the link between feline happiness and health, and to encourage actions and activities that support happy and healthy cats.” as stated by the Catalyst Council. “Studies show that happy cats are healthier cats, and healthy cats are happier cats,” says Jane Brunt, DVM, Executive Director of the CATalyst Council and owner of Cat Hospital At Towson in Maryland. Read on for simple actionable steps to a happier chirpier cat.

It’s time to put our ‘thinking cats’ on and think like a cat!

5 essentials to keep your cat happy and chirpy

1. Have the right kind of scratching posts

Cats are hardwired to dig their claws into a hard substrate and pulling their weight downward. This action, called stropping, actually conditions the claws by removing the outer nail sheath, which you can often see deposited next to their scratching posts. Not only is scratching highly satisfying to a cat but it conditions the muscles in his spine and front legs and acts as a means of communication to other cats by depositing his unique scent in the area.

For a cat, scratching is like leaving little invisible post-it text messages for other cats and the humans in the house.Click To Tweet

I can just imagine, our house is probably flooded with post-it notes such as “Ollie was here” or “Dudes, 5 pm sharp, the top tier is mine, signed, Baggy”

It’s important to observe your cat’s scratching rituals in order to get it right. Is your cat a low ground scratcher and prefers your area rug? Then getting him a variety of horizontal carpet scratchers would give him utmost satisfaction. If he loves a good long stretch after a snooze, he would give you extra cuddles if you invest in a solid tall sturdy scratching post.

Tassel Cat Scratching Sphere

What to do if your cat refuses to use his scratching post

Experiment with different textures and styles, vertical or horizontal and encourage use by rubbing the new post with catnip. Check out the different things we do to attract our cats to their cat tree and turn them into happy tree huggers.

Engaging in interactive play on and around the scratching post using fishing rod toys is a surefire way to get your cat excited.

Clicker training using a favorite treat is another sneaky way of getting your cats to use and love the scratching post or cat tree.

You can teach your cat to use their scratching post, to stay, sit, high five or any other tricks or desired behavior using clicker training.

2. Is kitty a high flyer or bush dweller?

In the Chirpy Cats household, we are entertained by both high-flying tree-dwellers adept at negotiating the highest cat tree or ramps as well as the cats who prefer to be more grounded. Today’s modern cat furniture has come a long way since the modest sisal rope tree. Enter the age of modern cat chic. The varieties of cat trees and cat furniture are endless ranging from beautiful modular cube-like structures to minimalist Ikea hacks which can blend seamlessly into one’s decor.

In a multi-cat household, providing these “happy high spaces” not only engages their territorial instincts to safely and confidently view their surroundings for potential predators but also provides a means of timesharing with their housemates. It is important to place the cat shelves or ramps into different pathways with clear exit routes. If a more timid cat is confronted on one end, there should always be an escape route to a higher or low ramp without fear of confrontation.

You don’t need to invest in expensive or elaborate cat trees for your cat to thrive, as long as you carefully observe your cat dynamic and provide adequate escape routes. We built cat ramps throughout the entire perimeter of the sitting room which has access to a ‘bridge’ connecting to the kitchen. If George wants to steer clear of Charlie, his nemesis, he can go from sitting room to kitchen without having to touch the floor. He has earned himself another nickname, Ceiling Cat.

George observes his territory on his high cat ramps
cat bridge in multi-cat household
Cats love sitting on high ramps and walkways!

Does your cat have tunnel vision?

Most cats love to tunnel their way under and through things. Their territory consists of pathways which they themselves ‘map’ out in their heads. Whether it’s across the couch, to the mantelpiece to the cabinet, they are mapping out a space that belongs to them and that makes sense to them. You can add to their enrichment by mapping out appropriate vertical and horizontal spaces for your cats to own with confidence. Check out how we built some outdoor cat tunnels attached to the existing catio to further increase their space.

Cat exploring new diy outdoor cat tunnel made from galvanized mesh
Cat Hammock Wall Mounted Cat Bed

Some cats also enjoy the safety of hanging out in low spaces such as under beds, nestled on couches and right there in the middle of the floor, no bed needed, thank you! Our tortie girl, Scout, just loves our closets and has caused many a panic when we were looking high and low (low mostly!) only to find her nestled on one of my clothing shelves. This is one ground-dwelling gal that couldn’t care less for the grandiosity of high catwalk ramps and has her four paws planted firmly on the ground. Throw a box on the kitchen floor and it’s hers for the rest of the afternoon.

3. Ownership of Space

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the box, a simple cardboard 6-sided structure providing endless entertainment for your cat.

In my opinion, the box is the ultimate man cave of the cat world.

Just as my husband enjoys time alone in his man cave, so too, do our cats. I consider the box the feline equivalent to the man cave (or she-shed, if you prefer) as it offers everything in the way of comfort, warmth and a safe retreat from the rest of their cat surroundings. The cardboard substrate also makes for an attractive scratching surface and provides a cat a temporary barrier from any minor stressors and stimuli. A cat literally melts into its space and hence the old adage “If I fits, I sits” is so appropriate. Even at big cat sanctuaries, big cats enjoy the comfort of boxes. If you do lots of online shopping, you have your cat enrichment game sorted out!

Tip: When you’re trying to work and kitty has other plans for your keyboard, place a shoebox on your desk to ‘trap’ him. Sometimes your over-zealous snooperviser needs to be put in his place!

If I fits, I sits. A box of any size and shape is great for cats!
If I fits, I sits. A box of any size and shape is the easiest DIY cat bed to make.

For some outdoor enclosure and catio ideas check out how to build a catio your cat will love, which also features some cat condos for those cats that love to get away from it all – a little home away from home. A few years later we added a skywalk cat bridge to the catio for the cats to explore and time share.

Creating these little nooks and crannies for cats to own and explore, high and low, is essential to improving your cat’s confidence, reduces stress (especially in multi-cat homes) and will make your cat a happier and healthier cat.

4. Litter box Rules!

Don’t fall out of favor with your cat over a dirty litter box. This seems like a no-brainer to keep it clean, but I still come across people who only clean the litter box once every three days or even worse, once per week! The horror! How disgusting if we only flushed our toilets once every three days! To avoid litter box aversion problems you definitely should be scooping at least once per day, at best, twice.

Litter box arithmetic is important – follow the rule of 1 + 1 – meaning there should be the same amount of boxes as there are cats, plus another litter box. Ensure that the litter boxes are big enough and use a cat litter that your cat prefers. Some cats will outright refuse to use the litter box for various reasons but it’s important to do some detective work to find the cause. Ensure that the litter boxes are not all placed in one location, the favorite being the basement. Spread them out on all levels of your home, especially to provide easier access for a senior cat.

5 Engage your little hunter

Cats are born to hunt and kill prey. We are bringing these hunters into our homes expecting them to live indoors without any platform to engage their instincts. That doesn’t mean we have to re-enact a scene from National Geographic, but it is our responsibility to provide them with an environment that mimics their natural world as closely as possible.

cute cat playing with diy puzzle feeder made from egg cartons and bread ties
How to Engage your Cat’s Foraging Instincts With This Fun Food Puzzle

Check out our post on how to make a food puzzle for your cat using household packaging such as egg cartons and cat toys. We added a little extra touch by including some cat grass too!

Offering food puzzles is a great way to fulfill your cat’s instinct for foraging for their food which makes the ‘hunt’ all the more satisfying. Besides being a wonderful source of stimulation and overall environment enrichment for cats, food puzzles are great for preventing feline obesity, which is so often seen in indoor cats!

There is no secret to a happy healthy cat. All it takes is a deeper understanding of how inter-connected cats are to their environment and to offer up environment enrichment solutions that will benefit both you and your cat in the long term. A happy chirpy cat equals a happy you!

So, is your cat a happy cat? Do you think cats are misunderstood? Do you think your cat thinks she’s misunderstood?

Okay kitty, can you give back the dog’s bed now?

Watch Jimmy and friends having a little box fun on a Caturday night! The best things in life are free!

5 Essential Must-Haves for a Happy Chirpy Cat

About the author

The Lady Cat

Whiskers make me smile.
Coffee is good for you.
And cats are for life.
Helping cats live enriched lives with their people.
(Yasaar Nakchbendi)


Leave a comment
  • And number six, get at least one dog so they have someone to hang out with. Our cat bro Bert loves to hang out with us dogs and even plays with us.

  • excellent list!!! we love seeing all your shelves too.

    there was a lady in the clinic the other day when mom was dropping off Panache for surgery. the lady said they have their daughter’s cat and went on vacation for a week and came back to him peeing blood and throwing up. the tech asks “was there someone watching him to know when it started”. no the lady responds….we just left him. ARGH!! why the heck is that OK???

      • Wow. Wishing death on someone because they left their cat alone longer than what you would? That’s some sad sh*t. I’ve left my cat alone for 3-4 days with a huge bowl of food, and water bowls around the house, and had a friend come by and check every now and then, and unbelievably, almost miraculously, the cat was still alive!!! AND……she was sooo happy to see me. Can you believe it?

        Grow up or shut up. This person obviously loves cats, like we all do or else we wouldn’t be on here. Save that energy for the dog market people in China, or the NBA star booting a cat 4 feet off the ground, or the local bully throwing rocks at a homeless cat. How sad……….it’s always the hot, nice, and knowledgable women who take the most heat, and usually from others who aren’t as, um, “noticeable.”


  • Ok, I am going to give you the KUDOS THAT YOU DESERVE……..this post is SUPERB. I think it is the BEST I have seen (and might easily be the best I have EVER seen…keep that in mind when BlogPaws rolls around)……….did you draw all of your graphics and all? I think you did and if so, you are BEYOND TALENTED… God, this post is not only visually exquisite, the information you provided is SUPERB, just SUPERB!!! I pinned it.

    You REALLY put a ton of time into this and it is just fabulous. FANTASTIC!!!!! Ok, I will shut up now.

    • Oh, how you made my day! Thank you so much for that huge compliment, I feel honored and now I’m doing a happy dance because my lost sleep was worth it MOL. Yes I did all the graphics but I’m so lucky to be surrounded by my muses, the ten kitties because they provide me with ample subject matter heh heh!

  • Furr-tabulous post, Miss Yas! I think I need to send Mom out to look for one of those Sunkist boxes with the holes! Your kitties look like they were having super fun with it! I love, love, love boxes & bags of any kind & scratchy posts, too. Mom & Dad made me a post first thing after they adopted me. A couple of months later they got me a kitty tree. I am lounging on the very top of it right now & use it all the time! Dad plans to build me some wood platforms so I can climb up to get to the top of the “armoire.” I can’t wait! Hugs & paw kisses to you & the Chirpies!

  • I would like to see more posts like this. I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I have you bookmarked to see new information on your blog.

  • Okay, first off…you are just plain talented! Your graphics are the BEST! And this post is awesome! I’ve pinned your graphic (who wouldn’t?). The info you’re providing is just wonderful!

  • So true about the box. Anytime we have something delivered in a huge oversized box from Amazon( they need to seriously look at the size of boxes they send stuff in) our Darcy is in heaven. She spends hours messing about in the box but you feel so bad when you need to take out to the trash.

    Some great tips on keeping kitty happy, which after all is our duty!

  • Oh man! Clean the litter box once every few days, what?! Goodness, I have 4 cats, they use 1 litter box and its cleaned three times a day. Basically when they are fed.

    Also love the vertical ledges too… We have a 3 tall cat trees and low scratchers and everything is fine. Especially now that we have toddlers who help with exercise and play!

    Great post and pinned! Thanks! 🙂


  • These are such great tips – things some people really wouldn’t think of! I have a cat-scratch section on my cat tree and my cats NEVER use it – but they always scratch the backs of my chairs. I never really thought that maybe the scratcher section on the tree is too low for them!
    I’ve also really gotten better in the last years of engaging my cat’s hunting and adventurous nature – I’ve only ever had indoor cats (until I moved abroad and my indoor cat became an indoor/outdoor and we got another cat to join her on her adventures). Honestly, I totally fell into that myth, that cats are less maintenance and don’t need as much stimulation.

    Thanks for spreading the word and doing some myth-smashing for our furry little friends!
    I’ll definitely be looking into a different cat post and give that a try!

  • I just found your blog. looking for some plant tips for my new catio. That was a very helpful post. I then moved over to this one and was wondering what was inside Jimmy’s Sunkist box since it seems to move differently than just a ball? Thanks.

    • Hey there Chris! Thanks for pouncing by 😉 and sorry for the late reply. Yes, that toy in Jimmy’s box is a battery operated little ball with a furry tail that moves about randomly. It makes a heck of noise on tiles so I decided to put it to better use by putting it in the box to make it more appealing 🙂

  • Very informative and helpful reading for me as I have also a pet of Cat and these really essential things to keep for happy cat. I have read all your articles and they are all informative. Thank you for sharing it.

  • There are many methods that help in making a cat happy like you can play with your cat, do things that your cat love. The tips in this article are also good. Love this article.

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