Do Cats Need Sensory Stimulation at Home?

Considering that, for health and safety reasons, it's recommended to keep cats indoors, sensory stimulation in the home is a key aspect to avoid the development of unwanted behavior.
Do Cats Need Sensory Stimulation at Home?
Sebastian Ramirez Ocampo

Written and verified by the veterinarian and zootechnician Sebastian Ramirez Ocampo.

Last update: 18 November, 2023

By nature, cats are curious, adventurous, intelligent, and overly sensitive animals. Although keeping them indoors prevents them from getting lost, run over, catching diseases, or getting poisoned, the lack of the stimuli they find outdoors can lead to aggressive, destructive behavior, stress and anxiety. So, do cats need sensory stimulation at home?

The solution here definitely isn’t to allow our pets access to the outside world. Instead, there are several strategies that focus on improving the physical and mental well-being of domestic cats, known as environmental enrichment. Learn in the following words how you can make your small feline feel more at ease indoors than outdoors.

Cats need sensory stimulation and environmental enrichment

Environmental enrichment in cats is defined as actions or objects that stimulate our cat both physically and mentally. In the same way, by means of these methods, we influence our pet’s well-being in a positive way. In addition to this, we prevent the appearance of behavioral disorders and more serious conditions such as obesity.

According to the above, domestic cats can be stimulated through their senses using smells, images, sounds, and flavors, in order to avoid monotony and boredom in their home.

Olfactory stimulation of cats

Smells are very important for cats, as they’re very sensitive to them due to their nature as hunters. For example, a plant known as catnip can put cats in a state of euphoria and relaxation just by smelling it.

Generally, most felines are sensitive to this plant and exhibit behaviors such as licking, biting, or rubbing after they’ve smelt it, for up to 15 minutes. It’s recommended to provide it in the form of dry grass or even spray it on their scratching post or other toys we have at home. As well as the famous catnip, other plants that provide similar effects are matatabi and valerian.

It’s up to you to supply them little by little with the different essences that exist on the market and see which one they respond better to. Stimulation through smell will undoubtedly make your pet more intrigued by the environment they’re in. In addition, it’s a practical and economical way to entertain them, as you can grow them yourself at home.

A cat smelling.

Visual enrichment

As for visual stimuli, the most practical and necessary one for cats is to be able to see sunlight. Try to provide them with a area of your home where they can perceive the first rays of the morning sun and the last rays of the evening sun. Likewise, as they’re animals that like to spend most of the day looking out of the window, it’s best to place some sort of mesh to prevent them from escaping into the street.

Likewise, several studies have suggested the use of videos on electronic screens that simulate the passage of birds or fish in order to entertain them. However, other research doesn’t recommend their use, as they can frustrate cats by preventing them from interacting with what they see as their prey. It’s important for you to identify the personality, behavior, and response to these types of strategies, because you’re the one who knows and interacts with the cat the most.

Taste stimulation

Taking into account that cats are able to perceive sweet and salty flavors very well, it’s sometimes recommended to mix their concentrated food with wet food. This will stimulate our pet’s appetite and will ensure it doesn’t get tired of always eating the same food.

The ideal thing is to provide this type of food only occasionally, because only consuming these items won’t meet our pet’s energetic and nutritional requirements.

Auditory enrichment

Believe it or not, stimulation by certain sounds can create a sense of calm in cats. These animals have a very sensitive ear and can perceive certain sounds that we humans can’t.

It’s recommended to make use of certain playlists that can be found on the Internet. Likewise, the use of toys with bells awakens their interest and entertains them Avoid placing collars with bells on them, as these can disturb them.

A cat playing.

Now that you know cats need sensory stimulation and its importance, it’s your duty to prevent monotony and boredom in your pet on a daily basis. We hope these tips will work for you and that you can enrich your home environment with some of our ideas.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

    1. Rochlitz I. A review of the housing requirements of domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) kept in the home. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2005;93(1):97-109.
    2. Newberry RC. Environmental enrichment: Increasing the biological relevance of captive environments. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 1995;44(2):229-43.
    3. Ellis SLH, Wells DL. The influence of visual stimulation on the behaviour of cats housed in a rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2008;113(1):166-74.
    4. Bradshaw JW. The evolutionary basis for the feeding behavior of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus). The Journal of nutrition. 2006;136(7 Suppl):1927s-31s.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.