Accommodate Natural Needs

Question:
I saw your web post about why indoor cats like to roll in the dirt. I work out of town.  Is there any way to bring this “outdoorness” inside while I’m away? Maybe a box of sand or tiny pebbles like in fish tanks? But will he confuse it with his litter box? I’d appreciate your thoughts, even if you think I’m being silly!

Dr. Nichol:
Silly? Caring for the essential behavioral needs of wild animals kept as pets should be required of all cat owners. Pets are more than entertainment; they promote better physical and emotional health. The least we can do is make their indoor lives as natural as possible. What’s silly is our absurd human belief that everybody should live just like us. I’m better now. Thanks. I just needed to vent.

Cats are not human wannabees. They hang out with others, sometimes. Tall indoor climbing opportunities and hide boxes allow an escape from the snarky behavior of other household creatures. Plenty of clean places to eliminate without harassment from a higher status feline brute is another of life’s necessities. Sisal or carpet covered posts are good for natural scratching behavior but research has shown that cardboard scratchers are the bees knees for most kitties. Local pet supply retailers carry a good variety.

While rolling naked on the ground, clad only in a smile, wouldn’t be considered normal human behavior (well, not in my neighborhood), it feels great for cats because it stimulates their skin. Your idea is spot-on. A large box of pea gravel or hard-packed dirt should work well for self-administered feline scalp massages. Soft, clumping litter belongs in the litter pans. Be creative. For the best indoor living environment your cat needs you to channel your inner savage.