Why your cat stares are FIERCE
A cat looks outside of the window

It is probably not uncommon to see your cat staring out the window (dogs too for that matter!) We found an interesting article to explain the whys and hows of cat staring!

In a review of enrichment practices, Sarah Ellis (2009) says that windows with an interesting view provide important visual enrichment for cats. Of course, its what the cat finds interesting that counts. Its possible that being unable to reach or interact with things on the other side of the window could cause frustration. As with any enrichment practice, you have to take the cats perspective.

How much time does the average domestic cat spend at a window? In a survey of 577 cats by Melissa Shyan-Norwalt, caregivers reported that their cats spent less than five hours a day at the window, with the median time reported as two hours. This doesnt surprise me, since even an indoor cat will have other activities to keep her busy: napping, grooming, playing with toys, sitting on someones lap or next to them on the settee while they watch tv, interacting with fellow cats and any other pets in the home, and so on. I was surprised to read that almost 16% of the cats were reported as spending more than five hours a day looking out of the window.

This study also asked what the cats did at the window. The most common activity was watching birds, small wildlife or foliage. Reported less often, but still common, were watching other cats, people, vehicles and insects. This is useful information since it helps us work out what will provide visual enrichment, from the cats point of view; it suggests that they would prefer a green outlook that is attractive to birds and other wildlife.

There are several ways you can make windows more interesting for your cat. If you feed the birds in winter, you could position a bird table in sight of the window so the cat can watch birds coming to feed. A bird bath would also encourage birds to come. In summer, if there is a window close to an outside light, you could put the outside light on at dusk and leave the curtains open for a while. The cat can watch the moths and other insects that are attracted to the light. My cats love this and one of them will even come to find me if I have forgotten to turn the light on for him. He leaps up at the window trying to catch insects on the other side, so its a great game for him and gives him some exercise as well.

Another idea is to make sure that cats have a choice of windows, or to let them use a window ledge that is high up, since cats like to be in an elevated position. And if the window can be safely left open, the cat can enjoy the scents that drift in on the breeze.

Does your cat spend much time at the window? What does your cat like to watch?

Ellis, S. (2009) Environmental enrichment: Practical strategies for improving feline welfare. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 11, 901-912.
Shyan-Norwalt, M.R. (2005) Caregiver perceptions of what indoor cats do for fun. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 8(3), 199-209.
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