Mutimodal Environmental Modification (MEMO) For Cats

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Lilac point SiameseWhat is multimodal environmental modification?

MEMO is several stress reduction techniques recommended in the management of feline idiopathic cystitis, which is inflammation of the bladder. The term idiopathic means the underlying cause is not known, and a diagnosis of FIC is made when all other causes have been excluded.

While the exact cause may not be known, stress is thought to be a contributing factor to the development of FIC. Stress can be a manifestation of moving house, changes in the home, inter-cat issues, renovations, dirty litter trays, recent veterinary visit.

What are the symptoms of feline idiopathic cystitis?

  • Straining to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent genital licking
  • Urinating outside the litter tray

Multimodal environmental modification

The goal of MEMO is to institute changes in the home to reduce FIC by decreasing stressors. The guidelines below were adapted and expanded from Clinical evaluation of multimodal environmental modification (MEMO) in the management of cats with idiopathic cystitis.

Provide safe hiding places

Cat hiding

Cats need plenty of places to feel safe; elevated positions are optimal because they give cats the chance to hide and provide a good view of the environment. My cats love to sit next to the large plant on our 7-foot tall bookcase, which has a good vantage point of the living areas as well as the garden.

Cages and covered beds can also offer a place to hide for cats who would prefer not to be up high but still have the choice to hide if they want to do so.

Litter trays

Litter tray success

Litter trays are a constant source of frustration for cats as well as pet owners. As hard as we try, it’s easy to make mistakes.

Keep litter trays clean, scoop out urine and solids twice a day and empty and rinse out once a week. Replace with clean litter.

Have enough litter trays; there should be one tray per cat and one extra if you have three cats, four litter trays.

Don’t line litter trays in one long row, but distribute them around the house. Make sure they are in quiet and secure areas and away from the cat’s food and water bowls. If you live in a multi-story house, make sure there is a litter tray on each level.

Avoid the use of scented cat litter.

Diet

Where possible, increase production and dilution of urine by switching to a wet (canned) diet which has higher water content.

Increase water take

Most cats aren’t big water drinkers; this means that the cat’s urine is concentrated as the kidneys filter as much water back into the system. Switching to a canned diet can increase water intake, other ways include providing cats with a pet water fountain, regularly changing the water, clean water bowls once a day, have multiple water stations in the home. 

Provide tools and opportunities to express their playful and predatory behaviour

Provide with tools/opportunities to play to express their predatory and playful behaviour. In the wild, cats stalk, catch and eat their prey, house cats have their food presented to them with no effort. By mimicking the cat’s natural hunting drive, we can provide them with physical as well as mental stimulation. Interactive wand toys (such as Da Bird) are perfect for this, as they are an easy way to incorporate predatory games.

Pheromones

Feliway is a synthetic pheromone which mimics the cat’s facial pheromones which induce a sense of well being when the cat rubs on an object. The use of synthetic pheromones can reduce stress in cats.

Environmental enrichment

Cat condo

More and more cats are kept exclusively indoors to keep them safe from disease, predators and cars. This has expanded the health and lifespan of cats, but if not implemented with the cat’s physical and emotional needs in mind, they can become bored and stressed.

Provide perches, scratching posts, and plenty of toys, including interactive toys and feeders. Rotate toys, so the cat doesn’t become bored. Include different kinds of toys, mice, balls, interactive toys and feeders, and we all know how much cats love boxes and paper bags (with the cord handles removed to avoid accidents. 

Place perches close to windows, so the cat has a view of the world. Large cat trees provide a place for the cat to scratch and stretch his shoulders, climb, and watch from a height. 

Audio and visual stimulation with nature footage can keep cats occupied when owners are out of the house.

Resolve inter-cat conflict

Resolve inter-cat aggression

If there is more than one cat in the home and there are issues, speak to a veterinarian to try and resolve this.

Ways to help include:

  • Provide separate key resources (feeding stations, litter trays, perches, beds)
  • Ensure there is enough space for each cat to avoid one another
  • Don’t punish the cats for not getting on
  • Never force cats to be together if they don’t want to
  • Desex (spay and neuter) all cats in the house
  • Create positive associations between two cats when they are together by playing or giving treats
  • In some cases, it may be necessary to separate and re-introduce cats slowly, once again using positive associations

Increase interaction with the cat 

Make time to interact if or when the cat initiates it. Interactions can include sitting with the cat, grooming and stroking in addition to playing. Don’t force a cat to interact if he doesn’t want to, but make sure the cat receives plenty of human attention if he does.