Cat Play: How to Keep Your Kitty Engaged
A bored cat is not a happy cat. Making sure your furry friend is mentally stimulated and engaged through cat play will make them happier and likely to bring you more peace too, especially if they are acting out through destructive behaviors like shredding your curtains or digging up your potted plants. Your cat might also show signs of boredom by acting out aggressively or showing signs of depression. If you're concerned about your cat's behavior, your first step should be a trip to the vet to make sure there is no underlying health condition causing your cat's issues. But if the vet can't find anything wrong, you might simply have a bored cat on your hands. Here are some simple ideas to help you exercise your cat's mind, whether you're home or not:
1. Make Mealtime a Challenge
Rather than just filling up your cat's bowl, buy them a "puzzle feeder" that requires them to figure out how to get the food out of a maze or series of obstacles in order to eat it. You can buy any number of puzzle feeders, or make your own by simply cutting holes large enough for kibble to get through in an empty (and clean) plastic bottle, cardboard tube or another kind of container. Another cat brain game that's easy to do is to hide food throughout the house. A scavenger hunt for cats is easy to set up and a great way to keep your cat entertained while you're away while also encouraging physical activity. Try hiding small amounts of food throughout the house by using the cups of a cut-up egg carton.
2. Encourage Their Natural Hunting Instinct
Motorized mice toys, a light beam from a flashlight, or even a simple string that you pull across the floor can help keep your cat stimulated and mentally engaged by encouraging their natural instinct to hunt. Bonus: their antics as they ready to pounce are sure to make you laugh and keep the whole family entertained! You can increase their interest even more by giving them boxes to hide in as they wait for the "prey" to approach. Along with mental stimulation, this kind of cat play is a good way for you and your family to spend time and bond with your cat as well as encourage them to exercise.
3. Let Them Climb
Cat trees and cat condos are amazing for mental and physical stimulation in cats. Coded in their DNA from their ancestor roots is a desire to be up high where they are less susceptible to attacks from predators. It's also an easier way for them to stalk their prey. Cat trees and cat condos allow your cat to climb and scratch as their cat origin relatives did. They can come in all shapes and sizes, so there are plenty of opportunities to find ones that they'll love, but also won't clash with your home décor. You'll also enjoy watching them climb and play peekaboo with their new play toy. It can also reduce destructive behaviors, as they will understand that they may scratch and climb on their tree, but not your other furniture.
4. Give Them a View
Cats love to see what is going on. If you have a window that overlooks a bird feeder or another equally engaging scene make a comfortable spot for them to jump up and watch. It's amazing how much a cat can keep themselves entertained following birds along the window keeping their mind exercised. If you don't have a particularly engaging view, you can set a television to a nature scene of birds or squirrels. This can keep them entertained for hours, just make sure that the television isn't within scratching distance, as they might try to paw at it.
There are also a number of cat-friendly apps out there. If you have a tablet (you'll want to make sure it is kitty-proofed) you can download one of these games. They are designed to help stimulate cats as they can paw at different objects on the screen and watch them go sliding across the screen as if they were playing with a toy in the house.
5. Adopt a Friend
A second cat might be just what the doctor ordered for your bored kitty, says Companion Animal Psychology. Two cats can keep each other company when you're away, play together, and even groom each other. But before rushing off to adopt a cat, take into consideration the extra costs and care associated with having a second cat. You don't want to adopt unless you're sure you're ready for the responsibility. Also, introduce a new pet slowly as the experience may be overwhelming for both cats. One great way to make sure your cat (and you) are a good match with a second cat is to foster before adopting.
Just like humans, cats can get bored by sitting around the house all day. But by trying out these simple tips, you can help your cat beat the boredom blues by staying stimulated, engaged, active and a joyful member of your household for years to come!
Kara Murphy is a freelance writer in Erie, Pennsylvania. She has a cat named Olive whose favorite toy is a cardboard box.