As an indoor cat, your life can get pretty boring. You spend your days chasing sunbeams and then curling up for your hours-long naps, eat the same old kibble that continuously fills your bowl, and wait for your owner to come home so you can pounce on their unsuspecting feet.
These same activities day after day can become rather dull for your kitty, so spice up their life with enrichment opportunities. Without adequate enrichment, your cat can become bored, stressed, and unhappy. Unhappy cats can experience a multitude of health and behavior problems, from feline idiopathic cystitis and inappropriate elimination, to aggressive behavior and overgrooming.
To prevent your feline friend from falling victim to health and behavior issues, keep them happy with the following fun activities.
#1: Give your cat opportunities to birdwatch from their favorite lounging spot
Cats generally enjoy watching prey animals go about their daily business, whether or not they can pounce on them. So, instead of sticking a caged mouse in front of your cat, give them the opportunity to birdwatch by placing a bird feeder and birdbath outside their favorite window. Hummingbird feeders, traditional bird feeders, and squirrel feeders can entice a variety of wild creatures to your cat’s personal viewing area, giving them something to watch. Plus, you can scatter prey-like toys around your home, so your cat can practice their stalking and pouncing skills after they’ve had their fill of surveying the neighborhood.
#2: Cater to your cat’s instinctive needs
Cats are both predator and prey species and, as such, instinctively need to perch up high and find places to hide. A well-constructed climbing tower can fulfill both needs, and provide an energy outlet to prevent an overweight, bored cat. Choose a climbing tower that offers several perching locations, along with small, dark hiding spots that are high off the ground—some cats want to be visible when surveying their domain, while others prefer to peer out from a hiding spot.
#3: Serve up your cat’s meals in an interactive toy
House cats have a tendency to overeat, especially the way they are traditionally fed. And, with more than half the nation’s feline population classified as overweight or obese, overfeeding is a serious issue for cats. Instead of ensuring your cat has a full food dish at all times—no matter how much they demand—swap out that bowl for an interactive or puzzle feeder. An interactive toy, like a robotic mouse, can be filled with kibble for your cat to chase and pounce on to snag their meal. Puzzle feeders, like a LickiMat or rubber Kong, can be smeared or stuffed with canned food, and then frozen, to provide an extended mealtime. These can prevent your cat from binging, and entertain them as they figure out how to “catch” their meal.
#4: Train your cat using your positive reinforcement
Contrary to popular belief, you can train a cat. However, cats have a much shorter attention span than dogs, and cats are generally not as motivated by praise and petting. However, if you find a high-value treat your feline friend loves, you can accomplish a great deal, so long as you keep your training sessions short. When teaching your cat new skills, focus on breaking down more complex maneuvers, and rewarding your pet immediately for attempting a behavior. For example, if you want to teach your cat to high five, reward them initially for lifting their paw off the ground, and then slowly raise the reward criteria. In time, your cat will fully lift their paw off the ground and slap it against your hand. Ideally, training sessions should be no longer than five minutes, and always ended on a positive note, to ensure your cat wants to continue training sessions.
#5: Offer a variety of scratching surfaces to keep your cat occupied
If you don’t offer your cat scratching surfaces, they will find their own—and you likely won’t approve of their choice. Give your cat plenty of variety by placing horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces around common scratching spots in your home. The best spots for scratching surfaces typically are next to doorways, furniture, and windows, as your cat will normally use these areas to deposit pheromone markers, stretch, and practice nail care. In general, cats prefer to scratch sisal material, but they may also like cardboard or carpet. Experiment with various materials, angles, and scratching surfaces, to see what your cat likes best. Ensure each scratching item is at least one and a half times your cat’s length, to allow them to fully stretch when using the product.
If your cat is displaying unusual behavior or medical issues, like overgrooming or inappropriate elimination, they could be suffering from boredom-related stress. Contact our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team to schedule an appointment, so we can help determine the cause of your pet’s problem.