Your feline friend gazes out the window, watching you and your dog head off for a hike, while they’re stuck at home with nothing to do. Your bored cat secretly envies your dog and their freedom to leave the house and explore the outdoors. Unfortunately, many house cats lead relatively boring lives, especially once they’re out of the feisty, playful kitten stage. To help your cat retain that kittenhood spark well into old age, give them a wide variety of enrichment activities and items to encourage physical and mental stimulation. Here are five ways to help spice up your kitty’s home life.
#1: Turn your home’s vertical space into a kitty playground
As both a predator and prey species, your cat needs lofty spaces where they can feel safe as they survey their territory. Place a multitude of feline-friendly pieces of furniture in your home’s vertical space. Cat shelves outfitted with cozy napping nooks can be hung on your wall, while climbing towers and scratching posts can be placed in out-of-the-way spots against walls. These high perches allow your cat to get exercise, care for their nails, and fulfill their needs for safety and watching their territory.
#2: Determine your cat’s prey preference for toys
Does your cat scoff at your convoluted feather wand dances, refusing to play with such an object? Or, maybe your cat is the only one you’ve ever met who turns down a catnip mouse. Discovering your cat’s prey preference will help encourage them to play, be active, and enjoy mental enrichment. Not all cats appreciate the same toy types, and determining what your cat likes best can be trial and error. Following The Ohio State University’s Indoor Pet Initiative guidelines, purchase a variety of toys from the three basic prey groups—birds, rodents, and bugs. Bird toys can be covered in feathers, make chirping noises, or be objects suspended in air. Toys that resemble mice can be stuffed animals, fur strips, or balls, and are especially intriguing when they move. Bug-like toys can include laser pointers, a piece of string with a knot at the end, or dry food tossed across the floor. Monitor your cat’s response carefully to each prey group and see which “animal” piques their interest.
#3: Switch to puzzle feeders over a food dish
Full food dishes are boring and lead to overeating, which in turn creates a host of medical issues. Skip all the problems and toss out the food dish, and turn to food puzzles instead. If you feed your cat only canned food, soft-food puzzle options are available. LickiMats allow soft food to be spread—and frozen for longevity—creating the perfect long-lasting meal for your cat that requires them to work for their daily calories. You can also stuff a cat-sized rubber Kong with a dry- and wet-food mixture, or create your own food puzzles out of cardboard tubes, paper, and boxes.
#4: Engage in daily activity sessions with your cat
No matter what activity engages your cat the most, the most important part is ensuring they get up and get moving each day. Whether you’re flicking a feather wand around, tossing a mouse on top of a climbing tower, or practicing your clicker training, routine physical activity is essential for warding off problem behaviors caused by lack of environmental enrichment.
#5: Provide independent enrichment opportunities for your cat
You may not be able to play with your cat every day—a crazy day at work leads to an exhausted evening and an early bedtime, for example—but that doesn’t mean your cat can’t have fun on their own. Invest in interactive toys and objects that encourage independent play, activity, and thinking. Interactive toys, such as robotic mice and food puzzles, will occupy your cat’s attention while you’re gone. A lookout perch next to a window overlooking a busy bird feeder can keep your cat engaged for hours, and may trigger a play session when they pounce on their favorite toy.
If your cat has had inadequate environmental enrichment, they may be showing abnormal behaviors. Cats who are overgrooming, stressed, reclusive, or aggressive may need a physical and mental stimulation boost, or they may be suffering from a medical condition. Contact our Oliver Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s appointment.