We all want our pets to be healthy and happy. And when it comes to indoor cats, it’s important for them to receive enough mental and physical stimulation through things like dedicated playtime with their owner on a regular basis.
Here we’ve listed some strategies all cat owners can use to keep their indoor cat happy and stimulated to prevent boredom in even the most sedentary felines.
Cat chat time
According to Curiosity Killed The’s Beth Adelman, a Certified Feline Behaviour Consultant, talking is top of the list for beneficial interaction between you and your kitty. Adelman says that while it may not seem like play, it’s really meaningful to your cat. For cats who don’t like to be touched, this is even more important and helps build trust between the cat and their owner. To talk to your cat, get down on his/her level and at a normal distance you would use when talking with a friend. Adelman says it doesn’t matter what is said, just speak softly and in a high pitched tone, saying your cat’s name often. Keep relaxed and don’t stare as this will make your cat feel challenged. Blink slowly, especially after your cat blinks. A cat blinking is an indication that they are feeling relaxed, because they no longer feel a need to keep constant watch of what you are doing. Your blink in response is your way of showing that you too are feeling relaxed.
For households with more than one cat, make sure each one gets a few minutes of one on one cat chat time with you.
Cats love to be chased as a form of play, even well into adulthood. Often a cat will stand at one end of a hallway and look back at you as they take a few steps away. This is a cue that they would like to be chased. Cats will generally let you know by making sounds if they aren’t happy with how close you are chasing behind or if they’ve had enough. It’s important that while playing this game your cat’s tail is always up, which means he/she is having a good time. If their tail is down it could be a sign that they are running in fear1.
Change up toys on a regular basis
Just like people, cats need variety, so rotating the toys they play with is important to keep them interested. While specifically designed cat toys like feather wands, toy mice and balls that make sounds are great for cats, so are balls of yarn and crumpled pieces of paper. Cats are relatively easy to please2.
A good idea is to rotate their toys around, and always put them away after playtime finishes. If your cat has constant access to all of their toys, they will become bored with them. Always remember with crumpled paper and paper bags to dispose of them after playtime so they don’t become a hazard for your beloved pet.
According to an article from Nutr3, cats enjoy playing fetch in the same way dogs do. Make sure you select a toy you can throw to the other side of the room, and something small enough that your cat can carry it in their mouth. Once your cat has run to catch the toy, encourage them to bring it back to you as this action might not come naturally.
Reinforcing the behaviour using healthy treats and petting will ensure that your cat enjoys playing fetch as much as any canine.
Games for cats now available on your tablet
Did you know that there are now apps available on tablets for cats? While these games aren’t so great for giving your cat a physical workout, and so should only be used on occasion, the moving mice, fish and other critters on the screen will certainly spark your cat’s curiosity4.
Cats love playing with light reflections. Catching the light with a CD, watch or other reflective surface and then letting it hit low on a wall or on the floor is a great way to get your cat excited and off the couch. However, be wary of using laser pointers as they can damage your cat’s eyes.
It’s really important too that light play isn’t the only playtime you have with your cat. It can be extremely frustrating for them to try to catch something and to never be able to do so. Before you decide to finish up playtime for the day, use something that they can catch5.
Create places for your cat to hide
As predators, cats like to hide and jump out at prey. Give your cat a place to hide by throwing a towel over your coffee table, buying a play tunnel, or even just by using a cardboard box. Entice your cat by dangling a toy at the entrance of their favourite hiding place and watch them try to pounce to catch the toy6.
Entertaining stay at home cats
If your cat spends a lot of time home alone, add some items to keep them occupied. A scratching post for one is a must have. Cats love scratching, and it’s also great exercise for them. A climbing frame is another great idea. As natural climbers, cats want to move and explore vertically. Giving your cat some vantage points in the home near windows allows them to have a safe place to sit back and relax while they watch what’s going on outside.
Toys that allow you to hide treats within are also wonderful for cats and can keep them occupied for hours as they try to get the treats out7.
Playing with your cat for 10-15 minutes a few times a day will not only keep your cat happy and healthy, but will also strengthen the relationship you have with your furry best friend.