While cats thrive on routine, they also need an enriching environment to battle boredom-induced stress as part of their overall wellness care. The same monotonous environment, day in and day out, can cause stress in cats, and lead to behavior problems or medical issues. Without appropriate activities that fulfill your cat’s needs, your home may be marked with scratches, urine, and other signs of an unhappy kitty.
#1: Play to your cat’s predatory nature
Outdoor cats use most of their energy hunting, stalking, and killing prey. Household cats still have these instincts to spend their awake hours finding food, so allowing your house cat to mimic these hunting tendencies through play and meals is an excellent way to provide them with environmental enrichment. Try the following predatory games with your cat:
- Let your cat hunt-stalk-kill — Use a feather wand or fishing pole toy to reenact a hunt-stalk-kill sequence by darting the toy out of your cat’s reach. Once your cat has pounced on and “killed” the toy, toss them a small plush mouse, and let them carry their “prey” away in victory.
- Give your cat a kick — Use a kicker toy to turn your house cat into a bunny-kicking beast. Unlike interactive toys that involve hunting and stalking behaviors, these toys can be used alone, and are often filled with catnip to entice your cat to play. The best kicker toys for your cat have a soft feel similar to a prey animal.
#2: Dump your cat’s food dish
Despite being domesticated for thousands of years, cats still have not adapted to one or two meals per day. Instead, they prefer several small meals each day, keeping in line with the 10 to 20 hunting attempts of their wild ancestors. By feeding your cat appropriately, you’ll reduce boredom, stress, anxiety, and obesity. Give the following feeding options a trial run:
- Puzzle your cat — Feed your cat their allotted calories each day with a food puzzle instead of a dish. These puzzles will not only engage their mind, but also help burn calories as they work for their meals.
- Play hide-and-seek — Hide small food piles (e.g., five food kibbles) throughout your home for your cat to find. Begin with easy hiding spots to ease your cat into this game, and then increase the difficulty.
#3: Create a feline-friendly area in your home’s vertical space
Cats are considered both predator and prey, which is why they love high viewpoints. From above ground, they can scout out their next meal, while also observing any approaching predators. Climbing towers, lookout perches, and cat shelves are great ways to get your cat off the ground and provide a safe resting place. Position a perch with a fleece-lined, partially hidden resting spot next to a window overlooking a bird feeder, for the ultimate kitty adventure outpost.
#4: Use trial-and-error to discover your cat’s favorites
Like dogs, not all cats enjoy the same play styles and toys. Ohio State University’s Indoor Pet Initiative has fantastic resources on helping your indoor cat live their best life. Follow their guide to help determine your cat’s prey preference, which will encourage your pet to play more often, thereby reducing stress and boredom.
#5: Clicker train your cat to learn a variety of tricks
Cats actually can be trained to perform tricks as well as dogs. Clicker training, which involves a device that immediately marks and cements the desired behavior in your pet’s mind, is a great way to teach your feline friend new skills. With time, patience, and plenty of rewards, you can teach your kitty any cool trick you can dream up, including “high five” and “wave,” or useful skills like closing a drawer or cupboard. Check out this list of neat tricks to get you started.
#6: Train your cat to accept a harness and leash for outdoor walks
Does your house cat try to slip through open doors to explore the great outdoors? If they have an adventurous spirit, invest in a properly fitted cat harness and light leash to walk them around the block. Be cautious if dogs live close by, because they can startle your cat, and consider sticking to your yard for a fun-filled exploration session if many dogs are around.
#7: Provide multiple scratching options for your cat
Cats, including those who live alone, have an innate need to mark their territory, and scratching, which deposits visual and olfactory markers on surfaces, is one common method. To persuade your cat to scratch in the appropriate spots, provide a variety of scratching posts in ideal locations. Place vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces by furniture, rugs, or room entrances, ensuring they are large enough to allow your cat to fully stretch when scratching.
By preventing boredom in cats, you’ll also thwart behavior problems, and some medical conditions, such as obesity and feline idiopathic cystitis. If you need help with enriching your cat’s environment, or they are already demonstrating boredom and inappropriate behaviors, contact your Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center of Willis team for help.