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Is Your Cat Bored?

How to entertain your cat (whether you’re home or not)

By Molly "the Cat Lady" Rosen

So you’ve done all the right things for your cats: you feed them the best food you can afford, make sure there’s always fresh water available, maybe you’ve even purchased a piece or two of cat furniture for them. You make sure they get regular vet care, give them cushy spots to sleep, you keep them indoors for their safety, and adore them as much as they will allow. This is all great stuff!! Everything kitty needs, right?

Well, not quite. Sometimes people forget (or may not be aware) that their cat also needs mental stimulation every day. Most of us leave the house every day to go to work or school, and go out in the evenings on occasion as well, leaving our kitties at home. Much of this time, as you well know, they are sleeping (how do you think they stay so beautiful?!); but during their awake times, they need something to do. A bored cat can become destructive, aggressive, overly vocal, eat too much or too little, and/or become depressed.

You may have some toys around (or even lots of toys) that your kitties play with very rarely or never. I’ve seen toys that are literally gathering dust in a corner many times. When is the last time you saw them playing with those toys? If it’s been a while, or even if it hasn’t been, cats need new toys on occasion, and old toys need to be discarded or put aside. I suggest a weekly toy rotation so that old toys can be new again on a regular basis. I have a small Rubbermaid bin about ¼ full of catnip, and "marinate" the toys in catnip when they are not being used. That way, when you give them back, they are exciting again!

Not all cats like the same toys so you might have to experiment a bit to see what yours are into. Make sure you have toys they can play with on their own, as well as toys that you use interactively with them such as wand toys, laser pointers, etc. (See Our Favorite Toys in this blog for some toy suggestions, and Playtime 101 for suggestions on how to play interactively with your cat.)

You should try to spend at least 10 minutes a day playing with each cat. Interactive play provides far more challenge and stimulation than singular play. It also bonds you with your kitty—bonus!

Other tips:

  • If possible, place cat furniture near a window so the cats can have a view.
  • If you can, place a bird feeder outside that window to provide even more stimulation.
  • Make sure there is at least one place in the home where sun comes in and the kitties can sleep in it. What cat doesn’t love a good nap in the sun? This will enhance their overall happiness.
  • Hide treats around the home before you leave for them to hunt while you’re gone. (You may need to make this game more challenging as your kitties get wise to your hiding spots!)
  • Give your cats one of the many devices, such as treat balls, invented specifically to challenge them while providing treats as rewards.
  • If you can leave YouTube on for them, it’s chock-full of videos for cats to watch. Just make sure it’s set to auto-play the next video, or make it a long one (some videos are 8 hour long)!
  • Change things up—make a fort! Turn a chair over, grab a blanket, put some boxes here and there, toss a blanket partially over, position some type of hanging string toys, whatever comes to you—be creative! Do this before you leave for the day and guaranteed your cats will be curious and have to explore it and hopefully play in it as well. Every day, change something to keep it interesting for them. It’s amazing how just rearranging stuff you already have can make it seem brand new to your cats!

Overall, the more stimulation you can provide for your cat, the happier and healthier they will be. Let me know if you have any ideas that I didn’t include here!


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