With their natural litheness and inquisitiveness, cats appear to be born to play.
Unfortunately, many pet parents regard their cats as stodgy old souls who prefer napping in the sun to romping around the living room after kittenhood.
According to Kristen Collins, CPDT, ASPCA animal trainer, cats enjoy having something to do. In the absence of constructive activities, they may amuse themselves by excessive meowing, peeing outside the litter box, and furniture scratching. Giving your cat brain-stimulating activities from an early age has also been shown to help prevent or delay cognitive dysfunction syndrome. To keep your feline family member happy and active, consider the following activities:
- Provide opportunities for exploration. Cats enjoy discovering new places and objects, as mentioned by W.R Shaw in Keeping Cats from Boring. Make the most of this characteristic by removing items that your cat can investigate. Interactive performance is the most enjoyable type of play. (Learn how to hang a cat bird feeder here.)
- Make sure she has access to “cat TV.” While you may enjoy watching television, your cat is more likely to enjoy exploring the great outdoors. Her favorite shows include watching the wren family in your cherry tree or the next-door neighbor who walks her Corgi every day at 3 p.m., so give her unrestricted access to windows in your home, including perches if necessary. Outside the windows where your cat spends the most time, hang bird and squirrel feeders. You should also get her a cat condo and some strategically placed scratching posts.)
Don’t overlook indoor viewing: many cats are fascinated by fish aquariums. Even mechanical aquariums with moving fake fish on a screen can entice your cat. Even if your cat does not enjoy television as much as you do, she may enjoy specialty cat videos that feature close-up footage of birds and rodents.
- Allow your cat to go “hunting” for food. Allow your cat to work (or hunt) for a portion of her food rather than letting her graze on it all day, which can lead to overeating, according to the ASPCA. You can accomplish this by placing food in meal-dispensing toys or hiding it around the house. A timed food dispenser for her meals will also keep your cat alert. (Learn how to make a cat-powered feeder here.)
- Make time for supervised outdoor play. The great outdoors can be a dangerous place for your cat. (Learn more about outdoor cat myths.) She can have a great time if she is allowed to go outside in a controlled environment. Teaching your cat to walk on a leash is one option. Believe it or not, it is possible! Another option for allowing her to go outside is to construct or purchase an enclosed room, crate, or tunnel. These areas allow cats to experience their surroundings’ sights, sounds, and smells without allowing them to roam freely. Before letting your cat out, make sure she is heartworm-free and up to date on her vaccinations.
- Spending quality time with you. As simple, everyday factors, you can use paper shopping bags (with the handles snipped off) and cardboard boxes. During daily play sessions with you, your cat can benefit from increased intellectual stimulation and aerobic activity. Consider activities that allow your cat to exercise her natural hunting instincts. Cats enjoy toys that look like prey, such as rodents. You can make her catch the toys by moving them toward and away from her. Wand toys encourage your cat to engage in hunting-style play while also keeping her mind and body active.
You can engage in a variety of other activities and games with your cat. You could even decide to improve both of your skills by teaching your cat tricks like the high five. You and your cat will be surprised at how creative you and your cat can be! Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to provide activities for your cat that will keep her happy, healthy, and content.
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