How to Avoid Kitty Boredom
There is substantial evidence that cats who spend their entire lives indoors outlive their outdoor-only counterparts. However, keeping an indoor cat happy and healthy requires more than just proper nourishment and regular medical treatment; you must also enrich your cat’s habitat. Exercising a cat’s natural tendencies with hunting and foraging games can do wonders for his or her health.
Even in a small flat and on a tight budget, you can keep your cat busy and interested with a little imagination. And the good news is that enrichment research has shown that toys that are withdrawn and then returned after several weeks retain much of their novelty; thus, rotate your cat’s toys on a regular basis to stretch your enrichment budget. Begin with a few of these feline-friendly activities, but go cautiously and make sure kitty’s physician approves.
Separate the food rations for each day into small amounts. Toss a few small goodies in random directions after placing the clusters about the house. Not only will this stimulate active foraging, but it will also prevent kitten from devouring her meals too rapidly.
To make a wonderful starter puzzle, toss a few treats into a square Rubbermaid® bottle and leave it on the floor with the lid off.
Any plastic container with a tight-fitting lid can be transformed into a hanging puzzle. Simply cut two or three slots along the bottom exterior edge of the container and fill with snacks. Hang this puzzle from a doorknob by threading a cord through the lid. Once your cat has mastered it, you may encourage exercise by lifting it higher.
Make washable scent baits out of discarded socks. Simply dab a dab of perfume, lotion, vanilla extract, or even peanut butter inside the sock, or sprinkle a pinch of any aromatic spice inside, and rub it over a slice of lunchmeat to take up the scent. Spread the socks around the home, and your cat will be on the search for hours, enjoying the variety of odors. If you’re short on time, simply mark a scent trail with a piece of cheese and hide it at the end of the route.
Suction-cup bird feeders can be placed outside your cat’s favorite window. Hungry birds will keep you entertained for hours. Don’t put feeders too close to the ground, as this exposes birds to enemy attacks, and keep the windows closed – ‘enthusiastic cats can push right through screens.
Place a ping-pong ball in the bathtub and watch your cat sail it around the curves in her pursuit of the elusive orb.
Make beds, dens, tunnels, and mazes out of cardboard boxes.
Attach small toys to short lengths of cord and drape them from the ceiling of a large package to make a “busy box.” In the den, cut window flaps at various heights.
Include a “Tiger Tug,” a tiny version of a popular theme among both tigers and chimps. Feed both ends of a length of parachute rope through small holes into the box. On either end, tie a toy or a huge knot. When the cat tugs on one end, the other end springs to life mysteriously. Run the ends into separate boxes in multicat households.
W.R. Shaw is a freelance writer who lives and works in the Pacific Northwest. She credits her expertise in enrichment to 16 years working with chimpanzees and to the playful demands of her Norwegian forest cat, Finn.
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