By Jennifer Sellers, Petfinder contributor
With their natural litheness and inquisitiveness, it seems cats are born for play. But, unfortunately, after kittenhood many pet parents tend to think of their cats as stodgy old souls who prefer napping in the sun to romping around the living room.
On the contrary, cats like having things to do, according to Kristen Collins, CPDT, ASPCA animal trainer. And without constructive activities to fall back on, they may entertain themselves in undesirable ways, such as excessive meowing, peeing outside the litter box and furniture scratching. Giving your cat brain-stimulating activities from a young age has also been shown to help prevent or delay the onset of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. So to keep your feline family member happy and active, consider entertaining her in the following ways:
1. Provide opportunities for exploration. As mentioned by W.R Shaw in Keeping Cats from Getting Bored, Cats love discovering new places and objects. Take advantage of this trait by leaving out things your kitty can explore. Paper shopping bags (with the handles snipped off) and cardboard boxes are simple, everyday things you can use. You might want to also invest in a cat condo or a few well-placed scratching posts for her.
2. Make sure she has access to “cat TV.” You might like watching television for entertainment, but your cat probably prefers seeing the great outdoors. Her can’t-miss programming includes viewing the family of wrens in your cherry tree, or the next-door neighbor who walks her Corgi every day at 3 p.m., so give her unobstructed access to windows in your home — adding perches, where necessary. If possible, hang bird and squirrel feeders outside of the windows your cat frequents most. (Learn more about setting up a bird feeder for your cats here.)
Don’t forget indoor viewing: Many cats are fascinated with fish aquariums. Even mechanical aquariums, with fake fish traveling across a screen, can appeal to your kitty. And though she may not enjoy television as much as you, your cat might take to specialty cat videos that feature close-up footage of birds and rodents.
3. Set up opportunities for your cat to “hunt” for food. Rather than letting her graze on her food all day, which the ASPCA notes can lead to your cat overeating allow your cat to work (or hunt) for a portion of it. You can do this by hiding food throughout the house or placing it in food-dispensing toys. Even a timed food dispenser for her meals will help keep your cat on her toes. (Learn how to make a cat-powered feeder here.)
4. Allow supervised time outside. The great outdoors can be a dangerous place for your cat. (Learn about outdoor cat myths.) But if she’s allowed outside in a controlled manner, it can be a delightful time for her. One way to do this is to teach your cat how to walk on a leash. Believe it or not, it can be done! Another way to allow her outdoors is to create or purchase an enclosed room, crate or tunnel. Such areas allow cats to experience the sights, sounds and scents of the outside world, without allowing them to roam free. Just make sure your cat’s on heartworm preventative and up to date on her vaccinations before venturing outside with her.
5. Playtime with you. The best kind of play is interactive play. During daily play sessions with you, your cat can enjoy a greater degree of intellectual stimulation and aerobic activity. In particular, consider activities that allow your cat to exercise her hunting instincts. Toys that resemble prey, such as rodents, are popular with cats. You can move these toys toward and away from her so that she has to catch them. Wand toys offer another way for you to tempt your cat into hunting-style play — all while keeping her mind and body active.
There are many other activities and games you can share with your cat. You might even decide to advance both of your skills and teach your cat a few tricks, like high five. You’ll be surprised at how creative both you and your kitty can get! Regardless of what you choose, it’s most important that you give your cat things to do that will keep her happy, healthy and content.
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