Does your cat ignore their scratching post and howl every night no matter how many feather mice you get them? The problem may not be the number of toys but how your cat’s toys are stimulating them mentally. All cats need mental and physical stimulation for a happy and healthy mind, but not all owners know how to deliver this enrichment. Here are six simple and easy steps you can take to ensure your cat has something to focus their attention on other than your couch, many of which can be made on your own:
Hidey Holes and Climbing Trees
Your cat still is hard-wired to listen to those wild instincts to find places to hide and observe from. While your cat may not look like a mountain lion anymore, this is who they are channeling when they insist on hiding in the shopping bags and Amazon boxes. Not only is this hiding and skulking comforting for them, but your cat’s mind is also stimulated when they have to find and hunt from various hiding places.
Commercial fabric caves and hiding boxes (as well as the universally useful cat tree) are available in every pet store but don’t feel like you have to buy your expensive cat toys. Cutting holes in that cardboard box create a fantastic hiding place, and your reusable fabric bags are excellent caves. Just be sure not to let your cat play in plastic bags or other items that they may suffocate in (which is especially easy for cats to do)
Bring Out the Bubbles
It is easy for pet owners to forget how much like babies our pets really are. Many pets enjoy the simple enrichment activities that many parents do for their children, and nothing is more enjoyable than bubbles. Cats will enjoy the stimulation of both a new addition to their environment and trying to catch the quickly disappearing bubbles. This is also an excellent choice if you have small children as it can be a good way to encourage healthy play between animals and kids. There are even fun bacon-flavored bubble solutions, just make sure your cat doesn’t accidentally eat the bottle.
Baby Toys Are Not Off Limits
Many baby toys also offer interesting items for those looking to add a little enrichment for their feline at home. Cats, especially those younger and extremely curious, love to explore different sounds, textures, and movements. A soft activity toy offers all of these elements, including crinkly fabric, different textures to bite, a soft body to lay on an attack, and many also offer mechanized movement to peak their interest. Items like activity toys come at a variety of price points and features to suit your curious cat and are excellent for combined play (you and your cat playing together).
Icy Treats for Summer Weather
Your cat may be pampered inside the air conditioning, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the cool treats summer is famous for. Try to combine sensory enrichment and fun tastes by mixing light tuna with some chicken broth (or leaving it in the brine in the can) and freezing them in a silicone or ice cube mold. For a special treat, pop one out and put it in your cat’s food bowl. They will be attracted by the smell and will spend an hour or more trying to get every last drop. This activity stimulates their hunting and foraging behaviors as well as their taste buds, both of which make for a very happy cat.
Bring Nature to Them
For many inside cats, the tantalizing view outside the window is captivating. Don’t be afraid to bring this natural splendor inside for them to play with from time to time. Cut a pine bough or small branch and bring it in for your cat to investigate and climb over. When fall comes around, bring in a few dried leaves for them to destroy. As the snow starts to fall, don’t be afraid to introduce your cat to a small tub of it, they may not thank you that it will be a new experience. Just because your cat is safe inside does not mean they cannot get the benefits of the new experiences offered by the outside world. These items will not only be new experiences, but also will count as sensory play as your cat climbs, tastes, and smells something new to their environment.
Small Spaces Does Not Mean Small Experiences
Apartment cats may not have as much space to run around in, but they can make up for it in vertical playgrounds. Floating wall shelves or other shelving, securely attached to the wall and staggered so your cat can climb from on to the other, can be covered in inexpensive carpeting for a cat climbing wall. Being able to reach a new height and have a new area to explore will be a valuable new experience for your cat, especially one who has little to look at and no space for a climbing tree.
Follow these six simple steps for a more stimulated cat, and you may see fewer nights spent howling at the moon and more purring over their new treats. Providing mental and physical stimulation for your cat is the first step for a happy and healthy feline (who hopefully leaves the toilet paper alone, now).