Your Cat Is Bored!
Make his life exciting in three months or less.
Posted January 1, 2018
After foot surgery, I was not permitted to drive for 6 weeks leaving me, a busy working mom who friends joke doesn’t know how to relax, grounded. In the days post op, I kept my regular work schedule, working from home. On day 13, something happened. My personality started to change. I became grumpy and withdrawn. When my family came home, I followed them around, sitting with them and talking incessantly until bedtime. Have you ever tried to get a 10 year old to tell you about her day? It didn’t take long before she had tagged me as “weird and annoying.”
As I pondered the swift and profound effect that a lack of freedom and enrichment had on my personality, I realized that I was living the life of the average house cat. Missing the similarities? Read on.
For most cats, the scenery doesn’t change very much each day. Most of the pleasant things that happen, such as tasty treats and play with fun toys, occur only when people are present. This leads to an overdependence on cat parents for virtually all enrichment and contributes to a plethora of problems including aggression, destructiveness, attention-seeking and compulsive behaviors. Virtually every disorder in cats will respond to some degree to environmental enrichment. That’s right: the kitty who doesn’t want to leave your lap, or the one that bites you when you stop petting, and even (a favorite) the cat that howls through the night, can at least partly improve with proper enrichment.
When I talk to pet parents about this subject during appointments at the veterinary hospital I often get pushback. Do any of the statements below sound familiar?
Parent: My cat already has lots of toys. He has a toy box full.
Me: I have a closet full of shoes, but I still shop online daily for more. Who wants to wear the same black, sequined tennis shoes each day to work?!
Parent: My cat doesn’t like to play.
Me: You haven’t found the right toys yet.
Parent: My cat is lazy.
Me: He doesn’t have anything to do so he lies around.
Parent: My cat already lives the good life!
Me: True that he is well cared for, but is he happy??
Are you ready to get shopping, get crafting, get excited and help your cat live his happiest life? Let these suggestions below guide you…
Keep a list of the toys and other cat items that you purchase, their elements and characteristics, and how long your cat plays with each one. Does it have feathers? Does it roll? Is it sparkly? Describe the toy in detail. Make choices for future toy purchases based on the elements of those toys with which your cat has chosen to play.
With your first purchase, make sure to gift him a toy for each of his kitty senses.
- Cat grass
- Puzzle and food toys which spill treats (these have the added benefit of encouraging weight loss by slowing the process of eating and by increasing activity as your cat moves the toy through the room)
- Knobby, stationary toys for bunting (face-rubbing)
- Feather toys
- Toys that are moved by you
- Toys that are motorized
- Toys that squeak or chirp
Consider the toy a success if your cat plays or engages with it for any length of time. For example, there is one mechanical toy with which my 17 pound, black cat, Chewie, doesn’t directly play, but he will dependably come running to watch it move and will stay engaged for a long time just watching it.
Plan on spending a bit of money (or creative craft-building) on toys and accept that your cat will like only about half of what you purchase until you find out what he loves. You can donate the ones that he doesn’t like to the local cat rescue. Give yourself 3 months to find your cat’s preferences.
When you find your cat’s preferences, make it a goal to purchase or make 3 new toys per month for him, even if he already has a housefull.
And remember to rotate toys so that each day is exciting and new.
What are you waiting for?? Get out there and give your cat something to do!
Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB, Florida Veterinary Behavior Service www.flvetbehavior.com