Is your kitty bored? Getting into mischief? Overweight?
It is important for cats to have a stimulating environment to stay happy and healthy. We, as caregivers, can provide this by implementing some of the following tips.
Daily exercise will keep your kitty in tip-top shape & from becoming overweight. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for indoor cats to get just as much exercise and mental stimulation as outdoor cats. Interactive toys are a fun tool for exercise and also provide an opportunity for you to bond with your kitty.
Many cats like to chase a feather wand or squeaky mouse. Lasers are also popular, with some favorites being the simple Critterbug and the Mews Ments laser with five different images. If your kitty enjoys playing with a laser toy, be sure to stock up on batteries because you will go through them quickly. Remember, never point the laser directly into the eyes as that can cause severe damage. Some kitties like to play games with their owner such as fetching a ball of paper or hide-and-seek.
[Gaby's acrobatic Andy]
Gaby's acrobatic Andy
One can add a tunnel to make the game even more entertaining. Hand mittens can also be fun. There are a variety of toys that kitty can play with while alone like door knob bungees, Crazy Circle, Panic Mouse, or even climbing in a cat tree. Treat balls are often very exciting because your kitty receives a food reward. You can place a small amount of healthy treats in the ball & your kitty will have to work to get them out. Alternatively, you can hide small treats around the house or scatter a handful of treats from your hand so kitty will have to search and find them.
One can make regular meal-times fun, as well. If feeding a commercial diet or a raw ground diet, you can hide kitty's dish behind a bowl or other object so kitty must focus on all his senses to seek out his food. If one feeds whole prey, you can tie a string around the prey's tail or wing and then drag it around on a tarp to bring out the inner hunter in your cat.
For a single cat household you might consider adding another kitty as a playmate. You might think that having two cats would be double the trouble, but that is not necessarily so. Many single kitties sit at home alone while you are at work, but providing a playmate can alleviate boredom and they also get much needed exercise while playing with each other. There are many cats available at animal shelters and adoption facilities that need a loving home, so please consider this as an option when looking to add another cat to your family.
It is common for cats eating a species appropriate raw diet to be more active, lean, and muscular compared to cats fed a processed commercial diet. If your kitty is inactive and/or overweight, then please consider feeding a raw diet. Hey you can't blame us for plugging a healthier diet, can you?
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. This can be as easy as popping in a video for kitty to watch. There are live-action videos that show eye-catching clips like chirping birds, hopping bugs, and chattering squirrels. These videos are very entertaining. Most cats enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors so access to a window is key. Window seats are easy to install and provide kitty with a place to watch birds and bugs. You can place a birdfeeder near the window so kitty gets to see many interesting visitors. A window box like the Cat Veranda or Feline Solarium will provide an even better view.
[Shawn's Calisto - keeping an eye on things from the safety of his window]
Shawn's Calisto - keeping an eye on things from the safety of his window
Perhaps your kitty has a love of the great outdoors? If so, then an outdoor enclosure should fit the bill. A cat door via window can lead to an outdoor enclosure like The Cat's Den. Portable enclosures are also an option, such as the Kittywalk products and Feline Funhouse. Some cats prefer to be mobile while outdoors.
One way to accommodate your kitty is to take walks in a pet stroller like the Jeep Rubicon or Kittywalk Pet Stroller. They even make strollers for multiple pets, such as the Kittywalk Double Decker, so no one gets left out of the fun. If you are more of a biker than a walker, you can bring kitty along w/you in a bike trailer.
A different option would be to train your cat to wear a harness or walking jacket & take him for a walk while on leash. This allows kitty more freedom to investigate, but also requires more vigilance on your part to be sure that kitty is safe from roaming dogs and from areas treated with toxic chemicals like weed killer. Walking jackets are typically more secure than harnesses. It is important to desensitize your cat to the harness/jacket before venturing outdoors by having him wear it around the house for a few days. Once kitty feels comfortable in the harness, you can then take him for a short walk around your own yard. As kitty's confidence grows, you can then expand your walks to your neighborhood or even the local park.
[Ellen's Scotti out for a stroll in his back yard]
Ellen's Scotti out for a stroll in his back yard
The bottom line is that cats who get proper exercise and mental stimulation have a better quality of life. Physical and mental exercise opportunities can reduce stress and, therefore, provide increased health benefits, as well.