Keeping cats physically and mentally busy can be a challenge, especially since most people cannot afford to spend huge chunks of their day playing with their cats. It is advisable to regularly spend some time, such as 10 to 15 minutes, playing with your cat, whether it involves throwing toys around (some cats will fetch), being the Keeper of the Elusive Red Dot, or dangling a wand toy.
Changing things up and giving different types of enrichment, toys, and stimulation can put some pizzazz back into your cat’s step. Giving them something constructive to do can prevent your cat from getting into trouble or growing bored. Here are some ideas:
- Window watching. According to The Fur Person by May Sarton, the feline equivalent of reading the newspaper is watching the goings on outside through a window. (By the way, if you have a chance, do read The Fur Person. It is a truly delightful little book.) Every cat I have had enjoys looking out the window, often excitedly at the birds on the patio or the trees in the yard. It gets very animated in the house when the birds, squirrels, and cat(s) start sassing and chattering away at one another. Boudicca does not know what to do when she sees rabbits, especially when they come close to the patio door. There are ways to maximize your cat’s ability to know what’s going outside safely and easily.
- Catnip. There are different types of catnip out there, and if you want, you can even grow your own. Toys laced with catnip can make your cats frisky. Some cats prefer to play with catnip toys while others go “meh”. (On the other hand, there are cats that can react aggressively in response to catnip. Every cat responds differently.) Spreading a pinch of catnip on scratching poles or sprinkled over scratching pads may reinvigorate a cat’s interest in these areas and give an added incentive to scratch where you want them to, as opposed to your furniture.
- Boxes. Occasionally putting a box out for your cat to explore gives them something new to do. Boudicca prefers to have one of her beds placed inside a box and likes to hang out in another. Does your cat sprawl on top of your keyboard while you are trying to work? Try putting a shallow box on the edge of or near your desk. This way your cat can have a space near you without getting in your way. Bonus: cat will be conveniently located for spontaneous rubs.
- Mazes. You can take giving a cat a box one step further by creating a cat maze out of boxes like Cat Man Chris did for his beautiful cats, Cole and Marmalade. You can always scale it down if you are feeling less ambitious.
- Structures. Unleash your creativity and make castles, forts, condos, tunnels, and other fun things for your cat to explore. You can make kitty castles out of boxes and all finds of furniture projects including a TARDIS for the Whovian feline. NB: Your cat may want to “help” you as you build these.
- Towers or trees. Some cats, like Boudicca, fall definitively in the box camp. The boys, on the other hand, prefer going high. Because of that, they benefit considerably from their tall cat tree. (Photo below: Within 5 minutes of the cat tree being assembled, Charlie and Garrus inducted it by playing a game of hide-and-pounce.)
- Puzzle toys. These can either be purchased or created DIY fashion, so there are a number of options available!
My friend Christina, cat foster mom extraordinaire and guru of all things feline, was thoughtful and generous enough to send me a few puzzle toys: two eggs and a piñata. These were originally intended to pique Boudicca’s interest and offer my senior girl some enrichment after Nala’s passing in January 2017. Boudicca wasn’t sure what to do with them when I first showed them to her. She still is somewhat undecided but will at least investigate them because she likes treats. (In this way she is rather doglike.) After we adopted the boys and they started to settle in, we introduced them to eggs for starters. Both were fascinated by the idea of a strange rattling thing that rolls around, spins, and produces treats!
What toys do your cats like? Are their toys they absolutely dislike? Do your cat play with odd things? In her youth Boudicca stole hair bands on a regular basis. Nala was a known thief of Post-Its. How do you play with your cats? If you have fun and/or creative ideas or just cute stories, please feel free to share by adding them in the comments.