Friday, February 13, 2009

Keeping Indoor Cats Happy

If you're like most of us, you're a cat lover with at least one cat and probably a full time job as well. That means there's a great deal of time each day when you're away and your cat is left to entertain itself.

Let's face it, being indoors every day, day after day, can get a little tedious. Even the most lazy cat can find it boring.

Since I'm a foster Mom for stray and abandoned cats, I've got lots of experience with dealing with a clan of cats and keeping them stimulated and entertained. Below are some tips and ticks that I've learned over the years:

1. The best and cheapest cat toy is a cardboard box. You can cut holes in it that the cat can paw through. They'll play and sleep in this box for hours. A paper bag can be used but I suggest you cut any handles so it doesn't entangle your cat. Never use plastic bags.

2. Cat nip. You can grow cat nip in your garden (I believe it's a member of the mint family). Cats love to eat and play with the leaves of fresh cut cat nip. All pet stores offer cat nip toys which can help enliven your cat's day. Cat nip has an analgesic affect on your cat (pain killing) so it can help them if they're suffering any pain or stress.


3. Cat beds are really great for cats to have their own place to sleep, groom themselves, and relax. Cats absolutely love having a perch or cat bed in front of a window.

Cat beds can be purchased at pet stores, or made by folding a towel, blanket, or old sweater and placing in a quiet area. Pet stores even sell perch beds that easily attach to the sash of your window.

4. Cats do enjoy TV and some cats will actually sit in front of the TV and watch, pawing the screen on occasion. There are even bird videos available that you can play on your VCR or DVD when you're not at home. But you can go even better by providing a window space with a perch. Cats watching out the window is the best kind of cat TV and it provides endless amounts of entertainment for them.

5. Switch it up - you'd think that rearranging furniture or their environment would scare or frighten your cats but I find it has the opposite affect. It creates something new and fresh out of the same old boring place and can re-engineer their excitement. Once I left a mattress on it's side in the hall for a few days (I was rearranging furniture). I left it a few days longer just to give them something to play on. They climbed on it and ran behind it and had lots of fun with it.

6. Close off one room or an area during the day. I discovered this by accident and it works wonders for the cats. I close off the basement all day long. During the day they only have access to the main floor. When I get home from work I open the basement door. It's like a fur pile to the basement. They play and run around down there for hours on end. It's like it's new for them every day and because it's "forbidden" during the day, it makes it more exciting for them. In some ways it's like getting to go outside.

7. Offer cat scratching equipment. I have the usual cat brushes and the cats will actually line up for their turn being brushed each night - it's funny to watch the kittens try to butt the line.

In winter, their skin gets so dry that they want extra brushing. I provide a bottle brush toy that I bought at a pet shop. They rub themselves on the bottle brush bristles and they and love it. I love that it's self-serve.

8. Free and cheap toys - paper balls thrown around make great light toys they can bat with their paws. String is good but DO NOT tie it to anything. I have seen a cat get a tied up string wrapped around it's neck and then it panicked - something I plan never to see again (I rescued the cat and it was fine). A really good toy are the soft covered hair elastics. They're cheap and cats love to carry them around in their mouths and bat around with their paws.

9. Cat scratchers - the cardboard cat scratchers that you can buy in pet stores are very popular. What is also very popular for cats to scratch is a tree stump or a piece of wood.

10. Kibble hunt - each night before bed I call out "TREATS" and they all come running. This is an absolute favourite. They know what Treats means. There's a good reason to have this habit. Sometimes you will need your cats to come to you and this is a very effective way to get your cats to come to you right away. I purchase Whiskas (which is really like junk food for cats) and I throw handfuls of it here and there around the room. The cats hunt around to find the pieces. By morning all the bits of food are completely gone.

11. Cat Grass - you can grow oats either purchased from the pet shop or bought at a grain store. This provides cats with a healthy greenery that they will especially enjoy during the winter season.

12. And finally, get your cat a cat. Two cats are much better than one, especially if you're busy. If you are your cat's only companion then he or she expects a lot from you and will be wanting all your attention. If your cat has a buddy, he has someone to keep him company when you're at work or too busy and someone to share life's events with.

2 comments:

maggi said...

Hi Barbara, I'm looking for a bit of advice if possible and you don't mind. I am now down to one cat, a seven year old neutered male who I have had since a kitten. he lost his last companion four years ago. Lately he has seemed to be very clingy and I was wondering about getting him a pal. Any tips about whether it should be a cat of the same age/sex or whether he might take better to a kitten. He used to love the other older cats I had but doesn't seem happy with any cats that come visiting into his garden. Whatever I get it will be from the local Cat Protection shelter which is where he came from in the first place. Thanks in advance for any advice. Maggi

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Hi Maggi. I totally understand your concern for your cat. Cats certainly do miss their companions when they are gone and they can get lonely.

I tend to laugh and say "I have to get Gracie some kittens to supervise". I say that becuase when there's no younger cats around for Gracie to bee in charge of she tends to get more clingy with me, wanting my attention.

It sounds like your boy is a little lonely. Yes definitely a companion for him would be a great choice. Because he's 7 years old, I would not suggest a male the same age or older. If you are considering a male, I would suggest a junior male. A kitten would be fine or a male around the 1 year mark would be perfect. Then your cat won't be in a battle to see who is the boss. Being the senior, he'll be the big brother and the boss. The younger one will look up to him and learn from him.

Otherwise, a female would be fine. Boys do like girls and the girls generally like the boys too, but it may take a few more days for her to stop hissing. A younger female would probably take to your male right away. An older girl might need a few more days (playing hard to get) but they do enjoy having a man around.

I hope this helps! Please report back and let us know what decision you end up making.