Feral and free-roaming cats cover a large area during their usual day, and may see numerous terrains and wildlife. They hunt for food, explore nooks and crannies, and interact with other cats and animals. In contrast, an indoor cat’s life is decidedly less exciting. They are supplied food at a particular time, they have already explored all the nooks and crannies, and interaction with other animals is limited—a recipe for a bored, unfulfilled cat. Cats who are not stimulated appropriately tend to make their discontent known by shredding the couch, peeing in your shoe, or chewing through your computer’s power cord. Our team at Driftwood Animal Hospital wants to help you curtail this behavior, so we suggest some activities that will help your pet stay engaged and happy.
#1: Nutritional enrichment for your cat
A large part of a feral cat’s day is spent searching for food. You can make your cat work a little to fill their stomach.
- Avoid free feeding (i.e., keeping their food bowl full at all times).
- Feed small meals throughout the day. If you are not home during the day, consider investing in a timed feeder you can set to release food on a preset schedule.
- Feed your cat using feeder toys, such as a reach box, which requires your cat to retrieve their kibble by reaching into a box through holes in the top.
- Stage a hunt-and-forage game by hiding treats in several spots around your house for your cat to hunt.
- Hydration is extremely important for cats, especially older cats who can be prone to kidney disease, and a water fountain can keep them interested in continual water intake. Cats who enjoy drinking from the water faucet will particularly benefit from a bubbling fountain.
#2: Physical enrichment for your cat
Have you ever been sitting on the couch watching your favorite show when you notice your cat staring at you balefully? If you do not give your cat enough physical stimulation throughout the day, they will demand playtime at inconvenient times.
- Play with your cat for a few minutes several times a day.
- Cats enjoy chasing a laser pointer, batting at a toy on a string, pouncing after ping pong balls, and stalking feather toys. Many cats especially love chasing bubbles, while others like exercise wheels. Any interaction that gets your cat moving is ideal.
- Switch toys frequently to keep your cat from becoming bored during playtime.
#3: Environmental enrichment for your cat
Keep your cat stimulated by ensuring their habitat is interesting.
- Install a pet perch close to a window so your cat can watch what is going on outside.
- Place a bird feeder outside the window to attract birds, to ensure your cat is fully entertained while on their pet perch.
- Provide a climbing tower or tunnels for your cat to navigate, to find their perfect nap or play spot.
- Cats need to scratch. Provide appropriate scratching posts so they will not shred your furniture.
- If you are feeling motivated, you can enclose a small porch space so your cat can enjoy the outdoors without exposure to actual outside dangers.
#4: Sensory enrichment for your cat
Expose your cat to new elements that engage their eyes, ears, nose, and tongue, to help improve their brain function and keep them on their toes.
- Visual — Allow your cat to watch intriguing videos—fish swimming and birds flying across the screen fascinate them. Let them watch for only short periods to prevent frustration.
- Auditory — Play music softly to help lower your cat’s stress level. Classical music especially has been shown to calm animals. Do not play the music continually, however, because your cat needs some quiet time.
- Scent — Occasionally offer your cat catnip for a novel sensory experience. Many cats love the scent and will rub their faces in the leaves. Spray synthetic cat pheromones over your cat’s bedding to help decrease stress.
- Taste — You should not make major changes in your pet’s diet, because that can cause an upset stomach. Provide a new taste and texture food experience by growing wheatgrass and allowing your pet to chew on the leaves.
- Touch — Find new grooming tools that your cat will tolerate. This will also help decrease their shedding.
#5: Social enrichment for your cat
Cats do not usually need as much social interaction as dogs, but engagement with humans and other cats is important.
- Try to find several moments throughout the day to engage with your cat, through play or petting.
- If you can, and feel your cat would be accepting, consider adopting a new cat as a playmate.
Your cat needs mental and physical enrichment to keep them stimulated and prevent misbehavior. Our team at Driftwood Animal Hospital hopes these tips will help you incorporate new enrichment activities in your cat’s life. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, or are concerned that your indoor cat is bored.