Every day when I come home from work I find my cat, Amelia, waiting for me behind the door. Not long after I adopted Amelia, I began to wonder what she got up to during the day, before I pulled my car into the garage to hear her impatient meows. There were signs of restless behavior: a pawed-open drawer, tell-tale nuggets of litter on the countertop—I even found evidence that she had been on top of the vertical blinds in the living room.
I recently asked Amy Shojai, a certified cat behavior consultant and the author of “Complete Kitten Care” as well as many other pet books, for her take on cat boredom. Her response echoed my experience with Amelia.
“When your cat has nothing to do, often she will entertain herself with climbing the drapes, emptying the sock drawer or rearranging the contents of your kitchen cupboards,” Shojai says. “Offering [nondestructive] and fun ways to play and exercise keeps Kitty’s brain lubricated and muscles healthy without trying your patience.”
Keep your indoor cat entertained while you’re away with these tips:
1. Create A Treasure Hunt With Toys
Stash cat toys around the house to pique your cat’s interest throughout the day, and rotate the selection to maintain interest. Shojai recommends cat interactive toys and jingle balls for younger cats, but Amelia, who’s 5 years old, seems to take a kitten-ish delight in these, too.
Or for a method you can try at home: “Try dropping a ping pong ball or other toy inside the empty bathtub for them to bat around—it keeps the cat from losing/hiding toys under the refrigerator,” Shojai says. For cats that are no longer kittens, catnip toys usually do the trick, she adds.
2. Invest In A Bird Feeder
Cats love to bird watch; keep a feeder near a window to attract the feathered creatures. Like most cats, Amelia is a dedicated ornithologist, and I’ve found that her drawer opening and counter hopping activities diminish when she has birds to watch. I’ve set up a comfortable spot for her in front of the sliding glass door that looks out onto my patio, where I’ve hung a bird feeder.
Once you set up your own bird feeder, don’t be surprised if word gets out and flocks start descending. Bird seed can get expensive, so I only refill the feeder every two or three days. Even when the feeder is empty, birds will scour the ground for fallen seeds, which brings them even closer to Amelia’s eye level.
3. Bring The Outdoors In
If you don’t have a good place to set up a bird feeder, try a DVD designed especially for viewing by cats. There are several DVDs available featuring wildlife such as birds, squirrels, ducks, fish and more.
4. Hide Cat Treats
Try creating a hunting and foraging game for your cat. “Simply leaving saucers or puzzle toys with dry food around the house can keep them busy finding and munching,” Shojai says. My veterinarian notes that this is a good way to keep a cat from eating too much in one sitting and gaining weight.
5. Think Vertically
Cats love to explore, especially up off the ground. Even if you live in a small apartment, you can likely find places for your cat to lounge and stroll when they tire of the view from the floor.
Place a piece of cat furniture near a window, but also clean off other surfaces, such as the top of a bookcase or fireplace mantle, so your cat can safely explore without breaking your things. Before I leave home in the morning, I open the window blinds so Amelia can see outside from almost any perch she chooses.
6. Set Up A Webcam
When you’re not at home, get your cat’s attention with a pet camera that has a talk feature. Admittedly, using a pet cam is even more fun for the owner. I’ve had co-workers over to my cubicle to observe Amelia’s antics on my iPad screen. Some of the funniest moments occur when I rotate the camera and my cat appears to realize she is being watched—she will walk over and stick her face in front of the camera.
Most pet cameras allow you to record or take pictures of these amusing moments, so even if your co-workers aren’t there when Kitty bats at a toy or falls out of a chair when she thinks no one is looking, you can pester them to view the adorable antic later.
7. Expand The Feline Family
The perfect solution to kitty boredom might be another cat, but it depends on your cat’s age and temperament. “If your cat has not lived with other cats before and is older than 4 years, adding a new cat may make existing behavior problems worse,” Shojai says. “If your cat is under 2 and has had positive experiences with other cats, then a cat of the same age or younger could be a great companion.”
If you decide to go this route, be sure to introduce the newcomer to your resident cat gradually, Shojai adds.
By: Carrie Brenner
Featured Image: Courtesy of Carrie Brenner