The cat is a lean, mean, hunting machine that fiercely guards its territory. This vision may not immediately spring to mind when viewing felis domesticus rolled up in a furry ball on the sofa. Why not channel kitty’s hunting talents and encourage it to participate in constructive play? A cat without exercise can soon become obese and unhealthy or turn into a rambunctious furry vandal inventing its own entertainment at the cost of your favorite ornament or the curtains. Tantalizing toys to substitute for kitty’s prey are easy to make or purchase. Outdoor cats automatically exercise by climbing trees and obstacles, stalking bugs, birds and mice and generally running around the neighborhood checking out their territory. However, for indoor cats life is different.
For a home to be active-kitty friendly there need to be vertical climbing areas, scratching places, shelves to jump to and from, toys to chase, containers with interesting items inside for kitty to take out, places to hide, and a view of the outside world.
With one of the aims being to encourage kitty not to rip up furniture or leap on counter tops, provide kitty with its own climbing and ripping zone. This can be as simple or as complex as fits the home and budget. Buy one or more pre-made cat condos, or try a do-it-yourself project; re-purposed ladders, firmly attached shelves, and/or boxes covered in a combination of carpet off-cuts, good scratching fabric and bedding. The aim is to give kitty high and low perches, scratching areas and hiding places that belong to it, are safe and keep kitty off people-property. Toys dangling from perches make for great entertainment as does a view through a window allowing kitty to watch birds, insects and the world pass by. Hang a bird feeder outside for extra entertainment.
In the wild cats hunt, eat and then sleep. Most indoor cats have refined the art of acquiring food by mewing, rubbing around someone’s legs and being rewarded with dinner placed in front of them. The very passive cat simply wanders up to a feeder and lowers its face near enough to munch on the kibble magically dispensed. Why not encourage kitty to earn its food? If space allows, build an obstacle course that has to be negotiated before kitty can get to its bowl. Have one of the play-times before feeding kitty, let the prey be caught and then offer dinner.
Encourage kitty to chase pseudo-prey. String, with or without paper or toy, dragged across the floor usually grabs attention. Flick it into the air like a bird taking off to give kitty something to leap after. Roll a small ball or throw a cat toy for kitty to chase, catch and bat around. Laser pointer toys have some cats zooming all over the floor after the little red light. Cats like interactive toys and soon tire of a ball of faux-fur that doesn’t do anything. Some cats like toys that make a noise, others don’t. When one type of play seems to be getting boring, change to a different cat activity.
Leave paper bags and boxes around for kitty to explore, get into and jump on. Make sure bags do not have handles kitty could get its head through. A tissue box with something inside that the cat wants, a treat or favorite toy, lets kitty amuse itself by trying to get the item out. Cats love getting into boxes whether they have toys in them or not. Lying on their side, boxes make excellent tunnels for running through and hiding inside.
Get creative. Have fun encouraging kitty to have fun.