Like dogs, cats need mental and physical stimulation, and like all of us, they’ve probably been taking it pretty easy all winter, spending even more time than usual lying on the couch. Last week we wrote about getting your dog out of his winter rut. Now we want to turn our attention to getting your cat moving as well.
Like people cats become prone to a number of health problems when they are inactive, including obesity, cardio-pulmonary and liver disease, and diabetes. Without stimulation, indoor cats in particular may become very sedentary, and their health may well decline with their activity levels. Engaging your cats in active play will help to control their weight, and lower their risk of these serious diseases.
Cats require significant mental activity. If you don’t help them to find it, they’ll make their own “fun”. Providing your cat with toys to keep them busy, and even better by playing with your cat and her toys yourself you can often avoid or lessen destructive behaviour such as scratching at the furniture, biting, yowling, or inappropriate urination. (Note that inappropriate urination can also often be a sign of illness, even in an apparently healthy cat, and you should consult a veterinarian if your cat is having this problem.)
Socialization and Training
Cats who are getting good amounts of exercise and stimulation are more relaxed and confident in general. Plenty of new toys and new challenges often make cats respond less skittishly to activity in the household such as visitors or noise.
Strengthen your Bond
Socialization with your cat is a key part of his or her development and happiness. Spending active time with your cat builds an increasingly close and trusting relationship between you.
Tips for Keeping your Cat Active and Engaged
- Set a regular time to engage your cat in interactive play. Even fifteen minutes in an evening will have significant benefits.
- Try playing with “teasers” or throw sponge balls that your cat can chase after to increase his or her activity levels. Remember that any teaser on a string should either be firmly attached, for example to a scratching post, or be used with supervision. String poses a strangulation hazard, and if it becomes detached it can be eaten and cause problems.
- If you have tile floor in your kitchen, trying throwing or sliding individual kibbles or treats for your cat to “hunt” and capture. Most cats prefer to hunt their meals and will love this activity immediately. Its a great way to make them work for their calories. Be careful not to overfeed on high calorie treats.
- A scratching post or surface is always a good first step to keeping your cat happy and stimulated.
- If your cat doesn’t go outdoors, consider getting a harness and leash and “walking” them in your backyard.
- Provide your cat with new toys regularly. There are huge numbers of commercial cat toys available including some very good ones on our Webstore, but it’s also very easy to make free or inexpensive toys that your cat will love. Remember that all safe toys must be a minimum of 1.25″ wide in the narrowest dimension, and must be made of materials that your cat can’t chew apart and ingest.
- Cut holes or tabs in an empty toilet roll.
- Crinkle up some tinfoil into a ball about 1.25″ in diameter that can be “skated” along the floor.
- Put a toy or treat in an empty kleenex box to be fished out.
- Empty boxes and paper shopping bags are always huge favourites. Watch your cat or cut the bag handles off to make sure his or her head doesn’t get stuck in a handle.
- Balls of string or wool are NOT a good cat toy, being both a strangulation hazard and a potential linear foreign body.
- “Recycle” Toys. Cats will become bored with any toy after awhile. When they do, put the toy away, and bring it out a few weeks or months later. If it has catnip, refresh the catnip. Everything old is new again.