Is your sofa arm shredded? Is the toilet paper off the roll and sprinkled like confetti on the bathroom floor? Are the items on your coffee table splattered across your living room floor?
Ahem, your indoor cat is desperately trying to get your attention…and desperately trying to battle boredom. While studies show that indoor cats tend to live safer, healthier, and longer lives than outdoor cats, feline homebodies need physical and mental enrichment outlets.
With no structured interactive play activities, home-alone cats are forced to seek less than desirable options to pass the time. They may nap too much or eat too much or worse, engage in destructive behavior in frustrated attempts to banish boredom and loneliness.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Cats need and deserve purposeful play. Sure, you could watch from the sidelines or even post videos of your cat as she plays with a pricey, high-tech cat toy or tries to swat faux fish appearing on your iPad screen. But why not set aside 5 to 10 minutes each day and engage in low-tech, interactive games with your cat?
Here are three of my favorite people-cat games that are fun, easy, and inexpensive to try.
Murphy in the Middle
To play this game, position your cat between you and a family member or friend in an open area such as a hallway or spacious living room. Crinkle a paper wad or store-bought cat sparkle ball to garner your cat’s attention. Toss the object just over your cat’s head to the other person. Toss back and forth, allowing your cat to leap up and snap the flying “prey” and heap on the praise when she does.
Tap into the hunter inside your tabby by taking a brown grocery bag and carefully snipping off the handles. Open the bag and cut a medium-size hole in the bottom. Place the bag on its side. Attach a toy mouse or other small cat toy to the end of a long shoelace. Place your cat so she is facing the front opening of the bag and sit behind the bag. Weave the tethered cat toy through the opening at the bottom until it pokes out the front of the bag. Give it a wiggle to entice your cat to stalk and pounce and dash inside the bag.
The Great Kibble Hunt
Go bowl-free at least one meal a week. Put your cat in an enclosed room and then scatter one portion of kibble in a long hallway or on each stair. Then encourage your cat to sniff out and track down each piece of food and praise him for his finding skills. You can also bring out your cat’s innate hunter by placing a daily portion of his kibble inside treat toys that require him to swat at them, causing the kibble to fall onto the ground.
Be sure to provide your cat with toys that bring out her solo play for times when you are away from home. You can tie a sneaker shoelace around a door knob and tie a toy mouse so it dangles at the end for your cat to swat. Or, you can toss a couple of crinkly cat balls or ping pong balls in the empty bathtub for your cat to bring out her inner hockey playing talents.
Please share your favorite homemade game you play with your cat. I got to go as Casey is giving me that “let’s play” look.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.