July is Anti-Boredom Month so we thought it a fitting time to offer some tips on how to keep your cat entertained. Most of us by now have a very real perspective on how it feels to be locked down, so this is mainly for our indoor cats, and how we can help them find interest and inspiration from the inside!
Keeping cats indoors has advantages and disadvantages. Indoor cats generally live longer as they are protected from the dangers of the outside world; safe from traffic and other cats who may carry infectious diseases. However, there are some negatives to indoor living - the main one being the potential for boredom.
To really understand cats, we should think of them as little nocturnal ninjas who have taken on domestic life. Yes, they may love a cuddle and good nap, but the instinct to hunt and explore is as much a part of them as their own whiskers. It is absolutely imperative for their well-being that they have opportunities to express their natural behaviours.
Boredom in cats is shown in many different ways. Some may become depressed and lethargic, while others display compulsive behaviours such as overgrooming or pulling out their hair. Other signs include overeating or even aggression. They may become anxious or uncharacteristically needy. Even if your cat is not showing any of these signs, enriching their environment can only benefit them.
Create a Sensory Adventure
Environmental enrichment does not need to be time consuming or expensive. Frequent, small changes can be enough to keep your cat guessing and make home living a little more exciting.
Cats are highly attuned to their senses, and these provide five different avenues of stimulation.
One of the easiest ways to alleviate boredom in cats is to provide a good vantage point beside a window, especially if there are birds outside. Using vertical space is highly recommended so that cats can climb; and having a viewing area is a huge bonus.
Another source of visual stimulation which appeals to some cats is to leave the TV on while you are out, preferably on the Nature channel! My cat Gorbi seems to be a David Attenborough fan – but then again, who isn’t?!
Smell is much more developed in cats than humans and we can take advantage of this. Catnip is the most obvious choice of stimulation through smell, although only roughly half of cats are affected by it. If your cat is sensitive to it, you can leave catnip toys hidden around the house. Read more about catnip in our blog here.
House plants can also provide enticing natural scents for cats that do not have access to a garden, but just make sure that they are not toxic (such as lilies). Avoid diffusers or incense unless you have a lot of space for your cat to move away, as they can be overwhelming.
Pheromones are very useful for calming stressed cats, or just making the environment more homely. Read more about pheromone therapy in our blog here.
Background TV or radio can provide stimulation for cats that are left alone all day, particularly if there is not much ambient noise. Even better are soundtracks of nature such as rain, or birds singing. Cat fountains provide the soothing sound of running water; and can be great sources of interest and play.
A variety of textures can enrich the environment of indoor cats. Soft beds and rough mats, smooth tiles and thick carpets, all help to decrease the monotony of the indoor living. Multiple scratching posts are also recommended. Most cats prefer vertical scratch posts rather than horizontal; but try both and see which your cat prefers.
Cats evolved to hunt for multiple small meals per day. To simulate this, try hiding small treats around the house for them to find. This is a massively rewarding exercise for cats. It provides a challenge; is unpredictable; and allows your cat some control over their own eating rather than relying exclusively on you for mealtimes. Who knew the humble Nibble could have so many benefits?! If your cat enjoys this kind of play, a toy feeder may be a worthwhile investment.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Even a small living space can be very comfortable for a cat if attention is paid to providing a variety of sleeping, playing and viewing spaces. Having choices between a bright, sunny spot and a dim, semi-enclosed hiding place; between different vertical heights; a variety of textures; and things to look at; can all make a huge difference to your cat’s mental and emotional well-being.
For playful cats, toys are a must, but they should be rotated to avoid boredom. If your cat hasn’t paid any attention to a toy for a few days, pack it away – in a couple of weeks it may well be appealing again. Human interaction, whether it be playing, affection, grooming or just sitting together on the couch, is a huge source of comfort and entertainment. Try to spend at least a few minutes of every day fully engaging with your cat. If you need some ideas on what games to play, check out our blog here on How to Exercise Your Indoor Cat.
If you’d like to share ways that you have made your home more interesting for your cat, let us know – we would love to hear from you (especially if it involves a KatKin box)! You can find us over on Instagram and be sure to join our private Facebook Group, the KatKin Club House to connect with like-minded cat lovers!