Once upon a time – and not so very long ago – cats were mostly outdoors critters. They weren’t kept as household pets nearly as much as is common these days.
In those not-so-long-ago days, a cat was usually expected to earn its keep, not just be kept. More often than not, cats earned their keep by doing what cats are naturally inclined to do: catching things – particularly mice and other verminous rodents.
In truth, that wasn’t an entirely bad arrangement for the cats of old. Hours spent each day searching out, stalking, pouncing upon, and catching mice helped keep a cat entertained and physically fit.
These days, cats mostly live sedentary lives indoors. And in most households there’s not much vermin-catching to be done (hopefully!). But it’s still important to the health and happiness of your cat to stay active both physically and mentally.
Fortunately there are some safe and fun ways to engage and exercise your cat without importing a horde of mice into your household!
PLAYTIME WITH YOUR CAT
Keeping your cat exercised and mentally stimulated doesn’t have to be a chore for you. It can be great fun for both you and the cat. Here are some playtime tips:
- Keep a nice variety of toys on hand. Don’t play with the same toy during each playtime. Switch out toys from one playtime to another, and add some variety. Most cats are pretty easy to please; toys such as balls with tinkling bells inside, toy mice, and feathered toys are usually kitty pleasers. Even simple items like lengths of string or the proverbial ball of yarn can provide hours of fun.
- Make playtime lifelike. Cats are instinctual hunters. A toy mimicking a wounded creature trying to make an escape is a challenge that few cats can ignore. You can give the toy lifelike movements with slight jerks, pauses in movement, changes in speed of movement, etc. Engaging the hunting instincts of your cat is a great way to make playtime stimulating and fun for your cat.
- Put the toys away. When playtime is over, put the toys away. If the toys are available to the cat all the time, they soon become boring, mundane items.
The amount of time to spend playing with your cat depends upon many factors, such as age and activity level. But in general, a couple of 10-15 minute play sessions per day is a good goal.
HOME ALONE FUN
Does your cat spend lots of time home alone? Many cats find themselves in that situation day after day – at home alone while the humans of the house are off to work.
If that’s the situation for your cat, it’s important that you furnish ways for the cat to entertain itself while you’re gone. If you don’t, your cat might find mischievous ways to entertain itself that will be none to good for the cat OR for you!
Here are some ideas for solo playtime for your cat:
- Climbing frames. Cats are compulsive climbers. Accommodate the climbing compulsion with 3-dimensional climbing frames. Locate one (or more) in a location where it affords a nice view of the outside world.
- Scratching posts. Cats are also compulsive scratchers. And you can scratch the scratching itch with a purpose-made scratching post. A scratching post provides exercise and scratching fun. It can also save your furniture!
- Food fun. You can buy toys that are designed to hold a bit of food. These toys can keep your cat entertained for hours trying to get out the bits of food.
You can also keep your cat entertained by providing a view of an outside bird feeder. Put a bird feeder close to a window that’s accessible to the cat, and let the birds chow down while your cat watches and dreams.
An indoor aquarium can also provide hours of great entertainment for your cat. Just make sure it has a cat-proof top so that your cat can’t do more than just dream of fishing!
IT’S FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Keeping your cat entertained and exercised is crucial to maintaining the health of your cat. Something has to substitute for the hunting and prowling activities that Mother Nature intended for your cat.
But you can both have lots of great fun in substituting for the vermin hunting that once upon a time would have kept your cat happy and active.
And if a mouse should happen to somehow invade your home one day? Don’t worry, your cat will remember how to handle it – and will be quite happy to do so!