Updated: Feb 9
We all want our feline friends to have a happy and healthy life. When it comes to indoor cats its very important for them to receive plenty of physical and mental stimulation.
Here are some tips I have picked up over the years as a vet and also a house cat owner.
Here is a photo of Hugo...my wee Ragdoll cat. His favourite past time is playing 'hot wheels' with his human brother!
Talking to your cat is incredibly beneficial interaction between you and your kitty. This is especially important for cats that are not keen on being handled and can help build up a trusting relationship. Talk to your cat in a soft voice and try not to stare directly at them as this can be interpreted by some cats as challenging behaviour.
Rotate toys and change them up
Cats like a variety so don't expect them to be entertained with the same toy for weeks on end. Keep them interested with a selection of options. you don't need to constantly be buying new toys, things found around the house can also be a lot of fun such as cardboard boxes, paper bags and toilet rolls. Food puzzles can mentally stimulate your cat and give them a challenge.
Surprisingly cats can learn to play fetch just as a dog can and this can provide great physical and mental stimulation for your cat. Use something light and small your cat can easily carry. You can reinforce training using cat treats.
Light and lasers
Cats love to chase reflections and lights. There are a lot of reasonably priced cat lights available that can give hours of fun to your feline friend. Though is game is a lot of fun I advise finishing up with a toy they can actually catch as it may become a frustration for them if they never succeed to catch something!
Somewhere to hide
Cats are prey animals so they enjoy having somewhere to hide and you can tempt them out with a toy and watch them pounce to catch it as they would in the wild. Also hiding treats around the house for your cat to seek out can keep them busy, give them exercise and show off natural hunting instincts. It is important to let them exhibit their natural behaviour which we will need to simulate for them.
Cats are natural born athletes and climbers and will get frustrated if they are unable to exhibit this behaviour. Cat trees/ towers/shelves can help them to practice climbing they would do outdoors. A window perch or cat tree by a window is a great idea as they can watch wild life and the world pass by and this is mentally stimulating for them. My cat spends hours at the top of his cat tree being a nosey neighbour. Some studies show cats spend about 2 hours looking out the window every day.
Cats love to scratch and are not fussy if it is your new sofa or wall paper! A scratching post is a great investment. They help keep their nails short and mark their territory. Every cat house hold should have one.
A lot of us have busy lives and are not able to be in the house all day to keep our cat company. While some cats are quite happy with this set up and spend this time snoozing and relaxing, others can become stressed and lonely. Some breeds really like having a buddy to play with and relax with. They can play together and snuggle up together and feel secure in each others company.
Catnip is part of the mint family and a great favourite of our feline companions. It contains an oil which when inhaled by cats is interpreted as a natural pheromone producing a harmless natural 'high'. It doesn't tend to affect cats under 6 months of age. My cats at home and work have loved this stuff, Click for a link.
It is possible to train your cat to walk on a lead! If you have an indoor cat this is the safest way for them to experience the outdoors. If you plan to do this as part of your routine its best to start as a kitten after they have had their vaccinations. The best way is to use a special cat harness attached to the lead. Initially short trips out are best, maybe just stick to the garden but as they become more confident you can try further afield if you like.
A comfy place to snooze
Now lets not forget cats can be incredibly lazy. So while it's great to have lots of activities to occupy them it's also important to provide a selection of areas for them to snooze. Here is Hugo's favourite spot. But to be honest he seems to think my bed is pretty comfy too!
This is a way to provide fresh air and exposure to the outdoors within the safety of an enclosure. These can be specially made or bought on line... maybe a project for the weekend!
Love your kitty
The majority of cats Love nothing more than snuggling up to their owner for a wee snooze and cuddle. Domesticated cats crave human attention and this attention makes a massive impact our your cats well being.
Ultimately remember cats are complex wee creatures. They need attention and stimulation for a happy, healthy life and so should be treated with he requisite care. The reward from having a cat is immense and makes it all worthwhile.