Everyone is always talking about dog enrichment, but what about our feline friends? You may play with feather wands or throw some catnip down occasionally, but what else can you do to keep your kitty happy and mentally stimulated? I’m here to tell you: LOTS! And it doesn’t require a lot of money or time either.
It is no secret that cats like to chase and pounce on moving objects. The simplest way to satisfy the motion urge is to create paper or aluminum foil balls for them to chase and bat around. Throw a few different materials out there for your cat to play with and observe which is their favorite. Even plastic bottle caps, straws or pipe cleaners can be effective. Always make sure to observe before leaving them alone so you know they are playing safely and nothing is a choking hazard. And remember to continually rotate your cat’s toys. Only giving access to a few different toys at a time, reduces boredom and allows for novelty as you switch out toys every few days.
Puzzles, whether homemade or purchased, are a great way to stimulate your cat’s natural desire to hunt and find objects. You can use empty paper towel rolls or toilet paper rolls, stuff them with some paper mixed in with treats and BAM: a roll of fun. Pre-made puzzles are easy to fill with treats and challenge your cat mentally. They can paw at spinny-wheels, hidden containers, and buttons to get to their kibble or treats. Check out our selection here.
Bubbles are also fascinating to cats. They shine, move randomly, and suddenly disappear. Blow them the old-fashioned way or use a bubble machine, your cat is sure to be happy and occupied watching the show.
Catnip is the obvious go-to for enhancing your cat’s sense of smell, but have you looked into other options? Using a fruit/vegetable box for playtime or relaxing can add new smells into their life or using essential oils in their comfort spot works wonders as well. Lavender comes highly recommended to calm you and your cat. Always make sure to do your research before introducing a new scent, because some smells can be too much or even poisonous to your pet.
If you’re a cat owner you’ve probably seen all the fancy cat castles and perches people have been making these days. However, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on something fancy to satisfy your cat’s desire to climb and observe.
Clean off the top of your couch or chair near the window for your cat so they can observe the outside world. Even better, set up a bird feeder outside for them to watch! Don’t worry about the birds, they will quickly acclimate to their observer.
If you don’t have the ability to bring real birds to them, fake birds will do just fine! YouTube has hours of “Cat TV” for you to explore and put on for your cat. They even make Apps with things on screen for your cat to chase like fish and mice (Try Cat Fishing and Cat Alone).
Instead of feeding your cat at regular times out of a bowl, why not engage their normal hunting instincts by hiding their kibble around the house for them to seek out? Start with favorite napping spots so your cat will find it, then branch out a bit. Just make sure it’s not grabbed up by other four-legged family members.
Another option is scatter feeding. Instead of filling up the bowl, toss the dry food across the floor one piece at a time and watch while your cat runs and scrambles to sniff out each piece.
Mix and match their treats and wet food to see what your cat prefers. Are they a chicken lover or do they prefer the chicken of the sea? These days there are plenty of flavors out there and your cat may prefer a taste you haven’t offered yet. We make Tuna & Cheese treats which satisfy both cats AND dogs.
YES! You can teach your cat tricks! Pick up some of your cat’s favorite treats and get to work. Using a clicker to mark positive responses is the easiest way, but you can always use a signal word like “Yes” or “Good”. Cats can learn everything from “sit” to “high-five” with positive reinforcement. This type of training tires them out quickly and helps build your bond.
Cats scratch to exercise, destress, and mark their territory. Cats stretch their paws to leave their scent (they have scent glands in their paws) and they scratch to leave their mark quite literally. They also scratch to get rid of the dead outer layer on their claws – it’s kind of like a nail trim. Scratch at the right time and off comes the outer sheath. Make sure to provide a sturdy, tall scratcher made from sisal fabric or heavy corrugated cardboard for the most satisfying scratch.
Today we have talked a lot about exciting your cat and enriching them mentally, but what about the other side? Mental relaxation? We recommend giving your cat a place to “step away from it all”. This should be a cave-like space, similar to making your dog’s crate a safe haven. Observe, and see where they go to nap. A lot of cats tend to find a space under a bed or in a closet to snooze. Help them out by placing a comfy bed or blanket in their space and then leave them alone! This is their space to chill and decompress, which is important for any animal’s mental health.