Do cats become bored? If your cat is a Couch Slouch then boredom may not be a problem but some cats are better described as Party Animal Puss-Cats. Such cats know how to boogie and if they don’t get enough brain input, their behaviour can be catastrophic.
Some bored cats show hyperactive behaviours. The most common is that the cat will race through the house like a fur-covered lightning bolt, especially at night.
Bored cats also delight in a bit of rough and tumble and, if nothing else is available, will happily use your fingers and toes as chew toys. Commonly, a bored cat will hide under furniture with its eyes as big as dinner plates. As you walk innocently past it will scoot out and latch onto your leg embedding its claws and teeth in your calf. Just as quickly it will detach and will race down the hallway to hide once more readying itself for another encounter of the furred kind.
Boredom is most common in confined cats and this is a problem because confining cats to the home is becoming much more commonplace for many good reasons.
However, inside the house is a sterile environment compared to the joys of wandering freely through the suburbs. The more a cat roams, the more it becomes stimulated by the refreshing newness of its territory and each new joy that the cat discovers is its own reward, stimulating more exploration.
So, how do you cater for the needs of a bored cat?
Provide an Outside Play Gym
Firstly, confined cats are much happier if they are given a semi-outside play gym that they can access via a cat door.
You can make your own enclosure by simply confining a veranda or construct a purpose-built play gym in your garden.
There are also commercial cat enclosures available. One is made from strong netting that, being flexible, enables many variations in design and another system is made from modular cages.
The play gym should include areas for feeding, resting, toileting and exploration but change the ‘furniture’ regularly to ensure your cat maintains its interest in the cattery.
Cats don’t need aerobic exercise to the same extent as dogs and exercise more by stretching, jumping and climbing rather than running long distances. Therefore, in the play gym, elevation is more important than floor space. Cater for this by providing hammock beds and a thick bark-encrusted tree that goes to the roof.
Because cats need to explore, cater for this need inside your house or in the play gym.
For instance, make a maze from some old cardboard boxes. Have some ‘poke and peep’ holes in each box. Poke pencils through the holes or pull a piece of string with a paper mouse on the end through the maze. Your cat is likely to chase the mouse, attack pencils placed through the holes and generally have fun exploring. Put some food titbits in the maze to stimulate exploration.
Paper bags scattered around the house also make ideal hidey-holes for a bored cat.
On the matter of feeding, why do you bother putting your cat’s biscuits into a boring bowl? Instead put them in half-a-dozen cake patty pans of the type used for making cup cakes. Add a flavoured treat like a ‘cherry on the cake’ inside each patty pan and then hide these in various locations around the house. Much more sensible!
You can also get timer-activated food bowls with spring-operated lids. Set the food bowl to open in the middle of the day when you are at work but put a bell on the lid. When it springs open the Pavlov’s Bell will tell the cat that food is available.
Be devious and place your cat’s dry food inside a plastic milk carton with one or two plum-sized holes in it. Let the frantic feline work out how to get its food!
To be even more devious, try putting a rubber band from the base of the carton through to the cap. Place a paddle pop stick in the rubber band. The paddle pop stick should be long enough to just catch the edge of the milk carton. Wind up the rubber band and when Puss puts is paw in the hole to get the food the paddle pop stick will move a few times. Puss will be fascinated.
Play games with your fur-ball but be inventive.
Paper Mouse Mauling is the old, but effective, standard cat game. Attach a paper ‘mouse’ to a piece of string and drag it through the house. However, some creative folk attach these to a radio-controlled car and drive the mouse around the house and their cat around the bend.
If you have an overhead fan in your house, then providing fun for your cat is easy. Use Blu-tac to attach a length of elastic to the hub of your fan. Place a cork with feathers glued to it on the end of the elastic. Turn the fan onto a slow speed and let your cat chase the cork as it flies around the room. Remove any delicate china first!
A laser pointer will also entertain many a cat and they jump for joy attempting to chase the red dot. However, a word of caution, make sure you don’t shine the laser directly at the cat’s eyes as that can be dangerous.
If that doesn’t satisfy your Puss Cat, there is wide range of cat toys designed to satisfy the most fastidious and fanatic of fractious felines.
By Dr Cam Day BVSc