Nearly every day, a person asks me whether I think his or her cat might be bored. Just as often, I am asked whether a beloved cat might be better off in a different home. City dwellers wonder whether their cat craves the country life. Working cat owners wonder whether their cat should be sent to live with a retired couple.
Tough questions. My opinion? If you love your cat, if your cat gives you tremendous pleasure – and if you are even considering your cats feelings to such a degree that you would contemplate voluntarily relinquishing him – then you have your answer. There will never be a better home than yours. Furthermore, we have no reason to believe that cats are concerned that there is greener grass just waiting for them somewhere else.
But while cats do not necessarily need new environments, they certainly deserve interesting environments. Luckily for them, we humans are a creative species. Environ- mental enrichment is available to suit all budgets. Where to start?
Why not begin with the basic hunt? You need not bring live critters indoors for your cats pleasure. But you can indeed hide assorted foods in cat-friendly locations. Try using some food dishes that can be timed to open during the course of the day. Food may also be hidden in toys that move as your cat tries to capture them. If your cat tends to be on the heavy side, you can hide his entire supper and give him some much-needed exercise. Be sure to check for any undiscovered food at the end of the day. It is very important that even the most overweight cat receive his entire ration.
Of course every hunt does not need to yield prey. Set up an assortment of tunnels and perches. Paper bags and boxes may be strategically placed in various areas of the home. Commercially available tunnels may be used as well. Change the location frequently. Hide treats and toys in some of the tunnels. Vary the prize, vary the location and vary the number of cubbies that actually contain a reward. On some days, your cat will just need to work a little harder.
What else pleases your cat? Most cats love to climb. Cat trees may be utilized, of course. If you are handy, you may design safe catwalks – feline monorails, if you will – to allow your cat to travel from room to room. Of course, you need to be certain that they are very stable and that the surface provides ample traction. You may create steps that will allow your cat to explore the top of a particular shelf, and then move these steps to new locations on a rotating basis.
Does your cat like games? If so, rotate the toys that are available. Create toys using paper wrappers, nest toys inside one another, and lace toys with food. Just be sure there are no toys small enough to swallow.
When you return home, play interactive games. Teach your cat some interesting tricks. If your cat is physically fit, check into cat agility training.
Regardless of your choice of game, be sure you have allowed your cat a chance to play with you until he is satisfied and ready to stop. For some cats, five minutes will be more than enough. For others, 30 to 60 minutes is more appropriate.
A Window to the World
Is your cat a gazer? Does he love looking through glass, or even better, does he love to watch television? You may set up a bird feeding station near a large window, just far enough away that the birds are not threatened. Of course, if your cat becomes agitated when looking through glass, then he should not have this opportunity. Similarly, if stray cats frequent the area, then this may not be an appropriate enrichment strategy. Many cats are very agitated when face-to-face with a neighbors cat.
As for television, favored programs may be turned on with a timer to lure your cat to a particular room. So, as the sun sets and there is no longer a sunbeam available, the television is ready to go. There are also commercially available videos that offer programs that have been tested and approved by cats.
With very little expense and just a little creativity, you can enrich your cats environment. Take a few minutes to consider your cats pleasures and work with these. Also, work with your cats own agenda for the day. If your cat seems to enjoy resting for six hours, then that is his pleasure. Do not insist that he play games all day. Just offer him the opportunity to play when he is ready.
Remember: Theres no place like home.