10 Steps to a Happier Cat
Make your cat's indoor life more interesting with mental and physical stimulation.
Imagine spending all day, every day sleeping, eating, and staring out the window of your home. It would get boring pretty fast. Well, that's the life of your indoor cat unless you provide it with some mental and physical stimulation to keep it happy and healthy.
Here are 10 tips on how to make your kitty happier.
- Go vertical. Cats are, by nature, climbers. That's why you should provide your cat with the opportunity to survey its world from a high vantage point. Tall, carpeted, cat-friendly climbing towers are available at most pet stores and are easily installed. Locate them in a spot where the family gathers so your cat can enjoy the action from above. Don't put the tower in an unused bedroom or an out-of-the-way corner. Your cat probably won't use it if it's tucked away from the main activity center of your home.
- Build shelves. If you don't like the look of a cat tower in your living room, try building some easily accessible shelves where your cat can roam. Just make sure the shelves are covered with some nonslip material to keep your kitty from sliding off the edge. You can even disguise the shelves with a few books at one end if you want them to blend in with your decor.
- Provide privacy. In a busy home, your cat will appreciate privacy. Even a cardboard box hidden under your bed will give it a quiet spot where it can relax and take a quick catnap. If your kitty shares your home with other pets, it will appreciate having several private spaces scattered about the house.
- Add scratching posts. Having at least one scratching post in your home should be a requirement for cat owners. Cats use the posts to sharpen their claws, mark their territories, and stretch their bodies. Even cats who have been declawed use a scratching post because they retain their instinct and desire to sharpen their claws on a rough object. Plus, if you don't provide a scratching post, your cat will often find a piece of furniture to use instead. When you shop for a scratching post, look for one that's tall enough to accommodate your cat when fully stretched out and that's heavy enough so it doesn't topple over on your pet. Learn more about declawing cats.
- Improve the view. Cats love to watch birds and other activities through the window. Add window perches throughout your home so your cat can relax and view the world from a comfortable spot. Today's homes often have narrow windowsills, so installing a perch here and there will make your cat happy. Note: If you open your windows during the summer, ensure the screens are securely fastened so your cat doesn't lean against them and fall out. You might also install a bird feeder outside the window to lure birds up close for your cat's viewing entertainment.
- Bring out the toys. It's important that you set aside some time every day to play with your cat. Vary the toys so it doesn't become bored with the same old felt mouse. Try dangling feather toys in front of your cat as a great way to arouse its natural stalk-and-pounce behavior. And, look for puzzle-type toys to keep your cat active while you are away at work.
- Keep it simple. When it comes to cat toys, you don't have to spend a fortune to keep kitty happy. In fact, sometimes the simplest toys work the best. Ping-pong balls, cardboard tubes, balls of aluminum foil, large rubber fishing lures (without the hooks), paper bags, or even a piece of driftwood will provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Just be sure your cat can't swallow the toy or get tangled in it and hurt itself.
- Go vegetarian. Cats are primarily carnivores, but most kitties still like to occasionally nibble on fresh, green grass. No one knows why some cats like to eat grass, but it's a way you can perk up your furry friend. Most pet shops now carry pots of "cat grass" already sprouted and ready to take home. Cat grass can be a mix of wheat, oat, rye, or barley, and all of it is completely safe for your cat to dine on. If you don't want to spend the money on presprouted cat grass, just pot up some seeds at home in a sunny window. But, be sure your cat doesn't get to the pot before the grass is several inches tall.
- Enjoy the high life. One no-fail method of livening up a laid-back kitty is with catnip. This harmless herb puts your cat in a temporary euphoric state when it sniffs or ingests the leaves (dried leaves are more potent than fresh leaves). Each catnip leaf contains the oil nepetalactone, which is what causes your pet to go a little crazy. However, only about 50 percent of cats have the gene that reacts with the plant; don't be too surprised if your pet doesn't act like it's at a rock concert. Also, kittens under the age of six months might not react to catnip. Offer catnip as living plants, stuffed into toys, or as a spray.
- Try tricks. Dogs aren't the only pets that can learn tricks. Cats are also trainable, especially if you start while they are young. Start by assessing your cat's talents. If it likes to leap, then you probably can teach it to jump hurdles on command. Or, if it's more inclined to keep all four paws on the ground, try teaching it to roll over or juggle a small ball on its back. Unlike dogs, not all cats are treat-motivated, but with repetition, patience, and lots of praise, you will find a combination that motivates your cat. And, if it's still not interested in becoming a trickster, the time you spend with your cat on training will keep it active and create a stronger bond with you. Check out these cat fitness tips.