Fun Times for Felines

Penny here. The life of an indoor housecat can be pretty blissful. I mean, get a load of my daily agenda:

But as much as felines love to snack and snooze, that shouldn’t be all we do. Some people seem to think that cats enjoy being lazy, when in reality most of us crave environmental enrichment. Don’t be scared. Enrichment is just a fancy term for games, toys, and human interaction that engages our feline senses and helps keep us young at heart.  Cat enrichment can be rewarding for both felines and our humans.

Stuck for where to begin? Here are some of my favorite cat enrichment ideas!

TOYS

Toys are a given for cat enrichment, and pet stores are full of great options–including feather wands, catnip mice, and glitter-sparkle-crinkle balls. But not all toys have to be complicated or cost a lot of money.  Many cats enjoy playing in cardboard boxes or paper bags. And have I ever told you about my deep love of crumpled paper balls?

If it’s in this drawer, it means I was playing with it at midnight under the bed.

If you’re the DIY sort, you may get a kick out of designing your own cat toys. The fluttering motion of paper fans can be enticing, while bells from discarded Christmas decorations can find new life when tied on the end of a piece of string.

Not pictured – the moment I raced across the floor in pursuit of this fan and bonked my head against the coffee table.

Many of us like laser pointers. Heck–chickens and tarantulas like laser pointers! There are a few different options for these.  You can get handheld laser pointers, or there are automatic toys that reflect light off a mirrorThese are basically the cat version of a lightsaber. Who wouldn’t pay attention to that? Sounds like awesome cat enrichment to me.

Finally, it has to be said–cats do need to scratch.  This behavior is normal and necessary to maintain claw health.  When cats scratch, it helps loosen the old, dead claw layers and keep our claws clean.  Cardboard, carpet, and sisal rope are all good options for scratching. You can even wrap sisal rope or carpet around a surface you’re okay with your cats going to town on, such as a post or the corner of a wall.  Most of us do appreciate having a scratching post in a social area where our humans hang out (like in a living room).  Don’t tuck it away in the back corner of your bedroom.

Keep in mind that as fun as these cat enrichment ideas may be, safety needs to come first.  I always recommend having your cat supervised while playing with toys.

ENVIRONMENT

Cat enrichment doesn’t have to actively involve your human servants… erm… caretakers!  If you put a little thought into the way your cat’s environment is structured, you can help your furkids keep themselves entertained.

I love to survey my kingdom from on high.  Felines often appreciate vertical space to perch on, as it helps us feel like we have a secure place to retreat (especially when there are other cats in the household). Cat “trees,” platforms, and hammocks make great gifts.

Do you have a green thumb? Catnip is super easy to grow. It’s a member of the mint family, and Mom says that after the Apocalypse only roaches and mint plants will remain. They’re basically unkillable.

On the left, a catnip plant that was decimated by one of the neighborhood strays. In a few weeks, it will look like the plant on the right again. Catnip: immortal.

My big brother, Struensee, loves to walk on a leash outside. I’m not so fond of going out, but I do love to watch birds through the window.  If only that glass pane wasn’t between us!  Window boxes can be fun; there are even platforms with suction cups you can adhere to a window. Liven our days by placing a bird feeder nearby to give us something to snack on . . . I mean watch!

Momentary truce established for the purpose of stalking prey we’ll never catch.

If there aren’t a lot of birds in your area, consider videos for cats! Yes, it’s a real thing. You can buy DVDs for cats to watch*, or CDs with birdsong for them to listen to. A great idea for those who like to leave some soft noise playing (like the radio) when you’re away from your pets.

*Or visit YouTube for tons of cat video options!

BEHAVIOR

Just like humans, some of us need a little encouragement to get more exercise.  For food motivated felines (especially those that may be a little hefty), a “busy ball” or “treat ball” may be a good option. Your human can also make you your own “busy box” out of an empty pizza container or egg carton.

Gonna…get…that…ball!

How luscious is my coat? It just sort of… happened. When I was adopted, I wasn’t nearly so floofy. Now, I need daily brushing. Luckily, brushing can be an excellent form of cat enrichment, too. Struensee and I know the word “brush” and come running when Mom yells it. I prefer a silicone mitt that removes dead hair. Struensee actually uses a bristled brush from Sephora! (He claimed it from Mom’s vanity one day, and she let him have it.)

Speaking of words–cats can be trained, too! Learning words is a great way to keep our brains engaged. If you have enough patience, you can get us to associate human words with lots of things. Say “brush” every time we’re brushed, and we’ll learn what it means. Hold our treats slightly above our heads and say “stand,” and we’ll eventually stand without the treat. Struensee comes running when Dad yells, “Outside!” and we both know that a “bed” is the place where Kitty Nap Club meetings are conducted.

Cats have a reputation for being aloof and for tending to their own business–but many of us really like being around people. Make interactions with us pleasant, offer us a lot of enrichment options, and you’ll end up with a very happy cat!