Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Just like us, pets perk up when the weather is nice. Our dog friends love getting their exercise in the sunshine, but most cats aren’t interested in going for a leashed walk outside. So how can we help our indoor feline friends get that extra energy out?
Most cats love to play! Playtime alleviates boredom and depression, which is why providing your cat with outlets to express their natural instincts is so important. The way cats play stems from their predatory instinct to hunt and stalk prey. They require mental stimulation as well as physical.
Play not only provides exercise, it also appeals to a cat's sensory needs and strengthens your bond with them. It’s recommended that cats get approximately 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day to stay healthy. Since cats nap for up to 18 hours out of every 24, many prefer to split up their daily exercise into short, intense bursts.
Some cats are more social than others and some are more playful than others. Each cat has their own unique personality and limitations which must be respected and nurtured. With that in mind, please understand that your cat may not enjoy all of these activities.
Many of the social aspects of feline enrichment are maintained through daily routine. These are bonding and companionship activities such as talking to your cat, petting or grooming (only if wanted, never forced) and letting your cat investigate your scent. Socialization with their humans is an important part of a cat’s overall enrichment.
Sensory activities encourage cats to explore and utilize their keen senses. Indoor cats are used to being in the same environment all of the time. Small changes each day can be a whole new experience for them by offering a different method of interacting with their surroundings.
Something as simple as leaving a window curtain open behind the couch or leaving the TV on during the day provides audio and visual stimulation. Soothing music and nature sound stations provide background noise.
Scratching posts and emery boards provide a specific spot for sharpening claws. Corner rubs and arches satisfy the sense of touch with textured surfaces to rub up against.
Cat trees and wall shelves offer a new perspective on the environment by allowing cats to climb and see their world from a different point of view.
Pop up tunnels, cat tents and cardboard boxes can be a great way to let your cat stalk and explore without destroying your furniture by attempting to climb up inside it.
Hiding treats around the house before bed gives your cat something to hunt for during the active hours of the night. Treat dispensing toys are another good option to encourage foraging.
Catnip toys and spray can add extra stimulation to playtime. Loose catnip can be sprinkled in a brown paper bag or box for easy cleanup.
*Catnip is a natural, central nervous system stimulant which will usually produce a playful or “spaced out” effect in adult cats. On rare occasions, cats may have an aggressive response.
Approximately 75% of cats are born with the gene which allows them to enjoy catnip. Kittens younger than 6 months old are not mature enough to have a reaction.
Toys and physical exercise can incorporate both social and sensory enrichment, but it’s important to monitor and limit strenuous activity. It’s always a good idea to switch up activities and rotate toys frequently to keep cats engaged. If you notice your cat panting, it’s time to take a break.
Laser toys are very popular. It’s fun to watch your cat stalk and attack the red dot while keeping your hands far away from claws. Cat lasers come in standard pointer and automatic. Some even come with kaleidoscope mode!
*Be careful to not shine the laser directly in the cat’s eyes. Always give them some type of toy they can “catch” after to avoid frustration over not being able to catch the red dot.
Interactive toys such as flopping fish and circle chaser mats move all on their own. These kinds of toys allow cats to “capture” their target after a chase and continue to wrestle with it as it moves.
Feather wands and string toys are another great way to keep distance and offer the gratification of a “catch”. These types of toys have the additional benefit of bonding, because you are actively playing with your pet.
*Place string toys out of reach after play. Anything stringy can be harmful if swallowed.
Balls and small toys are always fun to have scattered around the house. These are the toys that you want to rotate and mix up. A small mist of catnip can renew interest in older toys as you cycle through.
Feeling crafty? Make your own DIY cat toys! Bottle caps, stuffed socks, cardboard/toilet paper rolls, the list goes on and on! One of the best forms of recycling is to reuse and repurpose.
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