Is Your Cat Feeling Stir Crazy? 10 Tips to Relieve Feline Boredom in an Everyday Environment
Groundhog Day was a few weeks ago and while its traditionally known for Phil, the Groundhog from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania who emerges from his home to predict whether spring will be early or if we’re in for a longer winter, for many of us, when we think of Groundhog Day we think of Bill Murray in the movie of the same name. The iconic image of his alarm clock waking him up day after day after day to the sound of Sonny and Cher singing “I got you Babe.”
Groundhog Day is also right around the time those who live in colder climates begin to feel the wearing effects of a grueling winter and are itching for spring to arrive. If you live in Florida like I do, we get reverse Groundhog Day around August when we’ve had more than enough hiding indoors in the air conditioning during the summer because it’s too hot to be outside.
Regardless of the scenario or climate, the common denominator is getting that boxed in feeling of wanting freedom from the constraints of the daily grind of the environment we live in. Now imagine if you’re a cat. While it’s not always possible, in ideal circumstances it’s safest to keep your cat indoors and for many of us cat guardians, that’s exactly what we do. So, what’s it like to be an animal who, albeit domesticated, is innately wild by nature? An animal who is wild by nature who is living in the confines of whatever space you live in. How is it for their health and well-being if every single day is like the movie Groundhog day for them?
Even if we’re going stir crazy, whether it be work, or shopping, or running errands, or even getting our mail, we still have the opportunity to leave the confines of our house or apartment on occasion. Or if we feel like it, depending on where we live, maybe we spend the day at the beach, or we take a walk down a nature trail, or a bike ride to the park, or a trip to Dunkin Donuts for a cup of coffee.
And even if we elect to stay indoors, we have the ability to change our surroundings if we so chose. We can watch a movie, we can play games on our computer, or we can make a batch of gooey chocolate chip cookies if we feel like it. An indoor cat doesn’t have that luxury. All they have is what we provide for them and that’s why it’s so important to be conscious of the environment we create for them. After all, it’s not just your home, it’s theirs, too.
Providing your cat with basic items within that environment to satisfy their instinctual needs is essential. Scratching post options to allow them to stretch and exercise their claws. Vertically shaped pieces of furniture to jump up to so they feel a territorial sense of ownership. An assortment of appropriate toys so they can mimic their need to stalk, hunt, and “kill” prey – all of this is critical to keeping your cat optimally happy and healthy.
But it’s not enough. Even by providing them with the basics, cats can get bored and sometimes they give us little hints to let us know when they’ve gotten to that point. For example, when Rolz randomly get aggressive and bullies his sisters with chasing, swats, screaming meows, and hissing, I know he needs special playtime to divert his pent-up energy. He’s not deliberately trying to be mean to them, it’s the only way he knows how to communicate his frustration.
It’s just part of how a cat’s DNA is wired. Cats are crepuscular (meaning they are instinctively more active around dawn or dusk) and they typically nap up to 16 hours a day. Not because they’re lazy; it’s so they can reserve their energy to keep their hunting skills sharp because they are born predators. That’s why your cat will suddenly zoom from one room to the next like a two-year old toddler high on sugar, and then stops as if nothing has happened – they are exerting bursts of energy. That’s why it’s so important to provide your cat with unexpected ways to add some fun and stimulation to their everyday routine. Not only will it help to alleviate any stresses they may be feeling, it will relieve boredom and keep their minds sharp and their bodies fit.
Here are some quick and easy suggestions to try with your cat:
1. Put an empty box on the floor. There are very few cats that aren’t tempted by the lure of a box – whether it be to nap in or to use as some sort of secret lair to simulate the hide/hunt/stalk/kill instinct (often translated by your cat “killing” a plush toy and dropping it into the box).
2. Switch things up. Maybe put a chair or pillow under a window that normally is not there or move a piece of furniture around. Cats like finding new areas to nap or explore and it’s a nice change of pace for them.
3. Make treat time more of an exercise in cunning rather than just handing your kitty a treat. Tucking treats in spots for your cat to seek out, or even buying a special product that is made like a puzzle so that your cat has to figure out how to get the treat helps hone their hunting skills.
4. Take an old toy (or get a new one) and dust it with catnip. Then hide it somewhere for your cat to find.
5. Initiate special grooming time with your cat. Not only will it help to reduce the tendency of hairballs or mats developing, but it’s a nice diversion and opportunity for you to bond with your cat.
6. Crinkle up a piece of paper or foil and throw it on the floor so kitty can play a game of “hockey” – you’d be surprised at how much fun that simple act can provide a cat.
7. Incorporate more human-feline playtime with your cat – wand toys are especially fun for a cat, but even more so when you are the one that is enticingly dangling the other end of the string that is holding the “victim.”
8. As long as there is nothing dangerous in the room, consider opening a door that is normally closed, such as a closet or guest bedroom. There’s nothing more exciting for a cat than to explore an area that is typically off-limits.
9. If weather permits and you have screens, open the windows so your cat gets a whiff of some fresh air and new smells.
10. If you live in an area where you feel it is safe and your cat is up for it, consider taking her outside for a walk in either a leash/harness or specially designed cat stroller that she can sit in to watch the world.
Feline behavior is a fascinating subject and how it ties to the environment they live in is equally fascinating. I did significant research on the subject when I wrote Makin’ Biscuits – Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Human Who Love Them. If you would like to learn more about the how’s and why’s of what our cats do – such as why do they hide toys around the house, or steal food from our plates, or seek out boxes to nap in, I highly recommend you check the book out! Not only is it entertaining, it’s educational, too! For more information, please click here.