10 Tips to Relieve Feline Boredom in the Same Old 24/7 Environment

While the worst of it is over and I’m grateful for the success of my recent vitrectomy eye surgery, the recovery period was intensely difficult and one that gave me an unexpected virtual perspective of the life of my cats. For nearly two weeks, I was confined to a 3’ x 4’ cushion on the couch. I had to remain in a seated position, with my head upright, including when I was sleeping. After day 10, I was in tears, exhausted from the monotony, and it hit me like a lightning bolt – this is what it must be like to be a cat, captive to the 24/7 same old, same old of whatever world we provide for them.

It’s not that my cats have a bad life. By all accounts, they have everything – regular visits to the veterinarian, nutritious food, clean water and litter, and a feline-enriched home, filled with toys, cat condos, cat beds and more. They seem happy on the surface, but the occasional hissing fits and physical outbursts with one another I’ve witnessed would suggest they are feeling stir-crazy, stressed out from the mundaneness of their everyday routine, and it’s their way of communicating their frustration.

Too much togetherness can be a fight waiting to happen. With alternative stimulation, the altercation can usually be avoided.

Cats are wild by their DNA and they need an environment suited to their natural predator instincts. Because they are crepuscular, meaning they are instinctively more active around dawn or dusk, they typically nap up to 16 hours a day. This is not out of laziness, but so that they can reserve their energy to keep their hunting skills sharp. As most cats live indoors for their safety, it’s essential for their physical health and mental well-being during those waking hours they are provided with fun and stimulating challenges to keep their minds and bodies fit.

It’s not difficult to keep your cat optimally happy and healthy – by implementing some, or all these 10 tips into your everyday routine, your cat should be feeling like the wild cat she was born to be!

1. Thinking outside the box is encouraged for human creativity, but when it comes to a cat, inside the box is a better place for him to satisfy his inner feline. It’s like magic – put an empty box on the floor and wait about 3 seconds for kitty to appear! There are very few cats that aren’t tempted by the lure of a box – whether it be to nap in, sniff, scratch, or to use as some sort of secret lair to hide from wild predators that might be lurking in the house.

How to make a cat happy. Step one – find a box and put it on the floor. Wait 3 seconds. That’s it. Happy cat!

2. Make treat time more of an exercise in cunning rather than just handing your kitty a treat. Tuck treats in spots for your cat to seek out, or buy a special product that is made like a puzzle so your cat must figure out how to get the treat out to help hone her hunting skills. And think about mixing up the treat time – chances are good your cat has you trained to give her a treat at her beck and meow – make the reward more random to challenge her.

3. 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 a specially designed cat stroller she can sit in to watch the world. It might take some time for kitty to get accustomed to a leash, but according to Fitcat Publishing Editor, Janiss Garza, in the article Leash Training for a Happier, More Confident Cats written for Fear Free Pets, it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do as a pet parent, as it makes for a cat who is happier, more self-assured, and outgoing.

4. Crinkle up a piece of paper or foil and throw it on the floor so kitty can play a game of “hockey.” Or recycle an old toy by dusting it with catnip and hide it somewhere for your cat to find. You’d be surprised just how much fun you cat can have with such a simple act.

5. It’s all about getting high. Not literally getting high, but because cats are territorial and need personal space like they would find outdoors in the wild, according to Jackson Galaxy, cat behaviorist, author, and star of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell, “access to vertical space is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.” Cats need plenty of jumping options, such as high shelving, cat trees/condos, and even human furniture like counters, table tops, and dressers to feel safe and confident.

This cat condo has it all – high vertical space, scratching post options, and lots of shelves so several cats can feel safe at once.

6. Switch things up. Maybe put a chair or pillow under a window that’s normally not there or move your couch to let your cat see what’s underneath it. Chances are good you’ll find all sorts of things he has put under there during one of his hunting sprees, which will peak his interest again. And if 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.

7. We might not consider scratching as being fun or stimulating, but for a cat, it’s vital to their physical health and mental well-being to stretch and exercise their claws. Stretching helps your cat keep her muscles in top form so she’s ready to jump and pounce at a moment’s notice, even after a 16-hour nap. Provide her with a variety of scratching options and sprinkle with catnip if need be to entice her to use the post.

Yeah, baby! There’s no doubt scratching is good for a cat’s mind, body, and soul!

8. Incorporate more human-feline playtime with your cat by making the ordinary, extraordinary. For example, when you make your bed, plan for a few extra minutes of playtime with kitty. The odds are high the sheets and blankets have monsters lurking about that your cat must defeat. Or keep an old shoelace hidden safely away in a drawer somewhere. When you walk past it, grab the shoelace and drag it on the floor for your cat to chase. Or keep wand toys handy – they 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.”

9. If weather permits and you have screens, open the windows so your cat gets a whiff of some fresh air and new smells. If you’re able to feed birds and squirrels in your yard, that’s even more exciting for your cat who will now get to watch some bird or squirrel TV. Just make sure all screens are securely in place, as you don’t want your cat to lunge out the window and get hurt.

A squirrel at the window? It really doesn’t get much better than that for a cat!

10. While this might not be an option for everyone, consider investing in a cat exercise wheel for your cat. According to Marybeth Rymer, DVM, San Francisco VCA, the health benefits include weight loss preventing Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and joint stress, improved muscle tone and mass, cardiovascular improvement which can also support better kidney function, and entertainment reducing depression and anxiety. She advises if using with a senior cat, to plan a prior veterinary exam to be sure there are no heart or other health issues that may be aggravated by the exercise.

It’s really all about thinking like a cat. Every day doesn’t have to be a fun-filled circus act, but a conscious effort does need to be made to ensure kitty is being given suitable challenges to provide her with a world befitting her true, wild nature. For my gang, when I’m given the signals what I’m doing isn’t enough and I see they need additional stimulation, I take the cue and step up my game. Whether it’s an extended play period with a toy or a supervised jaunt outside in our enclosed, fenced in yard, as their responsible cat guardian who created the environment they live in, it’s the least I can do. 

If all is well, kitty should be worn out from productive playtime and stimulation, ready to settle in for a happy and content nap.


For more on the fascinating subject of feline behavior, consider reading my three-time award-winning book, Makin’ Biscuits – Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Human Who Love Them. It’s all about what makes a cat tick – the how’s and why’s of what our cats do – such as why they hide toys around the house, steal food from our plates or seek out boxes to nap in. For more information, please click here.

Makin’ Biscuits – Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Humans Who Love Them.

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  1. Andrea Dorn says:

    Your post serves as a reminder to me. I used to have regular evening playtime with the cats but I’ve gotten away from that lately. Need to put that back in the schedule. Thanks!

  2. I am determined to find a new cat bed for Angel; she’s 14 now and doesn’t want to play much, but I think a hammock-style bed would be a new happy place for her.

  3. jmuhj says:

    While we can rest assured that what you have gone through is far, far more frustrating than what our well-loved and cared for cats experience, those are very good suggestions, Deb! *And bravo for having come through the recuperation period! How well I know a lot of what you write about.*

  4. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    Deb; I find myself in that same situation when I take a vacation week from work
    instead of a few days here and there ~~~~~ I hope your vision is 1000000
    purrcent improved..oh, .I tried to click on cat exercise wheel but some outside
    foreign force is stopping me from doing sew tuna ~~ 😉 ♥♥

  5. Those are all excellent ways to keep us from getting bored. We’re glad you’re doing better, too.

  6. Ellen Pilch says:

    Great tips. It is easy to forget that the kitties can get bored until we are trapped inside for a while.

  7. Bob Barber says:

    Loved these tips! You really know your stuff. It makes me nostalgic for a large Florida room we had in another house. Three walls were that kind of slatted glass you open with a crank, floor to ceiling, backed by screen. The kitties could see and hear everything that went on in the yard. They spent hours there. Here we can only give them the screen door and smaller screened windows. Not the same.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Bob, and so glad you enjoyed the tips! Your Florida room sounds amazing…no wonder you’re feeling nostalgic!

  8. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. We love it when we put an empty box on the floor and they come right up to sit in it. Hopefully, these tips will help a lot of cat owners if they think their cat is suffering from boredom. Have a great day.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for letting us know you appreciated the article. Sometimes it’s easy to forget our feline friends can get bored and we appreciate the endorsement from your perspective.

  9. Holly says:

    I definitely have to step up my game. It’s easy to let it slide when there’s a lot going on in life.