Are you afraid that your cat may be bored witless?
Many owners of indoor cats are worried about the exact same thing.
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And it's a legitimate worry, in this case. In this article, we're going to discuss why cats get bored and talk about the telltale signs of boredom in felines.
But there's more.
We're also going to share with you 10 actionable tips on how to fight boredom! Follow through to learn how you can make life interesting for your cat, helping reduce stress and prevent - or address - any behavioral problems too.
Why is boredom in cats even a problem?
Do you agree that cats are predators, made for a life of action?
As more and more cat owners opt for keeping their cats securely indoors, cat behaviorists are seeing a new cause for behavior problems: boredom. Many cats simply do not get enough stimulation in their secure indoor environments. That can lead to a myriad of behavior problems or simply to a bored, sleepy, and sometimes even overweight feline.
The right amount of stimulation is essential for our cat's physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways in which you can enrich your cats' lives. Let's talk about boredom in cats. Do cats get bored? How to tell if my cat is bored? And perhaps most importantly - what to do if my cat is bored.
Keep reading as we've put together a list of 10 awesome ways for you to provide environmental enrichment for cats. Follow through to make sure your cat gets enough physical and mental stimulation.
Do Cats Get Bored?
You've watched your cat investigate cardboard boxes, kitchen cupboards, and perhaps even the great outdoors, so you know that cats are naturally inquisitive creatures. It's in a cat's DNA to learn about the environment and explore his/her territory.
Cats need constant stimulation around them. They need to get new and changing input from their senses. They need to see, hear, smell, touch and explore new elements. If they don't have that - yes, they will get bored.
If you choose to keep your cat indoors only - a smart choice in most situations! - you have to take into account the sharp difference in terms of stimulation. A cat that goes outside gets to interact with various sights, smells and sounds. Small (and sometimes large!) animals come by, new plants grow and even the weather keeps changing.
Inside? It's the same mundane routine, day after day. It never snows in the living room, and it's very rare for a bird or bat to fly in.
Now, we're not saying cats are better off outdoors. Far from it. The great outdoors are not only stimulating -- they can also be extremely dangerous. For your cat to be safe and healthy, you should probably keep him or her inside. Just be aware that the inside can be, well, boring, and it's your job to change that.
Lonely cats can get even more bored
It's easy to assume that cats are happy to be left to themselves, especially since they're known to sleep for 12-16 hours per day. Despite what many cat owners believe, cats are actually very social creatures who enjoy interacting with humans (and sometimes, even other animals).
You've seen your cat rub his or her face against you, initiate playtime, or snuggle up with you on the couch. If you have more than one pet, you've probably seen them chase each other around the house. If you're gone for much of the day, it's quite possible that your cat becomes bored in your absence due to lack of social interaction, which is another major reason for boredom in cats.
But is my cat bored?
If you find yourself wondering, "Is my cat bored?" it means that you're a caring, responsible cat owner! You care about your cat's happiness and want to make sure you're providing the most exciting, stimulating environment possible for your furry friend.
There are a few different signs that your cat might be bored. Generally speaking, boredom causes stress, and stress can cause all sorts of behavioral and health problems in a cat. Check out our guide on how to tell if your cat is stressed out for more information.
Signs that your cat may be bored could include:
- Chewing on household items
- Excessive self-grooming
- Pushing objects to watch them fall
- Harassment of other pets
- Excessive meowing
- Increased focus on food/treats
- Attempts to get out the door
The behaviors that cats exhibit when bored can be bothersome to cat owners. It's important that you don't punish your cat for these behaviors. Punishing is never the solution. Even though getting angry or ignoring the behavior may make it stop for some time, it's likely that bored kitties will simply find a new way to express their frustration. In order to stop these issues from occurring, it's key that you find ways to keep your cat happy, even when they are left alone throughout the work day.
Bored Cat? 10 Ways to Fight Boredom in Cats
If your cat is showing telltale signs of feline boredom, don't worry- there are plenty of things that you can do to help your furry friend engage their natural instincts and social behavior. Remember, all cats are different, and what works to stop boredom for one cat may not be exciting to another cat. Try a variety of these tips and see what works best for your kitty.
1. A Cat Enclosure
It's tempting to let your cat roam outside, especially when you see them staring out the window, longing to go hunting after the chirping birds and bushy-tailed squirrels that roam your backyard. If the dangers of the outdoors make you nervous (and they should!), but you still want your cat to be able to spend some time outdoors, a cat enclosure may be the perfect boredom buster for your furry friend.
A cat enclosure, also known as a catio, is a great option for giving your cat some room to roam and take in some outdoor breezes! Creating an enclosed space for your cat is something you can do on your own or with the help of a professional. There are a variety of options for where to place your catio. Porches, backyards, and decks are all great options to let your cat get a taste of the great outdoors.
If you decide to use a cat enclosure, remember that even moderately hot and cold temperatures can be dangerous for a cat, especially if they've spent their entire life indoors. Keep an eye on Kitty and never ever leave them in the enclosure with no way to get back inside.
A cat enclosure is a great way to let your cat enjoy the atmosphere of the great outdoors while keeping her safe. You can get some inspiration for building your own here.
2. A windowsill shelf
A windowsill shelf is probably a more viable option if you live in an apartment. Even if you have no access to a backyard, and thus can't build an enclosure, you can still place a cat shelf right next to a properly screened and secured window, allowing your cat a safe place from which to look out and check out the street.
3. Cat Furniture
Speaking of shelves, the more cat furniture you can put up for your cat, the better. Whether you call them cat trees, cat gyms or cat condos, providing your cat with solid and stable places to climb and perch on will add more space to her territory and more places to explore.
Cat furniture with a variety of textures and surfaces will encourage your cat to jump and scratch like they would if they were outside in their natural habitat. Many cats enjoy sitting on top of a cat tree due to the view. They like looking out at their domain, searching for "prey." Your cat will really start to purr if you set their cat furniture up near a window that provides a view of chirping birds.
Read this to learn using vertical space to make your home feel larger for your cat.
4. Toys for bored cats
Cat toys are a great weapon in your fight against kitty boredom!
Try a variety of toys to see which ones your cat prefers. Keep the toy collection out of reach, and provide your cat with only 2-3 toys at a time, rotating them every few days. Read more about cat play and cat toys here. Don't just think about cat balls and fake mice here, try interactive toys such as the Smartcat Peek A Prize Balls.
While the interactive play is ideal, it's unlikely that you're able to be home with your cat 24 hours a day. Automated toys are a great option to keep your cat engaged in play when they are home alone. Many automated toys mimic the motions of small rodents that cats would hunt in the wild. These stop-and-go movements, along with crinkly fabrics and unpredictable patterns, will interest your cat and likely trick them into feeling like they're accomplishing a kill during a hunt.
Catnip can be a great way to spice up kitty's day. Read more on how catnip affects cats and try it with your cat to see if he or she reacts to catnip, as not all cats do. If catnip works for your cat, you can use it in toys or just sprinkled around in a nice little heap once in a while.
6. Interactive playtime
Ever wonder why your cat only wants to play with toys if you're involved? A cat's predatory instinct is activated when you move a toy around, piquing your cat's interest and desire to hunt. When a toy simply sits on the ground, it's not nearly as exciting for your cat.
Interactive play is key for helping your cat stay active and interested in toys. Interactive play involves the cat's mind and body. Not only does it relieve kitty boredom, it also strengthens that special bond between you and your cat. Your cat will be much more engaged if you make playtime a mental game. Hiding toys behind objects and placing toys just out of your cat's reach will keep him or her guessing.
It's important that you do not make the "catch" impossible for your cat, as this can become frustrating and create behavioral issues. It's also important that you do not exhaust your cat. If you see your cat panting or becoming exhausted, take a break and return to interactive play at another time. In the wild, cats spend most of their hunting time watching their prey and carefully calculating the best way to carry out an attack. Your cat will need plenty of similar breaks during playtime.
Try fishing rod type toys such as Da Bird Cat Toy, where you can simulate a hunting scene by moving the object around as if it were a mouse or a bird. Make sure your hands do not come into contact with the cat during those games, as cats will naturally be aggressive towards prey.
7. Feeding with a Twist
Work-For-Treats type toys can be a great option for some cats. Instead of just giving out treats to your cat, leave them in a toy such as the Play N Treat Treat Ball, with some dry kibble treats inside. The extra play and work will keep Kitty entertained and happy while you're away.
8. Send your cat to the movies.
Or rather, try letting Kitty watch nature-show movies produced especially for cats, such as this Kitty Movie Entertainment Dvd. Not every cat responds to recorded shows, but some do find them fascinating, so it could be worth a try.
If you don't have a DVD player - that's ok. Youtube has a variety of cat movies available - and they're all free.
Try this one with birds:
Or an even longer one (4 hours long!) with more wild critters:
9. Take Kitty For a Walk
Depending on your cat's character and your neighborhood, you may consider training your cat to walk on a leash for some joint outdoor excursions. This solution is not for every cat, and the training process can take a while, but some owners and cats find it a good arrangement, and there's nothing quite like a supervised walk outside. Read more about how to teach your cat to walk wearing a harness and leash.
10. A Feline Friend
Lastly, if you're worried about leaving your cat alone for long hours, consider getting him or her a feline playmate. Obviously, there are more aspects to be considered when it comes to the decision of whether or not to adopt a second cat.
Not all cats benefit from having another cat introduced into their lives, and you could be looking at a long and demanding introduction process. Usually, this is a better solution with kittens or younger cats, but it could also enhance the life quality of some older, more sociable cats.
Considering a second cat? Take a look at our guide: Your Second Cat: How To Choose The Best Friend For Kitty.
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