When a new kitten was introduced home, we all remember how they were playful. Their days are full of activities and play such as chasing, pouncing, and rearing up, playing with toys, stalking and hunting.
However, as cats get older, they easily fall into bad habits which make them have very inactive lifestyles such as napping most of the time during the day, lying on the couch in the spot where they enjoy the sunshine or watching birds outside. This lifestyle can lead to obesity, boredom, and some behavioural problems.
Cats who are engaged in more play and activities get a number of benefits: reducing stress, decreasing the occurrence of behavioural problems, preventing obesity and increasing bonds with the owner.
There are several ways you can stimulate your cat’s activity in your home.
1 – Provide a variety of toys at home. There many types of toys you can find in the market. Some toys are intended for cats to play alone (solo toys) and some toys you can play with your cats (interactive toys). While you are playing with your cat using interactive toys such as feather teaser or fishing pole or laser toys, these activities not only make your cat exercise a lot but also improve the bond and your cat. Even though interactive play is the best way to stimulate cats to get more exercise in various ways, solo play toys also have lots of benefits to make cats active throughout the day. Toy mice and rattling or bouncy balls in this category. Also, simple cardboard boxes or paper bag can be excellent toys for your feline to play alone. By making some holes in the bag and boxes, you can create more fun for your cat while they are playing with them. Lastly, you can try toys filled with catnips and motorizing or remote controlled toys.
2 – Use food to stimulate your cat’s hunting instinct. Cats are natural hunters and this basic skill gets sharpened while they are growing with their mother because the mother cat teaches this skill repeatedly to her kittens during this period. Therefore, this habit does not go away simply because they are living indoors. You can use their hunting skills to get your cats more active rather than suppressing. By hiding small amounts of food throughout the house or providing a food dispenser for your cat work to get for his/her food you can make your cat engaged in a more active lifestyle.
3 – Providing a variety of vertical space in your home is letting your cats increase his/her activities. Indoor cat’s territory does not limit to a horizontal plane. On the contrary, a vertical territory is crucial to cats because it provides security to them and it satisfies their curiosity. From the elevated position, cats can see what is happening outside and hear sounds coming from outside and smell lots of things outside the house. You can also provide your cats with perches, where they can lie, sit, sleep or look outside from above.
Generally indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats because they are less exposed to dangers such as fights with other animals, accidents, diseases, therefore most owners want to keep their cats indoors even though their activity level are significantly lower. However, by providing various toys, enticing cats for food hunting and offering diverse places for cats to climb, we can allow them to get adequate exercise and to keep them active.
Written by: Dr. Emily (Youn Joo) Cho, Veterinarian
– Indoor Pet Initiative (https://indoorpet.osu.edu/home)