Whether you choose to let your cat roam around outside or prefer they stay indoors, all cats deserve to be entertained around the house. Having toys, regular cuddles, and mental games to enjoy at home will help keep indoor cats from becoming bored, and encourage outdoor cats to stay at or closer to home more regularly.
The phrase “curious like a cat” comes from cats’ natural inclination to hunt and explore new spaces and objects. Consequently, if a cat is kept indoors, or an otherwise confined area, they are less likely to encounter new and interesting stimuli so may get a bit bored. A bored cat is not only unhappy, but prolonged boredom can lead to negative behavioural and health issues. If a cat has nothing to rouse his or herself mentally or physically, they may attempt to create their own excitement by becoming aggressive with other household pets or people, or by scaling and damaging household furniture. While a scratching post or cat tree can alleviate this, they only go so far if your cat lacks other forms of stimulation. Other common signs of boredom are reflected in cats’ body language, including indulging in repetitive activities, like overeating, overgrooming, and even biting themselves, as well as generally losing all interest in physical activity and becoming lethargic. All of these can cause short-term injury or long-term health problems.
From squeaky animals to pieces of rope, almost anything can be a toy for a cat and you don’t need to break the bank buying plastic toys in shops to provide stimulating objects. When playing with your cat—which we recommend all owners do regularly to help develop your bond—try to incorporate their toys as often as possible. Not only will this make your playtime together more creative, but your cat will learn that the toys are objects that they can enjoy even when you are not around.
As well as encouraging physical activity, you need to offer mental stimulation to prevent a bored cat. Create treasure-hunting and puzzle games by creating mazes out of boxes and hiding toys and treats around the house for your cat to discover. If your cat normally eats directly from a bowl, try using a puzzle feeder to make mealtimes more interactive. Remember, your cat accesses the world vertically as well as horizontally, so try hiding objects up on window sills and other high places, as well as on the ground — just make sure all your furniture is secure so nothing accidentally falls on top of them.
While indoor cats are less able to experience the outdoors, you can let them engage with the outside world in some manner. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a bird feeder you can position near a window, and is visible from one of your cat’s favourite spots. The feeder will attract insects, birds and even small mammals, which your cat can then watch with interest. Of course, every cat is unique and some might get too excited about seeing ’potential prey’ and might become frustrated at their inability to catch an animal. Respond to your cat’s personality when making a judgment here.
By hiding toys which make noises or emit smells, your cat will feel encouraged to ‘hunt’ for them. This is not only fun for cats, but is a fundamental instinct, so helping them satisfy this desire is one of the best ways to stop them becoming bored. You can participate, too, by using toys which encourage your cat to chase you or the object. Even waving some string around can prove very effective.
Another way to encourage your cat to stay active and entertained is to adopt another. Of course, this is only a good solution if your cat gets on with others. It can prove difficult to introduce cats to one another as they are not a naturally social species, although we have a guide to help here. This is especially true for cats who have been alone for a long while and may not be keen to share their space, even if this means no longer being bored. So, we only recommend doing this towards the beginning of your adoption, as opposed to many months or years afterwards. If you feel confident your cat will live well with another, introduce the new pet slowly and respect your existing cat’s territorial instincts. Otherwise, we only recommend this strategy for new owners and that they adopt two cats at the same time. Generally, provided your cat has sufficient food and water, and a clean space to call their own, they will be very content. Cats naturally spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping and provided you put in the time to play and interact with your cat during some of their waking hours, they will live a happy life!