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18th Jul 2022

Is my Cat bored?

by Laura Dunford RVN

Is my cat bored?

Boredom can leave a person feeling restless, anxious, and irritable, and can even spark aggressive behaviour. We wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone. But have you ever considered that your cat may be suffering from boredom?

Cats can be difficult to read and changes in their behaviour may be subtle. Some signs that your cat may be suffering from boredom include:

  • Over-grooming or self-mutilation
  • Over-eating
  • Losing interest in food
  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Moping
  • A lack of curiosity
  • Chasing or fighting other household members
  • Destructive behaviours
  • Increased vocalisation

 

Any changes in your cat’s appetite or behaviour should first be investigated by the vet to ensure that there aren’t any underlying medical conditions causing them. If there are no underlying conditions, then you could very well be dealing with an unfulfilled kitty.

The key concepts to hold onto when banishing boredom are “variety” and “challenge”. You need to create opportunities for your cat to exercise their body and mind.

Cats love being up high, it makes them feel safe and provides a good view point for surveying their territory. Be sure to provide accessible elevated spaces, whether that’s the top of wardrobes, bookcases etc, cat shelves, or a cat tree (if you’re particularly creative, why not try building your own!). When choosing a cat tree, ensure that it meets the needs of your cat. It needs to be sturdy, with the platforms large enough for the whole body to fit, U-shaped hammocks and beds are generally preferred as they feel more secure in them. Many cat trees will also incorporate tunnels, or hidey-boxes, as well as scratching posts or platforms – have a think about whether your cat prefers scratching vertically or horizontally. Also think about location, can you place it near a window so that they can watch the world go by?

Hidey-holes are also very important for cats, they love fitting into spaces where they can’t be seen but can watch everyone else. I have a divan bed with storage drawers, and whenever I open one of those drawers my cat is straight in there, clambering her way over the contents to slink into the cavernous space beyond! It’s like the door of Narnia has opened, she delights in peering out, observing the household. These places provide safe havens to relax in and can also be incorporated into play. Hidey-places are especially important in multi-cat households, so that they can experience some alone time when needed. These needn’t been costly, a cardboard box or a large canvas bag with the handles removed will do the trick!

Cats need scratching areas to vent excitement or frustration, to scent mark, maintain their claws and for a good ol’ stretch. There are many different shapes and sizes of scratching furniture available, and each cat will have their preferences. At the very least your cat needs one area to exhibit scratching behaviour, but multiple is best.

By nature, cats are hunters! Therefore, they need an outlet to display their hunting behaviours! Simple activities for cats may include chasing and catching toys. A static toy that’s left round the house all the time isn’t very entertaining. Get inventive! Hide your cat’s toys in different places and positions so that they can hunt them down! This will help to prevent toys from losing their novelty. Think about it… A little mouse toy with it’s tail dangling over the edge of chair will incite more curiosity than it laying “dead” on the floor. Equally, discovering a surprise toy in a hidey-hole will be more exciting as it’s unexpected, there’s also then the challenge of batting it out!

Interactive play is especially important in keeping your cat active, alert and to strengthen their bond with you. There are many flirt poles available with feathers or ribbons on the end which can be slithered along the floor, or flown through the air, to elicit a chase.

Some people like to use laser pointers, and whilst these can be fun, they can also create frustration as the light itself cannot be physically caught, so always ensure that a game ends with the light on a toy that they can pounce on. It’s a good idea to mark the end of a game with a couple of treats so that the cat feels that the hunt has been successful.

If your cat responds to catnip, this can be used occasionally to encourage interaction with toys. Don’t overdo it though as they can become immune to its effects!

Novelty can also be introduced to your kitty’s day through mentally enriching mealtimes. Why not squash some wet food into a licki-mat, or put dry food into a puzzle feeder? If you don’t want to buy one, you can either make your own puzzle feeder with a plastic bottle, or simply scatter kibble around the house for them to seek.

A homemade puzzle feeder that my cat particularly enjoys is simply made from a loo roll tube and a sock! Puncture some holes large enough for the kibble to fit through in the tube, get an old odd sock, feel the holes in the tube and cut aligning holes in the sock. Put some kibble or treats in the tube, and tie the end of the sock to prevent food falling out – simple!

Grooming can also add variety into their day, and if they enjoy it, will cause a dopamine release which is a “happy hormone” and will make them feel good. Some cats love being groomed, whereas others do not, so never force this on to your cat. You can also get brush like arches that they can rub under and around of their own accord.

Some breeds of cats are particularly high energy and will require more exercise than your average moggy. Bengals are a classic example of this, and need lots of space and levels to explore to burn off energy. There are even large exercise wheels you can buy where they can trot along to their heart’s content.

Cats that are allowed outside will have the extra stimuli that comes with outdoor exploration, however indoor cats rely solely on you to brighten their days and vary their environment. The good news is that enrichment needn’t cost the earth. One of my cat’s favourite toys is a ball of tin foil – it’s shiny, it rustles, it flies across the floor. It’s the perfect toy!

 

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