Whenever I watch an episode of “My Cat From Hell”, in which Jackson Galaxy goes to houses with troubled cats, I’m surprised at how people who call themselves cat lovers know absolutely nothing about cats.
What often strikes me is that a lot of these people, who have so-called troubled cats, don’t have any cat toys in the house and never really play with them.
It is such a misconception that cats do their own thing and don’t need a lot of attention. Indoor cats in particular need plenty of playtime. Playtime replaces the hunt. Get toys that you can drag along. Feather boas on a string and other dangly toys. Let them stalk and run after the toys and then catch them. Hide the end behind a corner or under a chair. Play with them for at least 15 minutes at a time, several times a day. A good routine would be: playtime, food, sleep. It is the most logical sequence. Cats sleep a lot during the day but in between they hunt and eat. So get them used to regular meal times and don’t leave food out all day and play (hunt) before meals.
Toys don’t have to be expensive. Have a look at zooplus.ie. Only a few Euros for a feather boa and there are often special offers with toys. Don’t throw out the boa once all the feathers have been ripped off. The fast moving plastic bit moves even faster and they will hunt that too. You can also attach a bit of cardboard or some grass at the end. One of Cato’s favourite toys was a shoestring. He loved to chase it and then sit down and chew on it.
Tina and Charlie’s favourites from Zooplus at the moment are:
The cat dangler pole feather boa (package of two for € 4.99). These don’t live that long but even without the feathers you can still play with them.
The cat dangler pole bird (at the moment of writing € 2.39). This is a long pole with a string and real feathers at the end. When you move it through the air, the feathers turn and make it look like a small bird.
Leather tassel dangler pole. This one is a bit more expensive at € 8.99, but it is also a lot sturdier than the other ones. It took the two a little while to get used to it but now they love it.
Also get a few toys that they can play with on their own. Bouncy balls (1 Euro or less in a discount store), fabric mice filled with catnip, a roundabout cat toy (€ 3.99 at Zooplus at the time of writing) or simply a cardboard box. Tina and Charlie are having great fun tearing at a cardboard box and jumping in and out while chasing each other. Don’t assume that two cats are fine playing together all the time. Cats are solitary hunters so give them some personal hunting time.
Playing doesn’t just replace the hunt; it also makes cats feel secure in their surroundings and is a great way of bonding with them.
Toys that are not such a great idea are laser pointers. Oh, don’t get me wrong. They love chasing the light but it is very frustrating as there is nothing to catch. You also have to be very careful not to shine it in their eyes.
Laser pointers do have their uses as they can be used to distract cats that are in a fight or get a cat to go back to a food bowl or into a carrier. Make sure though you give a reward after the cat is in the carrier (a little snack will do). You can make your own toys as well. All you need is a stick, some string and material that will dangle at the end. It could be anything like feathers, some fabric from an old shirt, a little strip of cardboard etc. Oh, and simply move a piece of paper under a door or between the hinges. They love it. Variation is the word.
Cats who get plenty of playtime are happy cats. They are less likely to become obese and are more confident in their surroundings.
Click on a photo to see a bigger version.
Tina chasing a ball.
Charlie playing with the left overs of a dangling toy.
Tina fascinated by the roundabout toy.
Charlie going for the ball in the roundabout toy.
Tina sticking her paw through the hole she created and Charlie thinking of attacking her. :)
Tina looking through the hole in the box, she created herself.