If you keep your cat inside for her physical well-being, you need to be aware of how to provide for your cat’s mental well-being. Since cats are both social creatures and mighty hunters, they must have opportunities to express their natural behaviors.
An indoor/outdoor cat is able to create these opportunities herself, but if you have an indoor cat, she needs some help from you to satisfy her social and predatory drives. Not only does this help your cat, it also helps you to forge a stronger human-animal bond.
There are many ways to enrich an indoor cat’s environment. Toys are an obvious method, both self-play toys (those that the cat can play with, without your involvement) and interactive toys (those that are usually handled, at least in part, by you). Any interaction you have with your cat is a form of enrichment, of course, but another thing you can do is teach your cat tricks.
Self-play toys are especially good for cats who are left home alone while their people are away. Most self-play toys dispense food, which motivates the cat to play with the toy. The basic principle is that you fill up the toy with dry kibble, and the cat learns to manipulate the toy to release the food out of a hole.
You can either buy food-dispensing toys or make your own. Examples of purchased toys are Busy Buddy Twist ‘N Treat and Roll-a-Treat Balls. A variation on this type of toy is the Deli Dome, an electronic dispenser that releases a food-filled ball on a predetermined schedule. Another type of food-dispensing toy is Pavlov’s Cat, which releases dry food when a cat scratches the toy.
You can make your own toys with clean yogurt containers, cut a small hole at the bottom of two containers, tape the containers together, put your kitties measured dry kibble in the toy, and, presto, your cat is hunting for its food and entertained.
Filling a cardboard box with shredded paper and add your cats measured meal, makes a great scavenger hunt! Also, empty Kleenex tissue boxes with kibble at the bottom make good fishing toy. Self-play toys that do not dispense food can be fun too! Some cats find a wall or door mounted Cat Dancer, boxes, paper bags and cat tents irresistible. Perches for outdoor viewing and scratching posts laced with cat nip are always a hit!
Interactive toys help strengthen the bond between you and your cat by letting you share fun and positive experiences. Both you and your cat can have a great time playing with wand-type toys with feathers, and fabric attached, such as the Da Bird and Da Bee. Some cats enjoy playing with laser pointers, chasing the point of light around the house.
Low-cost (or no cost) toys are often the cat’s preferred toys. Some suggestions are wadded-up paper or foil balls, plastic lids from milk jugs or water bottles, and a good old fashioned paper bag.
Teaching your cat tricks is very rewarding experience for you and mentally and physically stimulating to your cat friend. Catching your cat in the behavior (or trick) you are looking for is fun and easy way to teach your cat. For example, have a pocket full of treats/kibble and if your cat sits down next to you, quickly reward the cat with a treat. Catch this sitting behavior over and over again, eventually add the word “sit” and soon you will be showing off your well trained cat to all your friends. You can teach your cat many tricks using this style of training, the most important part is that you and your cat’s bond will grow and time spent together will be very fun!
Enriching your cat’s life with interactive toys and human attention is very rewarding experience. Enjoy the time you and your cat are together and when you can’t be there, providing toys that will create a hunting experience for your feline friend will enlighten your indoor cat’s environment.