How can you tell if your cat is bored?
After all, she sleeps all day. . .
Actually, it’s not as tricky as you might think to tell if a cat is bored. There are lots of clues when you know what to look for.
In cats, boredom usually manifests itself as ‘trouble’, either to you, other cats, or the individual themselves. What do we mean by that?
Here are seven examples of the ‘trouble’ a bored cat gets up to:
1. Clawing: A bored cat might scratch the furniture or spend time marking her territory.
2. Bullying: A bored cat may become a tyrant, who pounces on other fur-family members and makes their life a misery.
3. Over-grooming: When there’s nothing else to do a cat may groom themselves bald.
4. Overeating: A cat’s natural instincts are to sleep and hunt. When awake, they may hunt down their food bowl, and eat. . . and eat. . . and eat.
5. Toilet in the Wrong Places: Bad habits are often born out of having nothing better to do.
6. Destructiveness: The cat that swipes ornaments off the shelf or digs the potting mix out of house plants may well be bored.
7. Clinginess: The super-needy cat that sits on your feet while you use the toilet, may be very bored indeed.
Of course, many of these issues also have medical explanations (such as toileting outside the box, over-grooming, and neediness) so always see your vet before assuming your cat’s behaviour is due to boredom.
Now you have identified your cat is bored, what can be done?
Lots. Quite often boredom is a result of your cat not being able to exhibit normal behaviour such as climbing, hunting, territory marking, or playing. The answer is to give your cat a rich environment in which to display those normal behaviours. Only when your cat’s mental needs are met can she settle down to a proper cat-nap.
Here’s how to meet those needs:
1. An Outlet for Hunting
No, this doesn’t mean she gets to terrorize the hamster!
It means using puzzle feeders instead of food bowls, so your cat has to work out a way to get the treats (we opt for freeze-dried treats rather than kibble) out of the container. Whilst many excellent puzzle feeders are available, you can make your own from toilet rolls, placed horizontally on top of one another in a 5 x 5 arrangement, and then put a treat in the middle of each tube. Now your cat has to use her paw to push out the treats, which takes time and effort.
2. Watching the World
Cats are great observers and love to watch what’s going on around them. Simply providing a bed on a window ledge that overlooks the garden is good mental stimulation for many cats. Alternatively, when you’re out, how about leaving the TV on tuned to a nature channel, so your cat can brush up on her natural history?
3. Scratching Posts
A good stretch and a claw is a satisfying past-time for a cat. Provide her with the correctly orientated cat scratching post. For example, some cats like to scratch horizontal surfaces (think hacked up carpet) whilst others are vertical scratchers (think shredded wallpaper.) Place scratching posts by entrances and exits, and by her bed. That way she’ll spend happy minutes scratching and clawing which will calm her for the day.
4. Climbing Challenges
A feral cat lives in a 3-D world where she climbs up (think of the classic cat stuck up a tree.) Life on the floor or sofa is a very dull place, so try to provide your cat with a veritable cat’s cradle of climbing opportunities. This could be something simple like a tall cat tower with multiple platforms, or as complex as a DIY cat gym with walkways, ramps, and shelving attached to the wall for Kitty to clamber along.
5. Purr-sonal Grooming
Spend time grooming your cat. This fulfils a deep-seated need for mutual grooming as part of bonding, and although a passive activity for your cat it goes a long way to reassuring her that all is well with the world and alleviate boredom.
6. Harness Training
For the 100% indoor cat, consider harness training and taking her out for leash walks (OK, more of a sniff and dart, than a walk, but you get the point). The fresh air and stimulation from the outdoors is a great boredom buster.
7. Schedule in Play Times
Actively engage in play with your cat, a couple of times a day. Cats are sprinters rather than marathon runners, so a few minutes twice a day goes a long way to tiring her out for the rest of the time and making for contentment. Chose toys that give an outlet for hunting behaviours, and allow her to chase and pounce, such as thundering after a wing-on-a-string. Cat-nip infused bubbles are another fun thing.
8. Introduce Novelty
Keep a box of cat toys and rotate them so your cat has different toys to play with every day. This helps keep a sense of novelty, since seeing the same old toys day in day out is far from stimulating.
9. Box Fresh
Cats love boxes. Fact. Keep those delivery boxes and pop a new one down each day, with a treat or catnip-infused toy inside. This challenges your cat to investigate the box in order to get the treat.
10. Talk to Your Cat
OK, this may sound obvious, but don’t ignore your cat. She may belong to a species that likes to be solitary by nature, but cats are also very sociable. As you move around the house, chat to her. Even simple actions such as stroking your cat when she’s resting and telling her how clever she is, provides vital interaction that turns a dull day into a contented one.
So there you have it, our 10 suggestions for boredom busting.
We’d love to hear your ideas for preventing boredom in your cat. Please share them in the comments below.