By Sandy Robins
Indoor Cats Need to Play, Too
There’s no question that cats who have an indoors-only lifestyle are much safer and better protected from environmental dangers, such as flea and tick infestations and predators. But at the same time, they miss out on exercise opportunities the great outdoors has to offer. Therefore, it’s important to compensate by instituting play times that offer both exercise and a chance to hone their natural instincts to hunt, pounce and play.
Cats are not supposed to be decorative couch potatoes. Those who spend a lot of time curled up sleeping do so because they are bored and lonely. In fact, felines enjoy short bursts of playtime throughout the day. If you are working, consider splitting your mini-feline workouts to before work and again in the evening.
For interactive play sessions, laser toys are great. They also allow you to multitask by enjoying a cup of coffee and possibly even reading a book while manipulating a laser dot to fly around the room and shimmy across the floor. Lasers rev up a cat’s prey drive. You need to let the beam rest in a spot long enough for your feline to pounce and try to capture her prey. Never get the beam in her eyes. Also, because laser play isn’t really a fair game—after all, your cat will never catch anything—give her a treat at the end of each session. And make sure the next toy you bring out is one she can actually capture and kick around with her paws.
Wand toys are also great fun and really allow cats to pounce and hone their natural hunting skills, too.
Cats are really smart and many enjoy playing games of fetch. They can be trained to bring toys to you to engage in more play. Small material mice are great for such interactive play, as are feline stationary items—the latest post-it notes and other paper products infused with catnip and make wonderful crinkly noises when batted about. Some cats will even bring you their favorite wand toy to encourage you to play more.
To help stave off boredom while you are out working, a “treasure hunt” comprising of her favorite toys and treats will keep her actively engaged during your absence.
The idea is to hide her favorite toys in different places around the home. Focus on places you know she is likely to seek out,such as her favorite scratchers and snooze zones. Hide treats, too. If you are worried about putting out too many treats, you can take a portion of her kibble allowance and put it out instead. Apart from simply placing the treats next to catnip toys, consider placing small amounts inside special feline treat balls and puzzle toys. These will help keep her both mentally and physically stimulated.
If your feline is one of those cats with a reputation for the nighttime crazies—rushing around the house at 2.00 a.m. when you are trying to sleep—consider scheduling your last play session together just before you go to bed. It should tire her out and induce her to come and cuddle in and sleep, too.
By getting involved in feline fun and games, you are also spending real quality time together. It’s a great way to strengthen that wonderful emotional bond you share with your cat(s).
About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats