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Cats don’t wanna be bored!
Boredom is a common struggle for the indoor cat and can even lead to undesired behaviours and health problems. It also stops a cat from living his happiest and fullest life. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. With the boredom busters for cats in this resource page, you’ll be able to provide your cat with a life as exciting as it might be in the outdoors, while also keeping him safe from the dangers that are out there. We can all likely agree that play is an obvious boredom buster, so it will not be covered here. If you want to learn more about play, spend some time on the Serious About Play resource page.
Signs a cat is bored
First, let’s determine if your cat is in fact bored before moving on to the solutions. It’s important to recognize that signs of boredom can mimic symptoms of other health and behaviour conditions. If your cat is showing any of the signs below, consult your veterinarian first in case something else is going on. If your cat is otherwise healthy and the diagnosis is plain ol’ boredom, continue on to the top four ways to spice up your cat’s life!
Healthy cats will sleep approximately 15 hours per day. If a cat spends his day moving from one nap spot to the next and only perks up for food, he is likely sleeping more than he needs to.
Bored cats tend to gain weight due to inactivity and overeating. Cats may seem like they are begging for food when what they really need and want is attention or something to do. They won’t say no to the extra treats to keep them quiet, though.
A cat with nothing to do will find his own entertainment that may include scratching furniture, knocking your water glass off the desk, and bullying another pet in the home.
It’s similar to destructive behaviour but the cat unconsciously directs it toward himself. If your cat grooms himself until he has bald patches and irritated skin, he may be overdoing it and it could be because he feels restless having nothing else to do.
Four boredom busters for cats
1. Turn your cat’s meal into a fun activity
Cats are natural predators and enjoy working for their food. Every cat has his own style and there are a lot of options to try so you can find his favourite ways to “hunt.” If you have time to spend together, try:
- Throwing one kibble at a time down a long hallway for him to chase or tossing them up in the air for him to catch.
- Hiding kibble pieces throughout your home, sending him on a long and satisfying “hunt”
- Using kibble pieces to teach him new moves (they can be just as effective as treats if he hasn’t had dinner yet!)
If you’re really busy or want to increase the challenge, try:
- Putting his meal in a slow feeder like a snuffle mat or kibble dispenser, encouraging him to forage for his meal
- Strengthening his smartycat skills with a puzzle like Wallace’s Favourite Rainy Day Cat Puzzle designed by Nina Ottosson
These feeding methods are sure to kick some kitty boredom! Besides that, they will provide your cat with some exercise and improve his digestion by preventing “scarf ‘n barf.” If you’re pretty crafty or want to save a few bucks, check out our DIY page for some feeders you can easily make at home.
This tutorial is a CatsWannaBeCats.Com favourite:
2. Provide your cat with visual entertainment
Longshanks’ Cat Ambassador Profile states her favourite hobbies as, “watching squirrels and birds do stuff on YouTube, watching my mom work from behind her computer screen, watching dogs do silly things from the top of my cat tree…I like to watch.” Most cats share Longshanks’ affinity for watching and there is endless content out there to entertain them.
Nothing beats a real good view from a window, especially if you have a bird feeder attracting frequent visitors. If you don’t have many windows with accessible ledges or ledges wide enough for your cat to sit comfortably, there are a couple things you can try. You can give your cat access to a high-up window simply by mounting a small shelf on the wall part way up. If ledges are an issue, consider a window mounted cat bed like the Oster Sunny Seat Cat Bed. It uses suction to stay mounted, so no hardware necessary!
If you’re high up in an apartment building or don’t have a kitty-preferred view, there is always YouTube! There are loads of videos designated just for your cat’s viewing pleasure. Does your cat enjoy watching squirrels do squirrel things? Or birds doing bird things? Maybe a combination of the two? Does kitty prefer animated videos? It’s all out there! Some videos are hours long so you can put a show on before you head to work, rest assured your cat has something to watch.
To make visual entertainment more enjoyable, allow your cat to have a real physical toy to “catch” afterwards. All that watching, stalking and attempting to reach the digital prey can become frustrating after some time without a successful “catch.”
3. Let your cat take you for walks
Seriously! If properly introduced and trained to walk with a harness, your cat could come to love spending time with you outdoors (check out training tips from Blue’s Mom on our Safe Outdoor Exploration page). Depending on your cat’s own personality, walking on a harness can be as simple as exploring the backyard or local park to visiting pet stores or going on adventurous hikes! You’ll find some great inspiration by visiting @takeyourcatoutside on Instagram.
Spending time outdoors is like cat YouTube x 10. Not only is the experience visually stimulating, but other senses are stimulated as well. Your cat will be interested in the different smells and textures that nature has created. It may not seem like much to us when a cat sniffs around a garden for 10 minutes, but it is a big deal to him. Walking on a harness lets your cat enjoy outdoor features without outdoor dangers and is one of the best ways to bond with your cat and bust his boredom. A few things to keep in mind so the experience of walking together outside is a fun one:
- Let your cat get comfortable wearing a harness around the house before attempting it outdoors.
- Do not force your cat to walk if he doesn’t want to and let him choose the direction (think of it like your cat is walking you)
- Bring treats for the walk
- If venturing beyond your backyard, your cat will appreciate a carrier or soft crate kept nearby for the option to hide from unwanted stimuli such as other cats, dogs, loud children and bicycles.
- Be mindful of how your cat is feeling throughout the experience and end the walk when he’s done. Cues to watch for include refusing to move, fighting to get out of the harness, ears pinned back with pupils dilated, drooling, and vocalizing more than is normal.
4. Expand your cat’s indoor environment vertically
It will take a little work and commitment, but a vertical playground is SO MUCH FUN! Cats love to climb, jump, and even more, they love to look down on us humans. Adding vertical space can also help to resolve territorial disputes in smaller homes with multiple cats. Depending on the wall space you have or are willing to work with, the possibilities are endless. There are steps, ladders, bridges, cubbies, shelves, scratching posts….so much to do on one wall without impeding on your home’s square footage.
If you’re a DIY specialist, basic floating shelves, wooden boxes, sisal rope and carpet swatches can take your wall mounted playground pretty far. If you’re not so much into DIY projects, there are several options on the market ranging from basic shelving to stylish full playgrounds to match your home décor.