Contributed by Kathy Conowall; aka ‘Mom’, 9 to 5 Pets
hile we’re working through this self-isolation and social distancing, our cats, on the other hand, may be super-charged by your daily presence, longing for some stepped up exercise or at the very least, some new and exciting entertainment. This Covid-19 lock down has been hard on all of us!
Let me describe why I want to write about this now. The other day, I found myself talking with my garden. I was outside planting flowers having a conversation with them. This was not your usual “be happy now Pretty Petunia!”, but actually asking them if they felt comfortable in their new home! Plants will survive so long as they’re in the right spot and getting the right amount of sun and water. Thriving, on the other hand, takes fertilizer, some occasional pruning, and yes, even conversation.
This started me thinking about our relationship with our cats. We gladly give them food, shelter, love, and the occasional toy to keep them amused. But is this truly enough? As in our very selves, stress (from these VERY different arrangements in our lives) and boredom (when you’re not around and they wish you were!) can lead to health and behavioral issues. Aggression or other unbecoming conduct creeps in. Cats may be independent, but they truly are dependent on special ways they need to be loved and nurtured. They have mental and emotional needs to be content. Behavioral issues say that something is not right. Animals and people have unique personalities. Each of us is a treasure chest waiting to be opened!
Let’s explore some solutions; perhaps some very ideas you’ve never thought of before: TOYS and ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES. Tap into a cat’s instinctive behavior through special toys and daily enrichment activities, and in this interaction you can very well realize those negative behaviors go away! An additional gift to you is that you WILL be improving their mental and physical well-being through THEIR natural behavior. APPROPRIATELY. Exercise sweeps away mental anxiety and worry. And it wears all of us out with a sense of deep satisfaction. A happy cat is a healthier cat. Look forward to years of entertainment and an unmistakable bond between you.
So, let’s get started!
Homemade Cat Toys
When I visit my daughter, Jennifer, I hear distinctive comments from their cat Otis. I love to sit down on the ground with him to encourage more ‘conversation.’ Jennifer keeps Otis’s ‘favorite things’ and one that truly used to rev his engines when he was younger was a silly 4 foot braided yarn, homemade, in colorful orange. Otis and Jennifer would play with that together entertaining all of us watching. Otis knows he’s a joyful and important member of the family! If you’re crafty, here’s 10 DIY cat toys you can make at home that will help keep your cat entertained in between naps: https://www.worldsbestcatlitter.com/2014/03/the-10-best-homemade-cat-toys/
Cat Enrichment Activities
My husband and I no longer have a cat at home. But Tweety, who sounded more like a bird than a cat, had a very unique talent that tickled my funny bone. When she was young, she would ‘fetch’ like a dog; literally. I would sit on the sofa and throw out a mouse just big enough for her mouth. She would leap in the air to catch it before it landed, or pounce the moment it did. Dutifully, as if she’d landed 1st prize in a contest, she would prance back to my feet, drop it, and wait for another toss. Like any member of our family, she needed to be active and reassured that she was special. Need some enrichment ideas? Here are a few to help you get started: https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/cat-enrichment-toys-puzzles-aromatherapy-and-more
And then there was Sox, our dumpster cat. Jennifer was forever surprising me with the amount of effort she’d exchange with him, understanding far more than I appreciated how much he deserved her encouragement. It’s no wonder that Sox became our most clever, motivated, and beloved Family Cat. All of this was prompted by the farm where Jennifer rode horses. She was constantly bringing her joy in those hooved companions of hers back home. One evening, she worked confidently to ‘train’ Sox in how to leap over a temporary jump she’d set up in the dining room doorway. I knew she had solid animal whispering aptitude when she made him do it on command! And while I thought Jennifer’s talent and Sox’s participation was rare, there is a host of cat behavioral specialists who want to encourage you to do the same: https://lovinmypup.com/cat-enrichment-tips-for-bored-cats/
If we’re on a roll by now, here are some additional ideas for you. Suggesting the ball bath was my favorite discovery inasmuch as I used one all the time when I worked with handicapped children. You can’t imagine the fun and stimulation! Therapy and play become transparent. See if you don’t agree: https://www.thesprucepets.com/enrichment-ideas-for-your-cat-4588682
If your cat has permission to be indoors and out, there is so much stimulation produced naturally by the sights, sounds, and continual movement of things happening out of doors. If this is the case in your home, let me wrap up this blog with the ‘cats meow.’ There are some real clever cat catio designers. And the architectural prowess rivals a dream I have to one day own a treehouse: https://www.preventivevet.com/cats/why-you-should-provide-environmental-enrichment-for-your-cat
In closing, think ‘playtime’ before and after naptime for your Family Cat(s). And ALWAYS remember to add some extra time into your Pet Sitting visits when you are away. Our Team is eager to enrich your Family Furball in the very same way as you so thankfully do!