Sunday 14 September 2008

Bored Cats

bored cats
Photo by Ernst Gräfenberg. I am sure this cat is well loved.

Is your cat one of the bored cats? We expect cats to sleep a lot and be relatively passive in accepting what they are offered but it is difficult to know what is going on inside the head of our cats. Cats don't tell us much except that they are ready for a meal or want to go out. And a lot of cats never go out as they are permanently indoors.

Indoor cats are potential bored cats and need our input. Their safety and our peace of mind place an extra obligation on us to make sure that our indoor cats are able to exercise their minds and bodies and not become bored cats.

In the modern world a lot of cats are home alone cats. What happens when we are at work? What do our cats do when we are away or asleep? Mental stimulation for our cats is important for their well being. Cats that have the opportunity to stay busy and use their brains are more likely to be mentally and physically healthy. Our cats need not be one of the legions of bored cats. Lets think how to enrich the lives of our cats.

There is the constant dilemma of whether to keep cats indoors or indoors/outdoors. Cats who are kept indoors can become bored and stressed particularly if left alone until late (if we are working late or working late and going out late as well). Whereas cats left to go out are in danger of contracting a nasty disease (feline AIDS for example) or being injured or worse.

Cats kept indoors lack the opportunity to behave normally, to hunt, to mark territory and interact with the world at various levels. The key is to enrich our cat's environment; to make our cats use their brains, to stimulate their brains and provide some challenges. This can be hard or even tiresome for people to do particularly if we are busy but we owe it. Otherwise the reality is that we shouldn't keep a cat. I think that is a fair comment.

Stimulation can come from climbing frames. That said, I am not sure mine would use one (truth). Every time I buy or build something for her she goes back to what seems to me to be less worthwhile but we all know we cannot and should not force a cat to do anything. Either leave it or tease behavior out of them but never force, it doesn't work. Generally speaking climbing frames are successful even if my girl is a little stubborn and unadventurous.

Climbing frames can stimulate and provide a nice vantage point from which more visual stimulation can ensue. You can add a bird feeder outside in a position that can be viewed from a position on the climbing from - nice combination to avoid bored cats.

Something similar to a bird feeder (your cat will make chattering noises looking at birds - this is a act of practising the real life fatal bit to the nape of the neck to kill prey) is a fish tank or aquarium. Cats will get pleasure from watching. Cats like fishing (see this - cats fish). The lid should be closed..........!

Devising ways to make eating food more challenging should help to simulate real life. Remember a domestic cat is an adult cat that is for ever restricted to being a kitten and forced to ask us, the parent cat, for food. It is better if we can make eating more realistic, more natural to an adult cat by making eating a little more challenging. Lets dream up some ideas.

Finally, we owe it to our cats to play with them from time to time. The games will simulate hunting. Sometimes when my cat is on the bed and I'm in it, I drag a length of USB cable (plenty of that) from a hidden position behind a fold in the duvet to a place she can see, gradually approaching her. She always watches intently and her cat whiskers point forward at the ready and I enjoy it too.

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