Imagine you are a cat sitting at home with the curtains closed all day long with nothing to do and no one to interact with. If you lived in the wild your natural feline behavior would lead you to watch birds and bugs, roam, hunt, jump, hide, pounce and spend half a day happily hunting for a mouse to eat to look for food. You could also defend your territory and flex your muscles. However, indoor cats that don’t get exercise, stimulation, and healthy food can suffer. Their boredom can lead to depression or illness.
Watch for signs of boredom
If your cat’s behavior isn’t what you hoped, it could be because she’s bored or lonely. Here are some common cat behavior signs that you might notice.
1. Move small objects or clothing around the house while you’re away.
2. Pulling out tufts of hair or over grooming.
3. Knock things off the counter.
4. Spraying or perching to mark territory with deposits of urine or stool.
5. Expressing themselves with excessive vocalization is most likely letting you know they are bored or lonely.
6. Acting aggressively or showing off, especially when you leave.
7. Overeating when there’s nothing else to do that feels calming.
Boredom and depression can be severe
Boredom can lead to depression in cats. If left loose for too long, it can also lead to illness and other health problems in the cat. Lack of exercise and stimulation can lead to dissatisfaction, weak muscles, a sluggish immune system, and eventually depression or adrenal stress and disease. In fact, behavioral problems in cats are also reported to be the most common reason for euthanasia and abandonment of otherwise healthy animals. DO NOT let your cat cage or bore you!
Try these healthy cat behavior solutions
- If you only have one cat, you should consider getting your cat a feline companion. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive® and commissioned by ARM & HAMMER Multi-Cat Strength Cat Litter, animal experts now agree that cats are naturally social – not solitary – animals. When asked, more than 8 in 10 vets agree that cats do NOT prefer to be left alone. (It’s almost as easy to take care of two cats as one.)
- Offer to play with your cat around the same time each day. Cats love routine. Buy or build toys that simulate fun chasing, chasing, bouncing, leaping, and hiding. Spend 20-30 minutes playing with your cats once or twice a day.
- Set up regular nursing time several days a week. Have some brushes, combs, and straighteners handy. A good time to do this is after your cat has played and used up its frustrated energy because it’s ready to calm down and cuddle.
- Before you leave your home each day, hide some favorite toys and treats. Rotate their favorite toys in different locations every day. Get a plastic whiffle ball and put in some healthy treats that take a bit of work to get out of the slots. This provides exercise and challenge and the reward for good cat behavior is welcome.
- Give your cat some space. Minimize the restrictions as much as possible. If you don’t already have one, get a climbing tree or tower. Vertical space is just as important to a cat’s health as horizontal space is to exercise and dexterity. You may also want to get a cat harness and leash and take your cat outside to explore, get some fresh air and sun.
- Find a comfortable spot near a window. Cats love to look out of windows and spot birds, bugs and all kinds of interesting things. If you can place a bird feeder in front of a window where the birds are safe and your cat can watch, it will provide your cat with hours of entertainment, mental stimulation, and emotional satisfaction.
- Give your cat a scratching post. This gives them a place to remove old nail coverings and they can exercise and tone their muscles to stay strong. Scratching also relieves stress, frustration and boredom or helps them “warm up” for playful romp. But best of all, it gives them a decent opportunity to mark their territory with the pads of their paws. (That’s a lot better than improper spraying or other markings or furniture damage!)
- Most importantly, feed your cat a quality food that contains real meat, NOT meat by-products. It may cost more, but it can help prevent disease and promote better health, so it will save you in the long run. In addition, cats eat less and receive better nutrition. Doing all of these things will make your cat’s health and behavior calmer and happier. In all likelihood, the two of you will also develop a closer bond. SOURCES: Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, MSc, DACVB (a leading veterinary behaviorist and author) as well as the experts at ARM & HAMMER Multi-Cat Strength Litter who commissioned a CAT-PANION Crusade study.
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