Cats who spend 24-7 inside the confines of home with no structured interactive play activities are often forced to seek less beneficial options to pass the time. They may nap too much, eat too much, or worse engage in destructive behavior in frustrated attempts to battle boredom and loneliness. But indoor cats who get opportunities to engage in purposeful play with their human roommates each and every day are more apt to thrive mentally, physically and socially.
That’s why I encourage you to tap into your imagination. Pretend that the weather is too wicked for you to venture outside for even a mere 5 minutes each day. Use that time to play a game or two with your feline pal.
Recently, I adopted Casey, a fast-growing orange tabby from the San Diego Humane Society. He quickly made friends with Murphy, my senior cat who possesses kitten-like energy. By dutifully treating each to daily interactive games, I been able to keep Murphy engaged and Casey motivated to learn basic commands like sit, come and touch paws. And, I am able to enjoy uninterrupted sleep at night because both are tired and ready for bed.
Here are three of my favorite people-cat games that are fun, easy and inexpensive to and easy to try:
1. Murphy in the Middle. To play this game, position your cat between you and a family member of friend in an open area like a hallway or spacious living room. Crinkle a paper wad or store-bought cat sparkle ball to garner your cat’s attention. Toss the object just over your cat’s head to the other person. Toss back and forth, allowing your cat to leap up and snap the flying “prey” and heap on the praise when she does.
2. Feline Fishing. Tap into the hunter inside your tabby by taking a brown grocery sack and carefully snip the handles. Open the bag and then cut a middle-sized hole in the bottom of the bag. Place the bag on its side. Then attach a toy mouse or other small cat toy to the end of a long shoelace. Place your cat so she is facing the front opening of the bag and sit behind the bag. Weave the tethered cat toy through the opening at the bottom until it pokes out the front of the bag. Give it a wiggle to entice your cat to stalk and pounce and dash inside the bag.
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3. The Great Kibble Hunt. Go bowl-less at least one meal a week. Put your cat in an enclosed room and then scatter one portion of kibble in a long hallway or on each stair. Then encourage your cat to sniff out and track down each piece of food and praise him for his finding skills. You can also bring out your cat’s innate hunter by making him work for his food by placing a daily portion of his kibble in treat balls that require him to swat to cause the kibble to fall onto the ground.
Finally, be sure to provide your cat with toys bring out her solo play for times when you are away from home. Among the more popular feline products are trackballs that feature a ball inside a round plastic object with holes just big enough for cats to insert their paws to swat the ball but small enough to prevent them from fishing out the ball. There are also battery-operated cat toys that emit erratic movements, simulating that of a small prey.
By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.