How can you tell if your cat is bored?
After all, she sleeps all day. . .
Actually, it’s not as difficult as you might think to tell if a cat is bored. There are lots of clues when you know what to look for.
In cats, boredom usually manifests itself as ‘trouble’, either to you, other cats, or the individual themselves. What do we mean by that?
Here are seven examples of the ‘trouble’ a bored cat gets up to:
1. Clawing: A bored cat might scratch the furniture or spend time marking her territory.
2. Bullying: A bored cat may become a tyrant, who pounces on other fur-family members and makes their life a misery.
3. Over-grooming: When there’s nothing else to do a cat may groom themselves bald.
4. Overeating: A cat’s natural instincts are to sleep and hunt. When awake, they may hunt down their food bowl, and eat. . . and eat. . . and eat.
5. Toilet in the Wrong Places: Bad habits are often born out of having nothing better to do.
6. Destructiveness: The cat that swipes ornaments off the shelf or digs the potting mix out of house plants may well be bored.
7. Clinginess: The super-needy cat that sits on your feet while you use the toilet, may be very bored indeed.
Of course, many of these issues also have medical explanations (such as toileting outside the box, over-grooming, and neediness) so always talk to your vet before assuming your cat’s behaviour is a result of boredom.
Now you have identified your cat is bored, what can be done?
Lots. Quite often boredom is a result of your cat not being able to exhibit normal behaviour such as climbing, hunting, territory marking, or playing. The answer is to provide your cat with an enriched home environment within which to engage in normal cat behaviours. Only then, will your cat settle down and enjoy a proper cat-nap.
Here’s our top 10 ideas for enriching your cat’s environment and ensuring they don’t get bored:
1. An Outlet for Hunting
No, this doesn’t mean she gets to terrorize the hamster or eyeball the budgie in the bird cage!
It means using puzzle feeders instead of food bowls, so your cat has to work out a way to get the treats (we opt for freeze-dried treats rather than kibble) out of the container. Whilst many excellent puzzle feeders are available, you can make your own from toilet rolls, placed horizontally on top of one another in a 5 x 5 arrangement, and then put a treat in the middle of each tube. Now your cat has to use her paw to push out the treats, which takes time and effort.
2. Watching the World
Cats are great observers and love to watch what’s going on around them. Simply providing a bed on a window ledge that overlooks the garden is good mental stimulation for many cats. Alternatively, when you’re out, how about leaving the TV on tuned to a nature channel, so your cat can brush up on her natural history. Our fur-family love watching nature programs, although admittedly they find it just as much fun to watch sport — you should see them pawing at the miniature athletes on the TV screen.
A good stretch and clawing session is very satisfying for a cat. Provide her with the correctly orientated cat scratching post. For example, some cats like to scratch horizontal surfaces (think hacked up carpet) whilst others are vertical scratchers (think shredded wallpaper.) Place scratching posts by entrances and exits, and by your cat’s bed. That way she’ll spend happy minutes scratching and clawing at both ends of the day.
4. Climbing Challenges
A feral or community cat lives in a 3D world with the opportunity to climb wherever she chooses (think of the classic cat stuck up a tree scenario.) By comparison, life on the floor or sprawled out on the sofa is very dull indeed. That’s why we recommend providing your cat with a variety of different climbing opportunities. Perhaps you want to purchase a tall cat tower with multiple platforms, or if you’re good at DIY, how about constructing a more complex cat gym with walkways, ramps, and shelving attached to the wall for your cat to clamber along. You’ll find some great inspiration online, via Google Search or Pinterest.
Spend time grooming your cat on a regular basis. Putting a brush or comb through your cat’s fur is beneficial in so many ways — not only does brushing remove excess hair and help prevent hairballs, it also stimulates circulation and keeps your cat’s fur glossy and matt-free. Although grooming is a passive activity for your cat, it’s a wonderful way to develop a deep and special bond with the cat in your life, and goes a long way to reassuring her that all is well with the world. A happy and contented cat is far less likely to demonstrate the behaviours associated with boredom.
6. Harness Training
For the 100% indoor cat, consider harness training and taking her out for leash walks (OK, it might be more of a sniff and dart, than a walk, but you get the idea). As your cat wanders around in the safety of your garden she will be stimulated by the fresh smells and captivated by the movement of any bugs, beetles and butterflies that catch her eye. A walk on a harness allows your cat to practice her stalking, hunting and pouncing skills and is a fabulous boredom buster.
Actively engage in play with your cat, a couple of times a day. Cats are sprinters rather than marathon runners, so a few short sessions (5-10 minutes) twice a day goes a long way to tiring her out for the rest of the time and ensuring she is purring with contentment. We like to choose toys that provide an outlet for natural feline hunting behaviours, that allow her to chase and pounce, such as Da-Bird or a chicken wing-on-a-string. Cat-nip infused bubbles can be another fun game to play.
8. Toy Variety
Imagine that you’re a child in today’s world and you only have one or two toys to play with – you’d soon get bored right? We keep a box of cat toys and rotate them so our cats have different toys to play with on different days and weeks. Variety of toys helps to maintain a cats interest in playtime, whereas seeing the same old toys day in day out is far from stimulating.
9. Boxes and More Boxes
Cats love boxes. FACT. Sometimes, it seems they love boxes more than anything else. Make sure you keep any delivery boxes and pop a new one down each day, with a treat or catnip-infused toy inside. This challenges your cat to investigate the box in order to get the treat. Our fur-family are lucky in that I like to shop online, which means there’s always plenty of empty boxes to play in or sleep in.
OK, this may sound obvious, but don’t ignore your cat. The feline species may be solitary by nature, but cats are also incredibly sociable. As you move around the house, or when you leave and come home for the day, don’t forget to talk to your cat, she knows her name and enjoys listening to the tone of your voice. Even simple actions such as stroking your cat when she’s resting and telling her how clever or pretty she is, provides vital interaction that turns a dull day into a contented one. Remember, all the coolest people talk to their pets.
So there you have it, our 10 suggestions for boredom busting.