Still November, still thinking about holiday gifting? Let’s consider what your cat may enjoy receiving this year. Since they are not small dogs, there’s a shift in toy selection. Domestic cat behavior is closer to the behaviors we see in wild cats - hunting, lounging, grooming, scratching. We want to keep them happy and engaged. We want to minimize or redirect their more destructive behaviors. Cats, like dogs, benefit from toys that keep them mentally and physically active. Indoor cats especially benefit from environmental enrichment - it lessens their stress levels, which can lower your risk of having a cat with behavioral issues. Win-win situation!
One of a cat’s favorite activities is hunting! Toys that allow cats to track, catch and play with “prey” are key. Toys like Go-Cat Da Bird - feathers on a string attached to a rod, or a strip of fleece attached to a rod, etc - fosters their tracking and catching prey. Successful hunting provides satisfaction (think endorphins). It’s also a way to spend time with your cat. Some toys like the Petstages Tower of Tracks and robotic mice simulate hunting without requiring your participation. Catnip mice allow them to catch and play with their “prey”. Catnip or grass can be grown indoors for your cat to enjoy. The attraction to catnip is genetic, so about 50% of cats will have absolutely no interest in it. There are food puzzles for cats to provide mental stimulation and foster their hunting instinct. These may also be a good idea for cats that binge eat or are overweight.
Another thing near and dear to cats is resting in elevated places. We have all seen a photo of a wild cat laying up in a tree - try googling ‘big cat laying in tree images” and it will become clear why your cat is up on your dresser/refrigerator/table. I came home once to find my first cat perched on top of my bedroom door! Big cats will be up in a tree surveying their territory - alert to the possibility of prey, resting and sleeping. Cats sleep a lot, conserving energy for the hunt. So instead of your counters or table, why not invest in some wall perches or hammocks to create some vertical space for your cats? Window perches allow your cat to survey the great outdoors, look for prey and bask in the sunshine. Catastrophic Creations makes perches, mazes and hammocks. Handimania has DIY kitty lofts for those of you who need a fun project!
Cats also enjoy hiding. How many times has an Amazon box become a hideaway for your cat? So this holiday, consider upscaling from empty boxes and paper grocery bags to fun things like cat teepees, tunnels and covered or enclosed beds. Easyology Cat Tunnel provides interactive mental stimulation and a hide away.
Petories Double Arched Cat Groomer and Catit Design Senses Massage Center provide some level of massage/grooming as well. Cats spend a lot of awake time grooming - so if you don’t get the aforementioned cat groomer, consider a brush or grooming glove to use when it’s just you and your cat.
Cat towers provide opportunities for climbing, perching, hiding as well as play-in models that sport dangling toys. They also provide vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces using sisal, carpet and/or cardboard surfaces. Scratching is a totally normal and daily behavior for most cats so it is important to give them something to work on other than your furniture! Scratching posts and corrugated board scratchers are great and there are a million of them to choose from. Feliway has a new product, FeliScratch, to use on appropriate scratching surfaces to help attract your cat. You can usually train your cat to use these preferentially.
If you want to enjoy the great outdoors with your cat you may consider pet backpacks or strollers to safely take your cat out. Some cats will accept being walked on a leash - it’s best to use a well-fitted harness here as most cat collars are breakaway ones. Beware of dogs - they may not like your cat and/or your cat may not want to mingle with dogs.