As proud owners of our beloved feline friends, we’ve all encountered at least one of these scenarios, I’ll bet.
Scenario 1-you’re walking through the house on your way to the kitchen, probably thinking about which snack will hit the spot-oreos, cheetohs, or maybe those new Snyders of Hanover buffalo pretzel bites (yum!)…and then it happens…wham! Out of nowhere, your cat attacks your legs, swatting and clawing like he’s possessed, and then races off at 100 mph, probably preparing for his next sneak attack. What just happened, you are probably thinking.
Scenario 2-you get the living room all set for movie night-fire up the tv, pop the popcorn, turn the lights down, get the DVD in…and then, out of the corner of your eye, you spot the cat. He’s sitting in front of your stereo speaker staring at you for a minute, and as you ponder what he’s up to…he stretches his front claws out and rakes down the front of your speaker grill, looking at you the entire time he performs this malicious act. Before you have time to yell and jump up to scare him off, he’s already gone, thinking about his next impression of freddy kruger, claws and all. Speaker grille destruction is not cool, ask any audiophile.
Scenario 3-your kitty eats and eats. In fact, he eats all his food and doesn’t seem satiated. Ever. When you eat dinner, he sits and looks up at you longingly as if he has never eaten, at least not in the last week. You’ve noticed his belly is getting closer to the ground as well, and then you realize he’s just gotten fatter. You go through the usual list of things that typically cause unbalance in a pet’s life-food, environmental, etc. Nothing else has changed, so what’s the deal?
Actually, all three of these scenarios have a common denominator. Your kitty is bored and needs to fulfill his need to play! How so, you ask. Great question, so let’s start from the beginning….
Domestic cats have been around for over 3000 years, give or take. Dogs date back 15,000 or so years, transcending from wolf lineage. As this lineage continues today, dogs are bred for certain traits-physical appearance or ability (hunting, guarding), temperament, or overall intelligence. Cats, on the other hand, are mainly bred based on physical appearance and not so much for any other reason as temperament or physical aptitude (I’ve not seen cat agility courses to date). So, apart from physical appearance, cats are not that much different than their wildcat ancestors. This helps explain the above scenarios. Think about it, all three are examples of hunting, predatory instinct, or bored behavior. If there is no thrill of the hunt provided for the cat, he’s out of his element. This is where we come in as competent and caring kitty owners, we have to provide that for our furry companion.
Cats are instinctively hunters, that’s what they do-they do this primarily to eat, but not always. In scenario 1, your kitty chose you as prey, knowing there is no possibility of enjoying you for dinner. In this case, he was bored and wanted something to do, so he instinctively stalked and attacked you for fun on your way to the kitchen for a snack. They like to stalk, chase, attack and finally bite their prey. In scenario 2, he wants your interaction (and likes sharpening those claws as well) so he’s trying to get your attention, which he did in a negative way- a way you may not approve of. In scenario 3, he’s bored with not having to hunt for food, and although he knows he has to eat, it’s no longer a challenge. So what can we do to help our kitty?
Aside from letting a mouse loose in the house for your kitty to stalk, chase, attack and kill, there are options for satisfying your cat’s thrill of the hunt instinct. Most cat toys are designed with the purpose of engaging your cat’s genetic instinct to play or hunt. Let’s take a look at a few we carry at gabbi’s:
–Catch the mouse game-a circular sealed contraption with specific holes in the sides or top for the cat to visually see the “mouse” that spins around the holes. This drives them wild as they attempt to catch that darned mouse that always seems to elude them.
-Turbo scratcher-a round tray looking thing that has a ball that encircles the scratching pad in the center. Satisfies the prey instinct and the ability to “sharpen” claws on the scratch pad in the middle.
-Pole with feathers-exciting fun for both cat parents and the cat, this game can go on for hours, at least until your kitty delivers his kill bite and retires for a nap. Simply waving the feathers in front of the cat’s face is not what they are looking for. Engage them completely by dragging it across the floor, over the ottoman, around a corner, through chair legs, etc. They’ll stalk that thing like they are in the wild and won’t give up until they kill it.
-Scratchy pad-a carpeted pad designed to hang off a doorknob or similar method where the cat can reach it and tear it to pieces. Cheaper and more satisfying than speaker grilles, at least for us owners anyway.
-Laser toy-fun for most animals, as they try tirelessly to “bite” the laser dot. Another great way to interact with your kitty and have some fun too.
-Food puzzles-these are designed to hide food or treats in various compartments that your kitty finds and gets. In scenario 3 above, this would greatly help the bored cat stay engaged with mealtime. After all, he gets rewarded for stalking his kill and is then satisfied. Also a great way to help slow down gobblers.
-Catnip filled mouse, balls with bells, etc. All great play toys cats love to bat around and keep them stimulated.
Ok, so we’ve covered some great methods of engagement. Most importantly, spend quality time with your kitty. Although cats prefer to sleep a majority of their day away, they do what instinct tells them otherwise, and we should be a part of that fun. Remember it is better to mix in toys and games to avoid boredom with any one of them. Bonding time with your furry feline companion is awesome and helps build a harmonious lifelong relationship.