Over the past decade, cats have grown in popularity as pets. The unique personality and the inevitable quirks that make them viral sensations in the digital world and the myth of low maintenance make it the perfect addition to any home, especially in urban centers.
When the dog has to run, the cat is right at home. If the dog spoils the weekend plans outside, the cat stays right at home. But do we “breed” happy cats at home?
Contrary to what was clearly defended a decade ago, it’s possible to have a lucky cat indoors. In some ways, it even protects them from conflict with other animals (whether they are the same species or not), it protects them from disease and run-over, and it also protects wildlife (often the target of poaching). Now that we are so familiar with the hassle of staying home 24 hours a day, this is the ideal time to ask how we can avoid our best friend from getting bored.
Signs of boredom in the cat are difficult to spot until they become a behavioral problem or even see a doctor. Some of the most commonly ignored include decreased physical activity, which many tutors interpret as a normal sign of aging and changes in eating habits (from anorexia to compulsive eating).
The importance of the predatory instinct
This is perhaps the most ignored freedom of a cat kept indoors. In nature, the cat is a solitary hunter who has to resort to small prey in order to be successful. Small meals require multiple hunts during the day. Any guardian can easily assume that if the cat is well fed, it will not need to hunt. However, this basic need remains independent of the basic supply. This behavior is also related to the cat’s loneliness: if the cat waited to hunt in nature until it was hungry, it risked starvation itself. The cat is around 50% effective in all hunting attempts. In this sense, the cat has learned to be opportunistic: on this occasion the cat hunts.
How to fill this gap
The most conventional way is to resort to sessions. To mimic the natural pattern, sessions with toys that simulate their natural prey should be short and intense. Toys with strings and feathers are ideal: they divert hunting attempts away from our hands. This strategy involves interacting with humans, which is great for strengthening the bond between cats and humans. However, with the return to normal, it is important to develop strategies for when we leave the house and the cat stays.
Cats and video games
Without exception, one of the novelties was cats and the internet. There are currently dozens of apps available (mostly free) for cats. As if jumping the cat in front of the iPad didn’t guarantee hours of laughter and social content, some are planning to add features to take selfies during meetings.
This is all incredible, but will it be for all cats? Not all cats show interest in this type of activity. So don’t be disappointed if yours is one of them and resist the attempt to rub your nose on your smartphone. It is imperative for savvy cats not to neglect the mental satisfaction and self-esteem that are negatively affected by multiple attempts to chase something they will never touch. To combat frustration, it is important to use these games in short sessions and to provide a physical game where the cat can hunt effectively.
For virtual reality enthusiasts, there are a few options here: Mew and Me, Go-Gat Jitterbug, Go-Cat Cat Fishing, Game for Cats, Cat Playground – Game for Cats, Cat Alone – Cat Toys, and Cat Snaps.
Most will be familiar with the fascinating magic of Baby TV on babies. Cat TV’s YouTube videos seem to have a similar charm for cats. With relaxing music, idyllic landscapes, squirrels and colorful birds, they last for hours. This is an alternative for cats without access to windows. In homes with easily accessible windows, this is a popular spot for cats. While this is a possible alternative, we still need to understand whether, similar to interactive apps, it can negatively contribute to anxiety.
Puzzle: the best strategy
The most conventional remains the most suitable. Puzzle-shaped feed troughs enhance the cat’s predatory activity without creating frustration and being linked to the purpose of the activity: feeding.
When introduced, they need to be monitored to ensure (and sometimes even lend a hand) that the cat is accomplishing its purpose. From there, they can completely replace conventional feeders. There are dozen of formats to suit all budgets, including homemade puzzles. Since betting on novelty is important (or it’s no joke to solve the same puzzle over and over) it is important to alternate between two and three and avoid buying one when the cat is bored.
There is also a growing variety of interactive toys that are replacing human interaction. Every cat will find its favorite between flying feathers to tunnels / circuits with balls.