If your indoor-only cat is over-weight, destructive, or aggressive, it may be because he's bored out of his mind. "Indoor-only cats need more stimulation than their indoor/outdoor counterparts," says Ingrid Johnson, a cat behaviorist at The Cat Clinic of Roswell. Without adequate intellectual challenges, indoor-only cats get cranky.
Try these tips to stimulate your feline friend’s brain:
- Provide foraging balls and boxes. These inexpensive toys require a cat to think and can be purchased at any pet supply store. Or you can make your own from shoe boxes. Cut holes in the sides of the box a little smaller than a ping pong ball, then fill the box with treats, balls, and a paperweight. Tape the lid shut. Cats will forage in the box for the food, and the ping pong balls act as obstacles to provide mental stimulation.
- “The ultimate thrill for a cat is the hunt, stalk, chase, pounce, and kill,” says Ingrid. You can provide stalking and hunting opportunities indoors by leaving food, treats and toys hidden throughout the house.
- Find toys that mimic your cat's play. Since not all cats are food motivated, this requires paying attention to what really gets your cat going. An inexpensive toy called a Cat Dancer mimics a fly, so a cat who naturally chases bugs will be stimulated by it. A similar item, the Feline Flyer, mimics a bird's actions. Laser pointers create easy interactive play between you and your cat.
- Placing ping pong balls in the bathtub provides hours of fun, especially for kittens who have energy to burn.
- Put wind-up bath toys in a water-filled sink; you can find these in the baby section of any store.
- Water fountains are considered environmental enrichment. "It's different than the plain old boring water bowl," Ingrid explains. "You should provide a regular water bowl in addition to the fountain in case the cat is fearful, but they can play in the stream of water and it's just something different." A drinking fountain has the added benefit of encouraging water intake.
- Bring the outdoors inside. "Bring in a tree branch and let them explore it," says Ingrid. "If it's a safe plant, let them chew on the leaves to get their foliage intake.
- The Old Stand-Bys: "Paper bags, boxes, or anything new you buy that has safe packaging will keep them busy for hours," Ingrid says.
- Environmental enrichment DVDs: These programs, taped just for cats,
feature close-ups of small prey and are sound-intensive. Check out
www.kittyshow.com and www.videocatnip.com to purchase.
- Create feline friendly surroundings: Cat condos made with real tree bark,
like those available from www.angelicalcat.com, provide good scratching surfaces
and are lovely additions to your home.
- Screened-in porches and decks provide the perfect opportunity for indoor
cats to safely experience the outdoors. Check out www.midnightpass.com for
a variety of enclosures.
Keeping your indoor-cat's mind stimulated is important for the overall wellbeing and happiness of your little friend. For more ideas on environmental enrichment, visit The Cat Clinic of Roswell at www.catclinicofroswell.com.
—Kelly L. Stone lives in Lawrenceville. To learn more about her, visit
*This article was originally published in I Love Cats