In no way am I suggesting that cats are difficult. My goal is to banish assumptions, old myths, and misconceptions while sharing information about how to help your kitty be happy and healthy.
Cats need to play. It is important for them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Physically, play provides exercise for strong muscles, and proper circulation, and keeps cats fit. Mentally, play keeps cats sharp and entertained. Emotionally, interactive play helps strengthen the bond between cats and their humans.
PLAYTIME - THE ASSUMPTIONS
· Cats can entertain themselves
· Cats do not need interactive play
· Cats are aloof and don’t play
· Cats would rather sleep
As Jackson Galaxy, Cat Daddy, cat behaviorist points out, cats have a routine of hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, sleep, repeat. Playing with a cat before mealtime feeds his/her instincts. It also helps burn off a ton of energy.
Many cat behaviorists recommend that people play with their cats for ten minutes, two times per day. Cat behavior consultant, Daniel Qualiozzi (DQ) of Go Cat Go doesn’t believe this is nearly long enough.
“Your cat quickly gets on your schedule. So if you are gone all day at work, your cat is most likely napping, saving up his/her energy. Once you get home, it’s go time for your cat. You should really spend around an hour playing with them,” he shared. “Think of it as an hour of meditation. For that time, you get to be a bird or bug or mouse.”
It is important to learn how to play with your cat.
“As a consultant that visits your home, I see all the lonesome toys that you choose for your cat. I see the baskets (a.k.a., toy graveyards) filled with discarded and skinned mice of all sizes, clunky automatic toys, broken wands, wet and shriveled feathers, laser pointers, cat dancers, catnip socks, rainbow fleece shoelace things that are disintegrated from cat saliva, and that homemade contraption that’s hanging by a thread, but it’s the only thing your cat truly loves anymore. We can do better,” shared DQ.
Cats know that prey doesn’t come to them. To effectively play with your cat, move things away from them. Pull wand toys under and over furniture and watch your cat leap into action. A great toy like Da Bird or Neko Flies (both favorites at chez Ziskin) will get your cat flying or pouncing.
Catnip filled toys hidden under cushions, in cubby holes around the house, or on the opposite side of a door can be really enticing.
Another good idea is to rotate your cat’s toys. Keep four or five out for playtime and hide the rest. Every couple of weeks put those away and take out four or five different ones. I choose to store many of the toys in an airtight bag with some catnip. Quick note: catnip toys stay fresh if you store them in the freezer.
VERTICAL SPACE - THE ASSUMPTIONS
· Cats are happy hiding behind the couch
· Cats do not need to climb when they live inside
Cats need vertical space.
Keep in mind that by nature, cats are both predators and prey. In both cases, getting up high is a great way to survive. They also love a good vantage point where they can take in the whole room/house. Adding a tall cat condo and some shelving can do wonders for a cat’s happiness and confidence.
Cats also love having the option of circumnavigating a room without touching the floor. It is a good idea to keep this in mind when setting up your cat’s furniture.
Other things to consider – look for towers/condos/trees that offer a vertical area for your cat to stretch his arms and file his claws (never declaw a cat!)
Furniture that offers a sleeping area is optimal, as well. Some cats like a curved surface, some a covered one. Obey the kitty.
Gone are the days when the only options were the ugly carpeted cat towers/condos. Now there are beautifully designed pieces that fit every type of décor and budget. You can strategically place shelves to give your cat a whole world high above the humans.
Books like Catification by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin offer great DIY tips. Kate’s site Hauspanther features some of the most beautiful cat furniture out there. Visit The Refined Feline, Pinterest, and Etsy for even more ideas.
Providing the exercise, stimulation, and space your cat needs will go a long way in keeping them happy, and healthy and help avoid behavioral issues.
Of course, there are cats that don’t make a fuss when their needs are not being met. Instead, they suffer in silence. They are bored and oftentimes just keep to themselves. Is this any way to live?
However, most cats will let their humans know that something is missing. They communicate in many ways – like eliminating outside of the litter box or scratching furniture or attacking ankles or climbing on counters.
Never punish your cat for these things. There are plenty of behavior specialists out there offering tips for solving these issues (and most of the time it means changing your behavior). If you feel things are out of hand, consider professional help. There are a number of behaviorists/behavior consultants that can work with you by phone or Zoom. I personally recommend Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi of Go Cat Go.