Cats love to keep busy, and if they don’t have the right stimulation they can quite quickly start becoming very destructive.
The signs of a bored cat are obvious – you’ll see them scratching and clawing at your doors and furniture, and generally moping around looking sorry for themselves.
You can avoid this and keep your cat mentally stimulated and happy by playing brain games with them. Play is a vital part of a cat’s life, for their mental and physical heath. Play can also help to strengthen the bond between you and your cat.
1. Paw Piñata Play
This is a really cheap and simple game to play with your kitty. You’ll need a paper bag and some small cat treats.
Make small cuts in the bag, and fill it with small treats. You kitty will smell the treats in the bag and bat at it with her paw, releasing the treats!
You can try different variations of this, using cups, boxes or toilet rolls. If you don’t have the time to hold the piñata for her, you could tie it to a string and let her bat at it throughout the day.
2. Treasure Hunt
How about spicing things up a bit at meal time, and hiding their food in different places around your home?
This will allow them to use their natural hunting instincts and track food down; it will force them to use their brain and give them a stimulating challenge.
Separate their meal into a few different bowls, and hide each bowl in a different place. When you first start off, keep things simple by hiding them in plain sight, so they understand the idea of the game.
As they get better at this you can start to hide them in more tricky places, and in different rooms throughout the house. You could even hide their bowls inside toys or cupboards as they get more adept at this game.
You can also buy more advanced puzzle feeding toys, which require them to move an object around to release their food.
3. Tantalizing Tricks
Did you think tricks were just for dogs? There is a perception that cats are not trainable and are quite stubborn, but the truth is that cats are extremely intelligent and trainable.
Your cats can also learn tricks such as sit, shake and roll over, these aren’t just reserved for dogs; you just need to find the right incentive.
Training your cat is very similar to training dogs, and is a great way to strengthen the bond between the two of you. It is also very stimulating and enriching for your cat.
Why not teach your cat to ‘high five’? Use a piece of chicken or other high-value reward, and using their natural paw action, you can get her to reach up for the treat. When they reach for the food, label the action ‘five’, and then reward her with food.
If you practice this daily, she’ll soon be able to high five on command!
4. Obstacle Courses
You don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive cat toys to set up a fun and engaging obstacle course for them. You can simply use things from around your home.
Introduce each individual trick on its own, and start off easy, for example chasing a toy under and up on to the top of a stool.
How about training her to jump through a hoop which you can raise higher each time she succeeds.
Once you’ve introduced enough different elements, you can bring them all together into a course for them. You could include the sofa, some chairs as a tunnel and their cat tree.
You can even include yourself in the obstacle course, there are cats who have been taught to weave through their owners legs, jump up onto their shoulder, and balance along their owners arms.
5. Feather and String
This is one of the most simple, yet more engaging games you can play with your cat. It will have them entertained for hours!
Use a piece of string and tie a feather to the end of it. You can pull the string across the floor while she chases after it, or flick it into the air so she jumps up at it.
Make sure you allow plenty of space to play this game to avoid any injuries.
If you wanted to add another fun element, you could even add a bell to the end of it and ring it from another room – it’ll be seconds before your cat is there playing with you!
Which Brain Game Will You Play?
Most behavioral problems in cats stem from boredom and frustration. As humans, we keep our brains active and engaged, creating new neural pathways each time we learn something new.
It’s important that we give our feline friends the same opportunities – they are clever animals who will be much happier if they have the chance to exercise their brains!
You don’t have to spend a small fortune on toys, there are plenty of ideas which you can come up with, which only involve the things you already have in your home.
Why not try and give one of these games a go with your cat today?
This article was a guest post prepared for us by John Woods – Founder and Director of My Pet’s Name, as well a graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He has been a dog (and cat) lover since he was 13 years old volunteering at an animal shelter where he gained first hand experience training, rehabilitating and socializing hundreds of dogs using positive reinforcement training techniques.