The best way to keep your cat entertained at home is to provide your cat with a stimulating home environment that keeps boredom at bay. Having a variety of mentally and physically stimulating options such as social interaction, toys, perches and scratching posts will keep your cat happy at home. Read on for our top tips on making your cat’s home life fun, entertaining and full of daily adventures…
Symptoms Your Cat is Bored
It’s important to keep your cat entertained at home to prevent boredom from creeping in. Boredom can not only negatively impact your cat’s life and well-being, but it can also cause them to exhibit behaviours that impact your home life too. When cats are under-stimulated they may develop obsessive behaviours as a way of self-reassuring or passing the time. For instance, they might over-groom or become obsessive around mealtimes. Bored kitties may also take matters into their own paws and get creative with their own entertainment, such as scratching furniture, attacking ankles or fighting with other animals in the home.
What do cats need to be entertained?
To be entertained and to lead happy and healthy lives, cats need access to a variety of rich and stimulating environments, with the opportunity to play and exhibit natural behaviours such as scratching, chewing and climbing. To make your cat’s environment more stimulating, give them toys with a variety of textures, provide multiple scratching posts, make sure they have opportunities to explore their home vertically and give them opportunities for puzzle solving to get that all-important mental stimulation too!
What is environmental enrichment and why is it important
Environmental enrichment is just a fancy term for introducing elements to your cat’s surroundings that help stimulate their minds and their bodies. By making your cat’s environment more dynamic and complex, you encourage them to use their brains! This stimulation is great for keeping your cat happy and keeping boredom at bay. Although house cats are domesticated, they still have a lot of ‘wild’ behaviours that they need to accomplish to feel happy and content.
Environmental enrichment can be done in lots of ways. Here are some easy quick wins for making your cat’s home life enriching and exciting every day:
In the wild or outdoors, cats stalk and hunt their prey. Toys that allow them to mimic this natural behaviour (while keeping native wildlife safe!) are a great option for your cat. Wands and feather sticks, animated toys or springs will keep your cat engaged. It is important to remember that whatever toy you choose, your cat should be able to catch it. Laser pens can become frustrating for your cat because their chase and energy exertion never has a ‘result’. Toys get them running and pouncing, which is also great exercise.
You can expand your cat’s home environment by providing them with the opportunity to explore and play vertically on a perch. Cats love to be high off the ground and climbing posts and platforms allow them to indulge in this simple pleasure. Climbing also gives your cat the opportunity to exercise. They may also like sleeping or napping high up, as they feel safe and out of reach.
Scratching posts not only keep your cat entertained but also give them an appropriate alternative to maintaining their claws without damaging your furniture. Cats prefer to scratch in high-traffic areas of their home environment, along routes that they frequent often. Scratching posts can also be used by your cat for a nice post-snooze stretch, so implement multiple posts around their fave parts of your home and close to where they nap.
When choosing a scratching post, make sure it is sturdy and doesn’t wobble or fall over when your cat is using it. Most cats prefer fixed, vertical scratching posts, that are taller than their height when they stand on their hind legs, and which have a long vertical grain. Opting for sisal-covered or real bark-covered posts allows them to get their claws in and give themselves a real manicure!
Cat plants & grasses
Chewing is an entertaining pastime for your cat, which can also come with some digestive and oral-hygiene benefits, but it's important they indulge in this activity safely. You can provide your cat with a variety of cat-safe plants and grasses for them to chew, making sure that toxic plants are kept out of reach of your feline friend.
Catnip is another great form of plant-based entertainment for your cat (although not all cats go crazy for catnip – there is a genetic component). Plants such as silver vine, honeysuckle, and valerian can also be used to satisfy your cat’s sense of smell.
Related: Cat Nip
Exercise wheels are a great way to supplement your cat’s exercise, giving them the opportunity to walk and run in the house. Although they can be large in size, exercise wheels provide your cat with more ‘range’ to move, and the opportunity to increase and modify their speed to exude some extra energy.
Walking on a leash
Walking your cat on a leash is a wonderful way to keep them entertained as it invites more environmental diversity into their lives. It is important that your cat is harness and leash trained before you venture with them outdoors to ensure they are comfortable, happy and safe whilst they explore.
Related: How to Harness Train Your Cat
Activity feeders & puzzles
Giving your cat the opportunity to use their brain is a great way to keep them entertained. Puzzles and activity feeders encourage your cat to ‘think outside the box’ and challenges their mental dexterity. You can buy activity feeders and puzzles but they are also super simple to make! You can do this by hiding their fave toys or treats in a box with some holes cut in so they have to use their paws to retrieve them or by putting treats in the bottom of egg cartons so that they can use their paws to ‘fish’ the treats out.
Training is an excellent form of mental stimulation and entertainment for your cat. You might think that your cat isn’t listening to you (like ever) but it might surprise you to know that cats are capable of learning many skills and behaviours – from ‘sit’ to ‘high five’ and lots more! Training your cat not only engages their brains, stopping them from getting bored but it also provides you with an opportunity to interact and bond with your feline friend. Bear in mind that although your cat is intelligent, their attention spans can be a little short. Training sessions should be short and sweet.
Should I let my cat entertain itself?
You can absolutely let your cat entertain itself through self-guided play and exploration, but don’t forget that you’re an important part of their environment and they’ll enjoy it when you join in too! Playing together with your cat helps build your bond and adds a much more dynamic dimension to their indoor play.
How to play with your cat
The best way to play with your cat is to initiate play and allow your cat to engage if they want to. Cats enjoy chasing and hunting so choose activities and toys that allow them to do this. Short and sweet sessions are preferable and a variety of different toys will help to combat boredom.
Feel free to get creative with your kitty playtime! Entertainment doesn’t all have to centre around toys, you can initiate a game of fetch, chase or hide and seek, talk to your cat, initiate a training session or allow them to explore new ‘toys’ like paper bags or boxes.
My cat doesn’t like to play with toys
Most cats enjoy playing with toys to a certain extent, but you may need to mix things up to keep them excited and entertained. Studies have found that cats get bored of specific toys after a while, so you can keep things fresh by rotating their toys and switching them around every week or so. You’ll find that if you leave the toys in their ‘bored’ pile out of sight for a week when you bring them out again your cat will be much more excited about them once more!
You can also experiment with the types of toys that you are using. Opt for ones that look and feel like prey (think birds, mice, flying bugs) – these can include feathers, fur and should be small in size. If a toy is too large your cat may be afraid of it and cautious about engaging in any hunting/play behaviours.
When interacting with these toys, your cat wants to feel like they are hunting so how these toys move is also important. Your cat is more likely to enjoy toys that they can catch and ‘kill’. So each time your cat lands a great strike, let the toy ‘play dead’ for a little while. Your cat might retreat to a safe distance and look as though they’ve lost interest, but they’re actually secretly watching the toy to see how quickly it leaps back into action. They’re checking to make sure their hunting techniques are actually having an effect, so go along with this and let the toy ‘play dead’ for a little longer each time they hit it before finally letting your cat land a final strike and let keep the ‘dead’ toy.
Does my outdoor cat need indoor entertainment?
Yes, your outdoor cat still needs indoor entertainment. Although your cat has the outdoor world to explore, the fun shouldn’t stop when they come inside. If your cat has access to the outdoors, they may have an expectation of how they can behave, explore and play. You should try to give your cat similar opportunities to keep exercising those cat behaviours indoors. This way they don’t feel as though they aren’t getting them same stimulation, keeping boredom at bay and encouraging your cat to spend more quality, indoor time with you.
Are indoor cats happy?
Yes, indoor cats are happy if they have a safe and clean home environment that is stimulating and gives them the opportunity to engage in their natural behaviours.
Does my cat need a friend?
Whether your cat needs a friend or not will depend on your cat. Some cats may need a friend if they are used to being in a more socially dynamic environment, such as a bonded pair or family member. Kittens for example, begin their lives in a litter and learn interactive skills through their mothers and littermates. It can be beneficial for them to maintain this relationship and stay in a pair or multiple. Having a friend allows cats to create their own entertainment by playing with one another.
If you have a lone cat at home that is used to being alone, the introduction of another animal can have benefits but this is dependent on how successful the introduction is. Introducing another cat or pet into your household may increase the stress and anxiety of both animals, so it is a prospect to be considered carefully.
Can I use a mobile device, tablet, or TV to entertain my cat?
Yes, you can use a mobile device, tablet or television to entertain your cat but it shouldn’t be the only form of entertainment they are exposed to. It is really important for cats to be able to catch and ‘kill’ their prey (which is essentially what a toy is). Watching fish swim on a screen can be engaging but it is usually short-lived and, if your cat gets a little too excited, your mobile device or tv may be at risk of being damaged.
Read next: How To Keep Your Cat Happy Outdoors