Whether it's playing hide-and-seek in a cardboard box or chasing a feather toy, playtime isn't just fun for our cats, it's an essential part of their wellbeing. Daily sessions of interactive play keep a cat's curious mind stretched and entertained, and help them expend their energies in a bird, furniture and ankle-friendly way!
But what about those times when your cat wants - needs - some attention, but you really need to get something done?! Like that all-important phonecall that you need them not to meow the whole way through (I swear Lyra gets her singing voice on the moment she realises I'm on a work call!), or that life admin you've been putting off for too long?
Not only does ignoring them feel awful, if you've been in this situation you'll know that what they say is true... the devil makes work for idle
hands paws! So how do you keep your cats entertained while you're rushed off your feet, and avoid them finding their amusement in more mischievous ways?
In today's Sunday Read I want to share three improvised toys I fall back on when my two cats need attention that I just can't give at that precise moment in time. The beauty of them is that they're free, use things I already have around the house, and don't need a human operating them behind the scenes. The improvised nature of them also works really well because they're almost always new and intriguing to the cats, who have a giant heap of discarded bought-in toys that they've long since grown bored of!
Of course, none of these is a replacement for quality playtime with you in the picture. But if you're having a whirlwind of a day, they'll keep you kitty happy, challenged and entertained for a little while, while you get what you need done.
THE SHOE BOX PUZZLE
How to make it: Take an old shoebox or mailing box, cut circular holes in the lid and then place a large bell, scrunched up piece of tinfoil or one of your cat's favourite toys inside. Then leave your cat to get creative trying to fish the object out with a paw!
- This works particularly well with objects that make a sound when they move.
- It's up to you whether you want your cat to succeed with getting the object out or not - judge the hole size accordingly. Be aware that even if you don't intend for them to do so, particularly smart cats will find a way to get the objects out anyway, so don't put anything that isn't safe for unsupervised play in there!
- My favourite way to use this toy is to 'extend' playtime with an object that the cats already like, but end up kicking under a piece of furniture in about 5 seconds and then forget all about. Putting that toy in the puzzle box turns that 5 seconds of fun into many minutes of cat-brain-stretching-play!
THE EGG CARTON ACTIVITY FEEDER
How to make it: I think I may have mentioned this one as an aside in a past post (10 scientifically proven ways to create a cat-happy home) but it bears repeating because it's so quick and effective! Take an old egg carton (12-egg or larger works best), place a few treats at the bottom of the wells (e.g. you could use our homemade 2-ingredient tuna cat treats, or here I used tiny pieces of cheddar cheese because Lola's a cheese fiend) and then let your cat work out how to extract the treats from the cardboard wells!
- Dry treats work better than wet treats, as the moisture can end up sticking the treat to the cardboard. Once, whilst busy cooking I poured some crumbs of feta cheese into this feeder for Lola... half an hour later she was still trying to get the smushed-up treats out, poor thing!
- Don't forget portion control. If you're using an egg carton with lots of wells, you might want to break the treats in two and put half in each well, or just put one in every other well.
THE METAL TAPE MEASURE
How to make it: Take an extendable metal tape measure, lock it so that a metre or so of the tape measure is extended out, then perch it on a shelf with a weight (e.g. a heavy book) to hold it in place. We discovered this one by accident because we first brought Lyra home while we were still renovating the house, and any time we got the tape measure out to measure something, a little paw would pop up and bop it out of our hands! Pretty exasperating at the time, but we've since managed to harness it into a super fun game.
- This is quite a noisy game so probably not the best one to choose if you're trying to make an important phonecall! Surprisingly the clattering of the metal doesn't bother our two cats, even though they dislike plenty of other loud sounds, but I'd be interested to hear what others find.
- It takes a little bit of trial and error to find the right length of tape to let overhang, so that it bends when your cat 'bops' it but doesn't crumple altogether. You'll get there with a bit of experimentation!
Do you have any other cat entertainment tricks that you turn to when you need to get something done? I'd love to hear what works for you! Join in the conversation over on Instagram or Facebook (both @supakitstore) or just leave a message in the comments below.