Banish Winter Boredom
Enrichment - providing an environment that lends itself to mental stimulation and physical activity - is an integral part of being a great cat parent. First and foremost, regular exercise reduces the risk of your kitty becoming overweight, potentially prolonging their lifespan and general well-being. You may also be surprised to learn that cats living in a dull environment are more likely to suffer from anxiety or have health issues like urinary tract disease.
In the wintertime, we all (kitties and humans alike!) have the propensity to become a little blue because of the shorter days. Exposure to less daylight means we might experience low mood, sleep too much, and have low energy.
But don't worry: providing enrichment for your cat’s daily way of life is easier than you may think. Check out these simple, cost-effective ways to help your kitty enjoy every day and ensure that you both live your best life 24/7/365:
Boxes and Bags = Bliss
Boxes and bags can go a long way to keep kitties happy. Place an empty box upside down and cut "mouse holes" along the sides so that your cat can reach inside and "capture" a catnip mouse to play with. (You can do the same with treats or a ball or two if your cat prefers them to mice.) Boxes can be made more intriguing by moving them from room to room or sprinkling catnip inside. If your kitty is part of the one-third of kitties who don't respond to catnip, alternatives include Tatarian honeysuckle and silvervine, both of which produce a similar effect to catnip. Cats like paper bags not only as playthings but also as hiding spaces or even tunnels if you cut off the bottom. Be sure to cut any handles off paper bags before giving them to your kitty, as the handles can pose a safety risk!
Make Food Part of the Fun
Treats and kibble can help alleviate boredom, but they should be used in moderation to avoid obesity. Don't allow overeating, as gaining weight causes mobility issues and makes depression worse. Toys that dispense food are a great solution. Look for toys that can be filled with kibble and treats, which are perfect to pique the interest of cats who are motivated by food. The cat simply maneuvers the toy to get their “prize,” and they will enjoy their reward even more once they understand the game. Offering your cat's daily food portion in a puzzle feeder is also a great way to tap into predatory behavior, which helps improve mood and prevent weight gain. Make the game more challenging by hiding the feeder elsewhere in the house if they get bored.
Get Kitty Climbing
What if low energy is a problem with your kitty come this time of year? It's essential to encourage couch-potato kitties to become active in the winter when they tend to "hibernate," as being inactive will perpetuate a sense of boredom and contribute to poor health. If your cat is highly food-motivated, put treats on the stairs so they will climb them, or use small kibble piles to lure them onto the cat tree. Other places to encourage climbing are window ledges, cleared bookshelves, and tops of radiators. If you have time, you can even create a "highway" of catwalks on your walls using basic shelving hardware.
Wallet-Friendly Feline Fun
If the holidays mean your budget is a little tight, don't worry. You can find makeshift toys for next to nothing, and you probably already have some items around the house that can be used to entertain your kitty. Ping-Pong balls can be sent flying because they're so lightweight, and they’re very safe because they cannot be swallowed. Place a Ping-Pong ball in an empty facial-tissue box to create an instant (and free!) ball-track toy. Or, toss one in the bathtub - your kitty will love to "dive in" and bat it around the empty tub. Plastic tops from milk cartons and wine corks also make great toys. You can even fashion a puzzle toy by simply placing a treat or two inside a paper-towel roll once you’ve used all the towels.
Never a Dull Meow-Ment
Variety is the spice of life, they say, and purr-haps it's also the spice of play! Rotate your cat’s toys so they retain their interest, and provide different types of toys when you are able to in order to spark new interest. Try out a few new varieties of toys when it’s time to buy new ones to see if your cat prefers something in particular, such as soft toys to bat around, interactive toys they can use on their own, or chasing a laser pointer. Once you find what your cat likes, move the toys from room to room and location to location to keep them interested. Think of new ways to play with the “same old, same old” toys, too. For instance, choose a toy with enough heft to allow you to toss it across a room for your cat to carry back to you - you'll both enjoy a feline-only game of fetch!
A Room with a View
Cats love a high vista from which they can survey their surroundings - this is something they naturally do to stay safe outdoors. Therefore, scratchers, towers, and cat trees significantly impact your cat's daily enjoyment. If they've lost interest in these spots recently, simply sprinkling them with catnip will entice your cat to explore them. Place a perch or cat tower next to a window with a clear view of bird activity. They will have something to watch (consider it cat TV!), and more daylight exposure will also help with those wintertime blues. Consider using full-spectrum lights when it's not light outside or you have the shades drawn. They mimic natural daylight and may help prevent your cat from sleeping more than they should due to the shorter days.
One of the simplest ways to keep your kitty from getting bored is to keep most of their toys hidden away and present a toy or two every few days. Place the toys in a Ziploc bag with a bit of catnip and allow them to steep for a day before reintroducing them. By rotating toys, you keep them interesting, encouraging play. Also consider playtime from your kitty’s viewpoint and make some accommodations. For instance, laser pointers are extremely popular but can get tedious since there is nothing to catch - super frustrating! Occasionally sub in a wand toy or other chasable toy and allow your cat to catch their prey, completing the kill cycle.
Take it Outside
If you have mild weather in winter, put it to good use! Cats with the right purr-sonality may enjoy walking on your community’s sidewalk using a specially-designed cat-friendly harness and leash or being wheeled around the neighborhood in a screened-in pet stroller. A quick stroll around the area can do wonders as they occupy themselves by enjoying the view, sniffing the air, and possibly meeting new people. These experiences are stimulating and so much safer than being allowed outside on their own. (Tip: Cats introduced to leash-walking are likely to take to it at a young age, so a stroller is the best bet for an adult kitty.)
Doing your part to keep your kitty's life enriched and their mind and body active is essential all year long, and it can be especially crucial during the winter when humans are busier and the days are shorter. Enrichment is about more than just keeping your cat entertained: ensuring they stay active mentally and physically means good emotional health and decreased health risks.
Meowtel is here to help you enjoy the winter holidays and every day - leave the worry behind and let us cater to your kitty's needs while you're away enjoying that highly anticipated trip or visiting loved ones. We're here whenever you need us, even providing overnight stays for those special kitties who need them. Find your purr-fect sitter match here.
Photo by Darby P. on Unsplash