Mango @ Happy Cats HavenDear Ms. Kitty,
I’ve adopted a younger cat from a local shelter. Her name is Tangy and she is a beautiful orange tabby. But I was only able to bring home one kitty since I live in a very small apartment. I work part-time and I’m worried that she will get bored while I’m not home and get into trouble. Do you have any suggestions on how I can make sure she has entertainment during the day?
Bothered by Boredom

Dear Bothered,
Thanks for your question. It is so important to ensure that indoor cats of any age have appropriate ways to keep themselves amused while they are home by themselves and not feel the need to go looking for something to do!

My first suggestion is to take a look around your apartment. You mentioned that it is small – but is there an area by a window for a cat tree or a windowsill for a cat bed? If so, cat trees are stand alone and will provide your kitty with her own stage to the outdoor world. And make sure that cat beds are installed with screws to prevent mishaps! It would be even better if you could put a bird feeder outside the window (in a nearby tree or via suction cups to the window itself).

If these suggestions aren’t an option – how about placing an end table near a window with space cleared for Tangy to hang out on a blanket or a chest of drawers in the bedroom? You can also install a ‘book shelf’ cat bed on a wall and maybe an easy to create kitty walkway in one room. Check out the many cool ideas on the web at places like Hauspanther.com and Kitty Mansions.com.

There is an endless supply of ‘play by myself’ toys available at your local pet stores that kitties can use to entertain themselves. A few of my favorites are the Turbo Scratcher – a circular ball track with a cardboard scratcher in the middle; any toy with a motion sensor that will entice play by moving only when Tangy walks past and toys which hang from the top of doorways. Don’t forget empty cardboard boxes – they provide endless hours of fun and most every cat’s favorite thing — edible cat grass and cat nip! One of the great things about growing your own cat nip is that it can be dried and stuffed into mouse toys made from scraps of material or even baby socks with the top sewn closed.

It’s important to remember that regular play time needs to happen while you are home as well. Just ten minutes of dedicated, interactive play time a day (either at dawn or dusk since these are the times when Tangy has the most energy and will be most playful) will keep her healthy both mentally and physically and increase her bond with you as her guardian.

During playtime please keep this very crucial tip in mind – cats aren’t dogs (although some cats can be taught to fetch a ball). What I mean is many cat guardians ‘play’ with cats by using their hands as toys — you know the belly tickles and waving fingers around above their heads. Hands are not toys and hands and claws do not make a good match. Plus you run the risk of someone other than yourself being scratched and/or bitten when they come to visit.

Here are some of my favorite human/cat games that bring out their instinctive hunter side. The first is wand games. Do yourself a huge favor and buy Tangy a toy called the ‘Da Bird’. It is a wand with string and a feather toy on the end. She will go crazy jumping and spinning around. There is also a toy called a ‘Cat Catcher’ with the same premise – only a mouse toy on the end. Make sure that kitty ‘catches’ the toy occasionally and Da Bird and Cat Catcher toys are put away when play time is over.

Pounce games involve leaping onto an object hidden under a blanket or throw rug. You can use a stick, mylar ball or a piece of string with this game. There are also battery-powered cat toys that encourage this type of play. Bunny games are a lot of fun and involve ‘kick’ toys stuffed with batting and catnip that kitties can grab and kick with their back feet – just watch your fingers and toes with this one! And last but not least – the ever popular laser pointer toy! Some cats may take a minute or two to catch onto this game, but once they have it – look out! Be careful not to point the laser into Tangy’s face and let her ‘catch’ the red dot once and again so that she doesn’t become frustrated. [Letting her end the session with an actual treat will replicate the hunting cycle and also help her from becoming frustrated. You can also read about more play ideas in our Play with Your Cat! article.]

Next column I’ll talk about Clicker Play for cats which is a fun ‘training’ tool for both cats and their guardians. Until then have fun interactively playing with your cat and strengthening your human/feline bond.
— Ms. Kitty

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