Fortunately, long before it comes to this, there are plenty of easy ways to keep your cat engaged and entertained.
By introducing cat enrichment toys, games involving cat treats and maybe doing a little cat enrichment DIY, you can ensure you and your cat are having fun while finding new things to bond over.
Enrichment Ideas for Cats
Designated Together Time
As working from home becomes more common, some people will find that adjusting to a new routine may be difficult at first. Cats may also need some time to get used to having their humans home all day, every day. One way to help them adjust is to create a new routine that includes designated time together.
“Try doing fifteen minutes at the same time every day for a week. Go to a cozy, relaxing and comfortable space, then spend fifteen minutes talking with your cat, petting them and giving them all of your attention,” suggests Purina pet enrichment specialist Alex Johnson, MS.
See how your cat reacts to this time together over a week or so. They might even seek you out at your designated time because they enjoy this special time with you. Johnson adds, “Continue this designated together time daily and consider mixing things up by introducing a new activity as well.”
“Cats find moving objects, lights and sound entertaining,” says Johnson. You can hang a bird feeder outside a window so they can watch. Light catchers, lasers, feather wands and cat dancer toys are also popular with cats. “You can even try creating your own DIY cat enrichment toys as a family activity. Light catchers or wind catchers are easy for beginners,” Johnson explains.
Couch Potato Play
Interacting with your cat doesn’t have to take a ton of effort. If you’re relaxing on the couch watching a movie or binge-watching your favorite TV show, you can give them something to do without leaving the couch.
Keep a basket or drawer within arm’s reach, filled with toys like feather wands or a cat-safe laser pointer. “Verbal encouragement is often enough for pets as they interact with a toy on their own. Provide words of praise, which can increase their excitement for the activity and extend playtime,” says Johnson.
Time to Explore
Feline enrichment can sometimes involve something as simple as reintroducing them to something they’re familiar with.
Creating places for cats to explore by setting up boxes or paper bags for them to climb into can be fun for a cat. Closing off a room in the house for a week, then opening it to give your cat a place to re-discover, is also effective.
Johnson says, “Before reopening the room, tuck a few favorite toys and treats in a hidden spot to give them the excitement of discovering something they enjoy.”
Pet Forts & Box Tunnels
Cats are natural explorers, so pillow and blanket forts that spring up in their homes are often an irresistible draw.
“Make sure to put some of your cat’s favorite toys and treats inside the fort for your cat to discover. Then, give them the time and space they need to discover all the nooks and crannies of the fort at their speed,” Johnson recommends.
If you’ve had an influx of packages delivered to your home, repurpose those boxes by building box tunnels, towers and cities for cats to explore. “If you have more than one cat, make sure to provide an entrance and exit, so nobody gets cornered,” she advises.
Cats like to sit on almost anything—even things that seem uncomfortable, like computer keyboards. Johnson explains that part of the reason for this is cats “love exploring different textures and smells.” Instead of shooing them from these spots, create a dedicated sensory spot for your cat to explore, sit and even nap.
Johnson recommends using a basket or box and putting it near a window or vent and putting new material in it each week. Anything from an old t-shirt to packaging paper can be intriguing for a cat—and it doesn’t have to be soft and comfortable. “If your cat doesn’t like it, she just won’t sleep on it,” she says.
A pet picnic can take place outdoors, or if your cat spends most of their time indoors, on a living room floor. Create a nice, cozy and comfortable place for your cat to wander around. Be sure to include some of their favorite toys. Then bring out some boxes and containers with cat food and treats hidden inside.
Having your cat hunt for food taps into their natural predatory instincts. Try hiding small amounts of dry cat food in various spots around the house. Your cat can “hunt” for her food throughout the day, which will keep her active and provide some mental stimulation.