Keeping your cat indoors when it’s dark is recommended by feline charities such as Cats Protection. Increased risks during night-time include road traffic injuries, harm from other animals and cat fights. However, if your cat is used to being active of an evening, cooping them up inside can make them feel restless and stressed. This is particularly challenging during the winter months when daylight is in short supply. The answer is to provide plenty of things to keep them occupied.
Burgess in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, advises: “Exercise is really important for your cat’s overall health. Movement, especially the kind that taps into feline hunting skills, can keep weight down and playing games can give your cat’s mental wellbeing a boost. If you have any questions or concerns about what exercise is suitable for your cat, your vet will be happy to help.”
Cats are designed to be active in short bursts, so playing with them for around 10 to 15 minutes at a time is a good way to keep their attention and ensure they’re getting enough exercise, especially if they’re spending more time indoors during the winter months.
Most cats love playing games, especially activities that tune into their natural behaviours. Examples include:
- Things they can chase. Wind-up or motorised toys, or a fishing-rod style toy with feathers dragged across the floor, will cunningly coax a couch potato into becoming a hunter.
- Things they can hit. Cats enjoy batting at light things that move easily across the floor – a scrunched up ball of paper is ideal. Don’t give them anything they can chew up or swallow. If your cat keeps losing their toys beneath the furniture, try putting the ball or toy in a large cardboard box. That way, your cat can play with it in a controlled space and you don’t have to keep retrieving things from under the sofa.
- Things they can jump onto. Cats love to be up high so make sure there are safe surfaces and spaces around your home that they can jump on an off. Find out how to make your home more cat friendly here >>
- Things they can climb into. Leave an empty cardboard box out with a catnip toy inside it and watch what happens…
- Things they can scratch. Scratching, or ‘claw conditioning’ is a natural part of cat behaviour. It keeps their claws healthy and leaves scent marks as well as toning their shoulder and back muscles. Cat trees and scratching posts stable that are stable and tall enough for your cat to exercise at full body stretch are great for this. Find out more about why cats scratch here >>
Animal charity PDSA has some great advice on how to encourage your cat to be more active
Try different toys. Just because your cat isn’t playing with a certain toy doesn’t mean they don’t want to play. Try different kinds of toys. Toys that are interactive for both of you are best, as you can change the speed and pace to tap into their natural chase instinct and get them excited.
Play at hunting time. Cats are naturally more active at the beginning and end of the day as this is when they’d hunt in the wild. Try playing with your cat at prime hunting time and feed them after you play not before.
- Keep it interesting. Try to vary playtime as much as possible. Playing with the same toy all the time can get dull so try to mix it up. Swapping between different versions of similar toys can be enough to get your cat excited again.Check out the range of special cat toys at PDSA Pet Store
- Use food puzzles. Some cats are very motivated by food. Try using treat balls or puzzle boards feed some of their daily ration of cat food. Find out more about the benefits of getting your cat to work for their food here >>
Cats love to get their teeth and claws into their playthings, so expect to replace toys regularly when old ones get worn out.
Dr Moyes adds: “Spending some time each day playing games is a great way to bond with your favourite feline and show just how much you love them.”
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