Imagine being a cat sitting at home all day with the curtains closed with nothing to do and no one to interact with. If you lived in the wild, your natural cat behavior would have you looking at birds and insects, roaming around, chasing, jumping, hiding, pouncing and happily spending half a day looking for a mouse to eat. You can also defend your territory and flex your muscles. However, indoor cats that do not get exercise, stimulation and healthy food can suffer. Their boredom can lead to depression or illness.
Look for signs of boredom
If your cat’s behavior is not what you hoped it would be, it could be because he or she is bored or lonely. Here are some common cat behavior signs you may notice.
1. Moving small objects or clothes around the house while you are away.
2. Pulling out clumps of hair or forced grooming.
3. Knocking things off worktops.
4. Spraying or crouching to mark territory with deposits of urine or faeces.
5. Expressing with excessive vocalization, most likely to tell you that it is boring or lonely.
6. Showing aggressive behavior or acting out, especially when leaving.
7. Binge eating when there is nothing else to do that feels comforting.
Boredom and depression can be severe
Boredom can lead to depression in cats. If you let it go for too long, it can also lead to illness and other cat health challenges. Lack of exercise and stimulation can lead to unhappiness, weak muscles, a sluggish immune system and ultimately depression or adrenal stress and disease. In fact, feline behavioral problems are also reportedly the most common reason for euthanasia and abandonment of otherwise healthy animals. DO NOT let your cat be put away or bored!
Try these solutions for healthy cat behavior
- If you only have one cat, consider getting your cat a feline companion. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive® and commissioned by ARM & HAMMER Multi-Cat Strength Cat Litter, animal experts now agree that cats are social – not solitary – animals by nature. When asked, more than 8 out of 10 vets agree that cats do NOT prefer to be left alone. (It’s almost as easy to care for two cats as it is for one.)
- Offer to play with your cat around the same time every day. Cats love routines. Buy or make toys that simulate hunting, chasing, throwing, jumping and hide-and-seek fun. Spend 20-30 minutes playing with your cats once or twice a day.
- Establish some fixed care time several days a week. Have some brushes, combs and slickers handy. A good time to do this is after your cat has played and used up some frustrated energy because it is ready to be soft and cozy.
- Before you leave your home each day, hide some favorite toys and treats. Rotate their favorite toys to different locations each day. Get a plastic mop ball and put in some healthy treats that take a little work to get out of the ruts. This provides exercise and challenge, and the reward for good cat behavior is welcome.
- Give your cat some freedom to roam. Minimize confinement as much as possible. If you don’t already have one, get a climbing tree or tower. Vertical space is just as important for your cat’s health as horizontal space for exercise and dexterity. It may also be a good idea to get a cat harness and leash and take the cat outside to explore, get fresh air and sunshine.
- Create a comfortable place near a window. Cats love to look out the windows and watch birds, insects and a variety of interesting things. If you can set up a bird feeder outside a window, where the birds will be safe and your cat can observe, it will provide hours of entertainment, mental stimulation and emotional satisfaction for your cat.
- Give your cat a scratch. This gives them a place to remove old cuticles, and it allows them to exercise and tone their muscles to stay strong. Scratching also relieves stress, frustration and boredom or helps them “warm up” for playful play. But best of all, it gives them a convenient way to mark their territory with the pads of their paws. (This is much better than inappropriate spraying or other marking or furniture damage!)
- Most importantly, feed your cat high-quality food with real meat, NOT meat by-products. It may cost more, but it can help prevent disease and promote better health, so it will save you money in the long run. Also, cats will eat less and get better nutrition. Do all these things and your cat’s health and behavior will transform to become calmer and happier. In all likelihood, you both will develop a closer bond as well. SOURCES: Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, MSc, DACVB (a leading veterinary behaviorist and author) plus the experts at ARM & HAMMER Multi-Cat Strength Litter, who commissioned a CAT-PANION Crusade Study.