Happy Cats: Easing the Boredom in Indoor Cats by Dr. Chantal Rittwage

It’s that time of year again, when our outdoor kitties come in for the winter.  This “new” environment and lack of stimulation can cause cats a lot of stress, which can actually trigger some pretty serious and frustrating conditions to flare up:  “Feline Lower Urinary Tract Syndrome”, “Eosinophilic Granulomatous Complex”, “Feline Asthma”, “Herpes Upper Respiratory/Eye Infections” and “Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome”.  These can show symptoms of peeing outside the litterbox, skin rashes, swollen lips/gums, anorexia, intermittent vomiting and diarrhea, more frequent coughing attacks, green/yellow mucous from the eyes and/or nose.  Cabin Fever can also affect our indoor kitties as well.  Think about it, who would want to be cooped up when there is so much in the way of sights, smells, and sounds outdoors.  This doesn’t mean that we should open the front door to provide our cats with a more interesting life; as the benefits still out-weigh the cons.  But, here are 5 easy ways to help cure “cabin fever” in our feline friends, and hopefully reduce stress:

Look Up . . . . Way Up!

It is second nature for a cat to climb and perch.  This is so they can look down on all the lowly humans and dogs.  So give them the opportunity!  There are lots of visually esthetic and yet still functional ‘cat towers’ that offer many different levels.  If these are too expensive, then the materials can be cheaply bought and assembled at home (I can’t promise that these will be as pretty).  There are also hanging perches that can be mounted directly to window frames and the wall (like floating shelves).  Be creative and make an artsy pattern with the shelves, this way your cats are happy and there are no eyesores in the room.  Now remember, cats are social creatures in their own way:  they may not want to be right next to you, but generally want to be in the same room.  Make sure you place these towers and perches in the room of the house you and your cats hang out the most, or they simply won’t use them (this goes for scratching posts too).  There seem to be a lot of crazy (in a good way) cat people on Pinterest, so if you need some inspiration: go there (www.pinterest.ca) and search ‘cat towers/perches’.

Hanging, Dangling, Jingling and Crinkling Toys!

Every cat should have toys for batting around, chasing, hiding in, or interacting with.  I have a lot of people tell me that “my cat doesn’t like to play with toys”.  If that’s the case, you just haven’t found the right toy for your cat, he/she wants you to play with him/her, or he/she’s may even be in pain (arthritis can be almost impossible to diagnose in cats as they are so good at hiding signs of pain).  If your cat likes catnip, make sure to provide him/her with a frequent and fresh stash (freshness does matter).  Also, every cat should have a “tease toy”, where you can dangle a feathery or furry object from the tip of a baton and string to engage a cat’s prey-drive.  Laser pointer also work very well, just makes sure to avoid their eyes.  I’ve even seen laser pointers on a motion activated pendulum, so they can play when you aren’t home.

Let Them Enjoy The Views!

Make looking outside the windows both easily accessible and comfortable for your cat.  Like I mentioned above, there are perches that can be attached to windowsills.  These come in many varieties as well: carpeted, heated, etc.  Just make sure that you cats will not be exposed to extreme temperatures when he/she falls asleep there (i.e. heat stroke in the summer if in direct sunlight, or too cold in the winder if windows aren’t insulated well).  You can also provide extra stimulation by hanging birdfeeders right outside or even on the window itself.

If, however, your cat is one of many that are territorial and gets stressed out when he sees another cat outside his/her window, then you may want to make certain (ie ground level) windows off-limits to your own cat (or set up sprinklers to scare other cats away).  If a view isn’t an option for your cat there are actually DVDs that are made specifically for cats that contain enticing sounds and images for cats.

Bring The Jungle To Them.

As most cat owners would know, cats LOVE to nibble on plants!  It can even be a challenge to keep your cat out of your potted plants.  So, if it makes them happy, why stop them?  There are a lot of beautiful plants that are safe for cats to chew on, like catnip, cat grass, valerian, and rosemary.  The Animal Poison Control Center website (ASPCA.org) can be visited to check and see if the plants you have are safe for kitties.  If not, make sure to keep them in places that are inaccessible to your cat (ie: hanging planters).  To stop your kitties from digging in the dirt and making a mess, simply arrange a layer of small stones in the planter above the earth.

Cuddle More!

The best way to curb boredom is by spending more time with our feline friends and pandering to their every need☺.  Playing, grooming, petting, or just hanging out with your cats and you’ll make them happy.