Just because cats are now residents of the indoors it doesn’t mean they’re leaving the hunting days behind to turn into couch-potato cats. Healthy cats are physically and mentally active well into their golden years which is why providing the right type of stimulation to your indoor cat is essential.
The small stature and gentle purr of our feline snuggling companions don’t make it obvious, but behind all that cuteness beats a wild heart that would love nothing more than to go hunting, scratching, hiding or climbing. You’re likely to prefer these activities to take place outside and away from the couch, shelves and carpets. But what is an indoor cat to do with all their energy?
This is where cat mental stimulation comes in to save the day (and your furniture). There are plenty of ways to keep an indoor cat entertained and their hunting instincts well exercised. From stimulating cat toys you can buy, to DIY toys you can make out of as little as a paper bag, we’ve put together some of the most effective ways to offer your cat mental stimulation without even leaving the living room.
Why is cat mental stimulation important?
As a cat owner you probably know by now, but cats are intelligent creatures. Their active mind thrives on challenges, so much so that if their environment is not providing them with something to focus on, a cat will soon find their own problems to solve. This can include picking a fight with the furniture or even waking you up at night for an impromptu play session. Instead of letting all that pent up energy turn your kitty into a miniature lion, you can direct it towards fun activities with the help of stimulating toys and games.
According to the PDSA, it’s estimated that over a third of cats in the UK are overweight, due to lack of exercise or maybe because of those extra treats many owners sneak to their cats in between meals. Indoor cats can easily put on the pounds and a home environment lacks all the exciting activities the outdoors provides, so your cat will soon show signs of boredom and frustration, as well as a heavier silhouette.
So keep a good stash of stimulating cat toys around and use them as often as you can. If you’re stuck for ideas, here are a few toys and games guaranteed to make your kitten’s day.
How to keep your indoor cat mentally stimulated
Organise treasure hunts
Bring a slice of the outdoors into your cat’s life by recreating a hunting game right in your living room. Separate their meal into several smaller portions and place them randomly in the house for your cat to hunt down. A bit of gentle encouragement might be necessary at first until your feline Sherlock Holmes understands what is required of them. But once your cat gets the rules of the game, they can start sharpening their hunting instincts while chasing down their meal.
Introduce a cat wand toy
Another way to recreate the hunting that takes place in nature and provide your cat the mental stimulation they need is by investing in some wand toys. They come in so many colours and can dangle everything from strings to feathers and toys able to engage your cat’s hunter instincts. Move the wand quickly in front of your cat and they’ll soon spring into action. Keep it moving so your cat can give it a good chase but make sure to let them have a win at the end by catching the inanimate “prey”.
Don’t forget to put the cat wand toy away once the game is over. A piece of string can easily become a hazard for an unsupervised cat, so keep it out of sight when it’s not being used.
Explore the vertical space with a cat tree
Your indoor cat’s gravity-defying antics can be put to good use in the confines of your home.
The easiest way to get your cat scratching and stretching is with a cat tree. From simple poles to trees complete with a cat condo and lounge caves where they can go in and hide, this piece of cat furniture is bound to satisfy all their climbing cravings and provide your cat with the mental stimulation offered by climbing a real tree.
Let your cat figure out a puzzle feeder
Is it a toy or a meal? It’s both. The puzzle feeder stimulates both the brain and the muscles as your cat strives to solve the challenge and get to their food. After all, pouncing on a toy to get their next meal is not that far from stalking and knocking live prey for the same purpose. Who needs to go outside to hunt when bashing around the puzzle feeder and getting rewarded for it is equally entertaining?
Automated toys for the home alone cat
Keep your cat mentally stimulated even when you’re not in the room. Automated cat toys turn on randomly or have a motion sensor that triggers every time it detects movement. They’re perfect for entertaining the cat on those solo days at home.
DIY cat toys
Providing your cat mental stimulation doesn’t have to involve a special trip to the pet shop. A good old cardboard box will provide hours of fun and make a great hiding place for a cat in the mood for some mischief. Even a paper ball can provide entertainment for an entire afternoon. And what cat can resist playing with a toilet roll inner, especially when you turn it into a puzzle toy. If you are into crafts and hobbies, a homemade pom-pom will win you plenty of brownie points from your cat – they’ll go crazy chasing and hitting it across the room.
We hope you’ve already updated your bag of cat tricks with our ideas. If this article peaked your curiosity about why do cats love boxes or if you want to investigate why your cat keeps scratching the furniture, we’ve delved deep into the world of cats to give you their take on home life. Discover more about your cat companion in our cat hub guides.