Imagine being a cat sitting 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 lead you to watch birds and bugs, roam, chase, jump, hide, pounce and spend half a day happily looking for a mouse to eat. You also could defend your territory and flex your muscles. However, indoor cats who do not get exercise, stimulation and wholesome food can suffer. Their boredom can lead to depression or illness.
Watch for Signs of Boredom
If your cat’s behavior is not what you hoped it would be, it might be because he or she is bored or lonely. Here are some common cat behavior signs you may notice.
1. Moving small items or objects of clothing around the house while you are gone.
2. Pulling out clumps of its hair or obsessively over-grooming.
3. Knocking things off counter tops.
4. Spraying or squatting to mark territory with deposits of urine or stool.
5. Expressing with excessive vocalization, most likely to let you know its bored or lonely.
6. Displaying aggressive behavior or acting out, especially when you leave.
7. Overeating when there is nothing else to do that feels comforting.
Boredom and Depression Can Be Serious
Boredom can lead to depression in cats. If let 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 eventually depression or adrenal stress and disease. In fact, cat behavior related issues are also reportedly the most common reason for euthanasia and abandonment of otherwise healthy animals. Do NOT let your cat be put away or become bored!
Try these Healthy Cat Behavior Solutions
- If you have only 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 by nature social–not solitary–animals. 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 take care of two cats as one.)
- Offer to play with your cat around the same time every day. Cats love routine. Buy or make toys that simulate hunting, chasing, pouncing, jumping and hiding fun. Spend 20-30 minutes playing once or twice a day with your cats.
- Establish some regular grooming time several days a week. Keep some brushes, combs and slickers handy. A good time to do this is after your cat has played and used up some its frustrated energy because they are ready to be mellow and cuddle up.
- Before you leave your home every day, hide some favorite toys and treats. Rotate their favorite toys to different spots every day. Get a plastic whiffle ball and put in some healthy treats that take a little work to come out the slots. This provides exercise and challenge and the good cat behavior reward is welcome.
- Give your cat some freedom to roam. Minimize confinement as much as possible. If you do not already have one, get a climbing tree or tower. Vertical space is as important to cat health as horizontal space for exercise and dexterity. You might also want to get a cat harness and leash and take your cat outdoors to explore, get some fresh air and sunshine.
- Make a comfy place near a window. Cats love to look out windows and watch birds, bugs and any number of interesting things. If you can put 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 scratcher. This gives them a place to remove old nail sheaths plus it lets them exercise and tone their muscles to stay strong. Scratching also relieves stress, frustration and boredom or helps them “warm up” for some playful romping. But best of all, it gives them an appropriate way to mark their territory with the pads on their paws. (This is much better than inappropriate spraying or other marking or furniture damage!)
- Most important of all, feed your cat high quality food with real meat, NOT meat by-products. It may cost more but it can can help prevent disease and promote better health so it will save you in the long run. Besides, cats will eat less and get better nutrition. Do all these things and your cat’s health and behavior will transform to being calmer and happier. In all likelihood, you will both develop a closer bond, too.
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.