While cats may have a reputation for being independent, that is not entirely accurate. Cats are social creatures; they enjoy play and interaction both with people and other cats. Here are just a few things you might want to try with the cat in your life.
Self-Play Toys: While there are many cute toys that cats love available for sale, from catnip-filled toys to toys that make tingling or crackling sounds when they move, many cats are pleased with even very simple, homemade toys.
One of our Nevada Humane Society office cats, Petey, loves crumpled balls of paper. Crumple some paper and Petey comes running; toss it and he will retrieve it for you. (Petey also has been known to swipe sticky notes from my desk when he is bored.) Homemade toys like foil balls and plastic rings from milk jugs are popular with cats and the price is right. Catnip can be purchased loose or you can easily grow it in your own garden.
If your cat is food-motivated, there are toys that dispense treats to encourage play. There are several different versions on the market, but you could make your own treat-dispensing toy by making a hole in a tennis ball or small, lidded container. Fill it with dry kibble or treats and your kitty will be kept busy.
Cats especially love feather toys because they move in such an enticing way. There are also battery-powered toys, mice that run around a track or moving parts to entertain your cat. Some cats like dangling toys that can be affixed to a door frame or mounted on a wall.
Interactive Toys: Wand or fishing-rod type toys are a huge hit with cats and add to your amusement as you watch your kitty pounce and dash after the toy. These too can be made at home. When I was a kid my mother used to tie a folded piece of paper, shaped vaguely like a butterfly, onto the end of a length of yarn. The cats were thrilled with this and all these years later, they still love it.
Of course, you need to be sure that any toys you offer are safe. Toys should be large enough so that your cat will not ingest them and string should be used only when you are there to supervise your kitty’s activities.
Many cats enjoy laser pointers; chasing the point of light around the house can be an easy way to give kitty a work out while you sit in one place. Take care not to let the light shine into your cat’s eyes though, as it can damage your cat’s vision.
Perches: Cats love being able to get up high to survey their turf and they also love looking out windows to watch the world. There are all kinds of window perches and cat trees available, but it could be as simple as putting a large chair or some other surface by the window so kitty can sit on the back of it and peer out.
Videos: There are several great videos and DVDs on the market for cats that show footage of mice, birds, insects and fish along with the sounds of nature. Not only do they give hours of pleasure to your cats while you are away, but watching your cats watch the videos will provide plenty of amusement for you, too. Some cats will come running when they hear the start of their favorite video.
Tricks: Cats can be taught any number of tricks including, sitting, lying down, waving and even speaking. The trick is motivating your cat to do these things on cue. Positive reinforcement techniques, like Clicker Training, work well with cats. One woman I know trained her cat to jump though a hoop. The kitty loved salami, and for a little piece, he was happy to perform. I met another cat who played a little piano for his favorite treats.
Scratching Posts: Giving your cat an appropriate place to scratch is important both for their physical and emotional well being. There are many wonderful posts or cat trees available for purchase, but you can also make your own. Some cats prefer carpeted surfaces while others prefer sisal or natural wood. You can also buy inexpensive cardboard scratching pads for your cat. The placement of the scratching post is important; cats like their post to be in a prominent place, not hidden away.
Great Outdoors: If you want your cat to enjoy the outdoors, be sure that their vaccines are up to date. A surprising number of cats can learn to walk on a leash with a kitty harness. While your dog is probably happy to go where you wish, a walk with a cat goes best if you follow where they want to go. My neighbor has a nice stroller that is fully enclosed and her two cats love going for a ride in it.
Another great option is to create an outdoor cat enclosure. Plans for building your own cat enclosure can be found on the internet. There are also several excellent cat-fence kits available for sale, including models that attach to an existing fence to keep your cats in your yard.
Feline Friends: Another great thing to do for your kitty is to get a new friend. While most cats need time to adjust to a new cat companion, nearly all cats come to enjoy having a feline friend. Proper introductions are the key to success. Adopting a cat from a shelter is a great way to help a cat who needs a home. Shelter staff members are experienced in making cat introductions and they can offer information and support.
While they may show it in subtle ways, cats truly value their time with you. I think you will find that the more time you spend with your cat the more rewarding and enjoyable you will find their companionship to be.