How To Entertain an Indoor Cat (Simple but Effective!)

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Indoor cats have it made – they get their food delivered on a platter, don’t have to worry about other animals invading their space, and have some pretty comfy places to sleep. However, when it comes to entertainment and engagement indoors, it is sometimes severely lacking.

Picture 1. These tips are how I keep my Bengal cat in line in my small apartment.

While many people might play with their cats and have a lot of toys laying around – there are specific things that we can add to their routine that help makes things more interesting for them and facilitate some more action and curiosity from our feline pets!

So how can cat owners entertain their indoor cats? Making small changes to their daily routines such as eating, drinking, and playing times – can make a huge difference in terms of a cat’s stimulation and engagement levels. This leads to more active, healthy, and behaviorally sound cats!

This article is to show how simple it is to make small changes that have a large effect on your cat’s behavior.

Make Simple Everday Actions More Engaging For Cats

What are two things that cats do every day that might seem trivial to us butlers but is a quite significant action for cats? Eating food and drinking water!

Cats in the wild and outdoors have to fend for themselves and find their own food and water. Cats are naturally built to find their own resources to sustain themselves and when they are able to do that – they are truly living the lives that they are meant to live.

Increasing Engagement for Cats During Mealtimes

Mealtimes have unfortunately become something of a mindless activity for the indoor cat. So if we’re able to bring some of that feeling back of hunting and obtaining their own food, it starts a great habit that eventually snowballs into a large behavioral change. Possibly turning even the laziest of cats into more active and playful members of the family!

So what are some small changes that we can make to mealtimes? Use cat puzzle feeders. The great thing about puzzle feeders is that they can be purchased or made. There’s no right or wrong puzzle feeder but I would recommend one that has a variety of different ways that allow our cats to obtain their food. Therefore, instead of using a simple bowl for food – put their portioned amount of food in the puzzle toy and let them get the gears going!

Puzzle feeders are recommended relaxed (read: lazy) cat breeds, such as the Ragdoll, Scottish Fold, or Russian Blue. It forces them to put in some effort to get their food rather than devouring it within seconds!

Picture 2. All my cats coming together to figure out how to get their darn food out. It’s great for creating positive associations for inter-cat relationships.

In a 2016 study: Food Puzzles for Cats: Feeding for Physical and Emotional Wellbeing. The use of food puzzles was monitored throughout a certain period and used with a select group of indoor cats (of differing ages & breeds) from different home environments (multi-cat homes, single-cat homes, etc.).

After 6 months to a year of implementing the food puzzle treatment/enrichment, many of the concerns initially stated with their cats were either resolved or substantially decreased! Here were the most noticeable changes after a few months:

  • 10 – 20% weight loss in 12 months (One case of 32% in 18 months!)
  • A decrease in meowing for food and general attention seeking
  • Aggression behaviors decreased in frequency and intensity over time
  • Less frequency of biting and in some cases – totally stopped!
  • Significant decrease in inter-cat tension
  • Marking behavior ceasing!

Similar to us humans – making a large change to our habits can be difficult but if we’re able to start with small changes to our lifestyle, it can create big changes if we do it consistently every day.

  1. All for Paws Interactives Cat Food Puzzle/Maze
  2. All for Paws Interactives Cat Food Puzzle/Maze

    This is one of my go-to cat puzzle toys. Great modular design depending on how hard you want to make it for your cats. It's wide and provides great fun during meal times!

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    We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

  3. Mad Scientist Turn Around Snack Activity Board
  4. Mad Scientist Turn Around Snack Activity Board

    Cats are clever and inquisitive animals, and this interactive toy is designed with just that in mind, offering a variety of ways to play. Start off by placing some treats inside the beakers, and let your cat master the concept of flipping the beakers upside down to release the treats. Then, take it up a notch by adding the included lids with patterned holes, which makes it more difficult to get the treat out. He’ll love the thrill of the hunt and mental stimulation!

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  5. Trixie Activity Fun Board
  6. Trixie Activity Fun Board

    A really great activity/puzzle feeder. Large enough to accommodate multiple cats and has a variety of ways that your cats can play/obtain their food or snacks! Great for all types of cats and promotes slow methodical eating.

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    Lasso Brag

Tips and Notes for Cat Puzzles

  • Older cats tend to enjoy stationary food puzzles and younger cats like more mobile puzzles.
  • Cat puzzles are most effective when cats are not being free fed. If a cat is constantly full of food being out, they probably won’t be interested in any puzzles.
  • Sometimes cats will still ask for food even when there’s still food in the puzzle. To get them to finish their food, place a very small amount of their favorite snacks into the puzzle and the smell from the snacks will get them to finish off most of the leftover food.
  • A great tool to use for cat-to-cat introductions. Cat puzzles distract cats and instead of focusing on each other – they’re both able to focus on obtaining food. Food creates positive associations between the cats and thus, decreases tensions between cat-to-cat relationships.

Water Drinking Fun!

There are things we can do for the water bowl too! A lot of cat owners might just use a bowl or a container for their cats. Instead of using just a water bowl, I love using those gravity refill pet containers and adding something inside those containers.

You can add anything that’s non-toxic and light enough to float around but large enough so that it doesn’t go out into the cat’s drinking bowl! I like to use robotic fish but some people might use a miniature duck. Be creative and have fun with it!

Petmate Gravity Waterer W/ Microban Petmate Gravity Waterer W/ Microban

Sure, drinking from a mountain stream sounds pretty great, but then it's a long walk back to the couch! Now even the city pet can have cool, clean water any time he/she wants. Keep pets hydrated by offering a full bowl of cool, purified water 24 hours a day. The included charcoal filter removes any waterborne pathogens, and the Microban layer around the bowl keeps harmful bacteria from growing.

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The great thing about the gravity water reservoirs is that since the object is inside the container, owners don’t have to worry about the cats making a mess trying to the object out!

As the cats drink, the water flows out into the bowl, and the object inside floats around and becomes a nice little distraction for our cats whenever they’re thirsty.

In my home, I use both a water fountain and bust out the water reservoir if I’m going away somewhere for a couple of days since water fountains can’t hold as much water as these gravity water bowls!

All my cats love to watch that little fish going around in their water bowl! Bengal cats especially love to play around with water!

Efficient and Effective Use of Toys For Cats

We always have to remember how a cat likes to play. They are hunters and so whatever they play with is their prey. Toys that act more like prey are the most effective at getting a reaction from cats.

Several studies have shown that novelty matters to cats when it comes to cat toys. When shown the same toy multiple times – cats were less and less interested in that particular toy. However, when another identical toy was shown to the cat but just differing in color and smell (because it was clean) – cats showed more of a response and curiosity to the new identical toy.

Toy Cycling for Cats

This means that leaving toys all over the floor for your cats to play with isn’t the best way to use the toys. Sure, it can help cats independently play for a time – but cats aren’t stupid. If the toy isn’t changing or moving, it’s not very interesting to the cats.

How can we use this information to our advantage? We can cycle the cat toys that we already have. Have a rotation of toys that we can take out and put in depending on our cat’s interest levels. This not only allows for more engagement for our cats – but also reduces the amount of clutter and mess around our home!

I have seen this time and time again with my Bengal cat Latte. He loves to fetch but after a while of playing around with his favorite ball toy (a great interactive toy), he was less and less interested but the moment I switch that ‘stale’ ball with another newer ball – he was much more responsive to the new ball.

So while he played with the new clean ball, I washed off the old one and put it away for when he gets bored with the current toy/ball. Toy cycling our cat’s favorite toys extends the life of all our toys and allows us to save some money because we don’t have to keep buying new toys for our cats!

Use a Variety of Smells to Increase Engagement

We know that cats love certain smells, which is why catnip is always a popular item to have around the cat home.

Cats have a very strong sense of smell – about 15 times better than their lowly butlers. They’re able to figure out a lot from scent and we should leverage that.

I always have a bag of catnip around to put in the toys that the cats are not currently playing with so that the scent of the catnip (or whatever cat-safe scent that you want to use) is absorbed into the toy. There are also a variety of different catnip scents too!

It really enhances your cat’s playtime and creates a sense of novelty in old toys that you already have so that you don’t have to continuously buy new toys!

My Pick
Yeowww! Organic Catnip Yeowww! Organic Catnip

This high-quality signature blend contains just leaves and flower tops for the most effective catnip. It’s superior to your everyday catnip in terms of freshness, color, and aroma. No chemicals or pesticides are used in cultivation, which means Yeowww! catnip is completely safe for cats and humans. Sprinkle a little on your kitty’s favorite scratcher or use it to stuff your own handmade toys.

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So while this is a well-known tip but I know that some people want to understand why it is effective and the reasoning behind it before putting into practice (like myself) and implementing it.

monsieurtn

With a science background and years of experience including learning, observing, and training cats - increasing our beloved feline's welfare and wellbeing is the priority and passion.

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