I just watched as our tuxedo cat, a 1 year old SPCA rescue, pawed her favorite ball out of the very bottom of her basket of toys. Giving it a good swat into the kitchen onto the hard floor, she chased after it eagerly, and is still entertaining herself with it as I type this.
Although most people equate long walks, pet toys and lots of attention with dog companions—perhaps because of the “low maintenance” idea that often accompanies the “why I have a cat” conversations—keeping cats occupied is just as vital to their well-being as long walks and playtime are for dogs. Too, cats have natural instincts that, if not allowed to express in healthy, “acceptable” ways around your home, may evolve into aggressive, less-desirable activities.
A long-time friend, for example, recently expressed growing fear of her cat who has seemingly begun to “hunt” her as she walked up the stairs, or passed the cat’s favorite “hiding” spots. Because our furry friends’ hunting instincts can be easily satisfied with toys that closely resemble their wild relatives’ natural prey—birds, lizards, mice etc.—I suggested that she provide her cat with an inexpensive basket of “prey” to curb her “people hunting” behavior. Our daughter’s small stuffed “Elmo” from her toddler years, for example, is now one of our cat’s favorite “preys,” and can be found at the top of the stairs each morning, having been “hunted” out of her basket each night after the lights go out; he’s the perfect size for her to mouth over and carry up the stairs to her “family.” I’m happy to report that, our friend’s cat, who now has a great basket of kid-abandoned Webkinz™ to “hunt,” has significantly reduced her people stalking behavior.
Redirecting those natural instincts, like hunting, scratching, stalking and chasing, can truly create a peaceful and enjoyable home for you and your kitty. To learn more about the instincts that anyone who belongs to a cat should foster, you can visit Suite101: Cat’s Natural Instincts: A Comprehensive, Alphabetical Guide to the Inside World of Cats. To get some inexpensive ideas on how to get creative for your kitty, check out “How to Keep an Indoor Cat Entertained.”