Bored cat wants to play!
November 4, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Cat question! I have two cats, one 18 years and the other 1 year. The younger male cat seems bored and wants to play all the time, but the other cat never plays and likes to be left alone. We live in an 800 square foot apartment, and the cats both need to stay indoors because of the neighborhood. Any ideas of how to help the younger cat have enough stimulation? Should we get another cat, or is 3 cats in a small apartment crazy? Thank you!
posted by tessalations999 to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm biased because I have 3 cats in my 750 sqft apartment, and I think it works... but I'll be honest, it's a lot of cat. There is literally no escape within my walls -- the cats own the place, they just let me live here. Of my cats, 2 are in-your-face attention whores, and I'm very very grateful the third isn't and is more "self-sufficient". I don't regret it, but I will concede it's not for everyone. I also worry about the effect of another new cat in the 18 year old's space... chances are, he's probably pissed enough at the one youngun pestering him, and two might not go over so well.

Also note that it seems by the time they hit 2, cats do seem to calm down quite a bit. But in the meantime, to keep the young guy happy -- lots of vertical space (cat trees, shelves or other places he's allowed to be on, etc), laser pointer and other play time with you, and access to a window where there's fun things (for a cat) to watch will go a long way.
posted by cgg at 10:02 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

cgg:chances are, he's probably pissed enough at the one youngun pestering him, and two might not go over so well.

The youngun might not do so much pestering if he had a younger playmate?

Agreed that three cats can equal a lot of mayhem and mischief. Do you have room for another litter box? And the time to clean it? And the budget to handle a third cat? If so, then I would give it a try, myself.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:25 AM on November 4, 2012

I think you need to take an active role in playing with the baby kitty to help him get some energy out and not be a complete annoyance to your geriatric cat.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 10:28 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've got four cats in about the same size living space. I kind of wish I didn't. Two of mine go in and out whenever they want, and it's still too much cat. I wouldn't change it at this point. I love my kitties, but good lord I'm turning into the crazy cat lady.

I say find ways to entertain your kitten without adding more pets. Invest in cat nip, a laser pointer, and a feather on a stick toy.

Also - there's sort of a mefi requirement that you post pictures of kitties as the askme toll price for posting a cat question, so get on it.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:33 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a pic of the younger one when he was smaller!!
posted by tessalations999 at 10:41 AM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I found that these sort of shenanigans were greatly reduced when I dedicated myself to spending one solid play session a day with the younger cat, as long as it took to tire her out.

(Surprisingly, it only takes 15-20 minutes before she is completely exhausted. It's not a big time commitment, really. Cats are sprinters, not marathoners.)

A really good play session bleeds off a lot of that excess energy that would otherwise go towards hijinks like annoying the older cat. Although automated toys are great and should certainly be a part of your home, they are not going to tire him out the way that playing with you will.

For these play sessions, I recommend something like the Cat Dancer (a length of wire with bits of cardboard - totally worth the cost; cats go nuts for it) and those toys where the feather is attached to a string which is attached to a flexible wand. The thing where the feathers are attached directly to a wand are fun, but they don't seem to get the cat really worked up, leaping up in the air, and running back and forth the way you need for this.

Try it for a week, once every day (doesn't really matter when), play with your little guy until he is totally wiped out. I guarantee you will notice the difference!
posted by ErikaB at 10:49 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've got this problem! Inspired by this article, I'm harness-training the little one. Just started, though, so I'm afraid I can't report in on whether it'll ultimately be a success or not. He seems ok with the harness so far, but I haven't added a leash or tried taking him outside. I don't expect to be able to walk him the way you'd walk a dog (and I wouldn't want to be tied to a walking schedule like with a dog), but I thought at least I might be able to take him to the park and let him frolic on a leash sometimes.

Also, he really likes the kind of toy that attaches to a door handle on a kind of springy wire.

Absolutely beautiful kitten by the way.
posted by ootandaboot at 10:50 AM on November 4, 2012

Are you in a place where you could put a bird feeder outside, or maybe just get in the habit of tossing some crumbs out so the cats can watch birds and squirrels? That can fascinate them for hours. Of course, in most places you'd also get rats, raccoons or bears. Or maybe you could put a baby monitor outside so the cats can listen to whatever activity is going on? Just a thought -- it's very dependent on what your neighborhood is like, but maybe you can work something out.

Try some clicker training with the little one. Cats love the stimulation and engagement. My household of an older pissed-off cat and a pesty kitten got much more balanced when they both learned how to get the human to give them more treats.

TV? Some cats enjoy watching bird videos.
posted by Corvid at 11:21 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hemmed and hawed about adding a third, because it felt like way too many cats. The house is 1,100 square feet, but one of the bedrooms is completely closed to the cats, and our bedroom is closed most of the day. We've got a six year old (Fergus) and a two year old (Reuben) and the latter has terrorized the former since the day we got him (when he was about a year old). Reuben loves to play and Fergus is so completely not interested in what Reuben is serving up. A friend of mine fostered a few kittens and we debated about taking one of them (Hannibal) and finally talked ourselves into it when he was about four months old.

He settled into the house pretty quickly, gets along wonderfully with Reuben, and he and Fergus tolerate each other. Fergus gets peace and quiet, Reuben has a fun playmate, and we got the best thing of all--the sweetest damn kitten on the planet. Everyone wins! It's hard to believe, but three is so much better than two.

And none of it would be possible without our trusty LitterRobot. For reals.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:53 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the "interactive play" toys, like the cat dancer. I use the kind with a slightly longer wire/string, and a short (2ft) pole, but the same idea holds - Cats love trying to outsmart their pray, which they can't do if they always know what it will do next (like with the standard fake-mouse toys).

For kittens, two fifteen-minute play sessions a day will do wonders for reducing their energy and aggression for the rest of the day. As they get older, you can probably get away with one session a day. I play with mine at the same time every night, and if I run a few minutes late, I'll have them howling at my feet to remind me to come play.

As for a third cat... keep in mind that a 19 year old cat probably won't live much longer (sorry, I hate to think about such things, but we need to accept that we outlive our furry friends by quite a lot). If he's already become basically sedentary, a third cat will not only give your younger one someone to play with, but he'll feel a lot less depressed and bounce back quicker when the older one "crosses the bridge".
posted by pla at 11:58 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lazy person's alternative to the laser pointer. Hang up one of those "crystals on a string" type of suncatchers. You could even chop up a music CD and tape the pieces to a piece of string if you're thrifty/crafty.

Hang the suncatcher low enough so you can reach it when you're reading or watching TV or whatever, and from time to time give it a twist. It'll cast a bunch of light glimmers that dance all over the floor/wall (think disco ball reflections) that kittens seem to love chasing.
posted by Rykey at 12:23 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I see you've marked "play more" as the best answer. The best cat toy I ever found for younger cats was a ball of yarn. I unwound it and went "fishing" (slowly dragged the yarn back toward me). If it got tangled, I just unwound a bit more and repeated. The ball eventually looked like a spider web, but holy cow the cats loved it.
posted by zug at 5:33 PM on November 4, 2012

Seriously any string or yarn....especially with a tiny ANYTHING that flutters/flops at the end will be great for play. As for our cats, their favorite toy for years was Da Bird, a superior wand toy.
posted by Jezebella at 6:21 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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