Additional ways to make a more stimulating environment for our cat?
April 30, 2014 12:08 AM   Subscribe

We've got a decent selection of toys, but I'd like to enrich kitty's days a little more.

We have little toys (various balls, little mice, a crinkly toy, etc.) for him to bat around. I switch them out, and sometimes add catnip. We have a variety of things-on-strings for interactive play. I open windows for him to look out, and am thinking of putting a bird feeder outside one of them. He loves his cardboard scratcher. He'll burrow under blankets and cuddle any available human. I dug up a couple of YouTube cat videos for him to watch, and would welcome any specific video recommendations.

Aside from human contact, these things seem to get old to him after a while, and we aren't always available. What are some things I can add to make his environment a little more stimulating?

(Things we can't do: get another cat; have him hunt for food/treats.)
posted by moira to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Hunting for food or treats is out, but what about changing the way food is presented? I'm not sure if something like this or this (not recs, just examples from a fast google) is out of the question, but I have a cat who's just wild for that sort of thing. (I'm cheap, so have just cut (and sanded) a hole in a tupperware lid, and she fishes for food in the tupperware.) She'll ignore a full bowl of food in favor of waiting for someone to put food somewhere she can fish for it--it's clearly a huge thing for her.
posted by MeghanC at 12:21 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A pot of cat grass!

Also, if he doesn't have access any high-up shelves or cat trees, that's something most cats are super into. Surveying their domain from on high and all that. My parents' cats spend the vast majority of their time sitting on top of bookshelves.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:30 AM on April 30, 2014

You can clicker train a cat, allegedly, if you have the right cat. It really really helps if they're food-motivated. My puppy LOVES training sessions but my cat who doesn't give two craps about treats has been impossible to motivate. Your cat's mileage may vary.

Also, if s/he's an indoor-only cat, some love to explore outside on a harness and a leash. My cat, of course, was afflicted with a strange paralysis when placed in the harness that lifted only when the harness was removed. Yours might enjoy it, though, and you won't know until you try.

Upon rereading the question: these would all involve you, not changing the environment, but still might be worth a shot for kicks.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:30 AM on April 30, 2014

Seconding clicker training. My cat is really pretty dim, but she clicker trained quite easily. (Video of her doing her tricks here.)

We also built her some fun shelves up the wall leading onto the bookcase, where she loves to lie and watch the world.
posted by lollusc at 12:39 AM on April 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

My cat finds being brushed incredibly stimulating/enjoyable. I just pull out the brush and he comes running. Also, when I give him treats I throw it across the room in all possible directions and he goes crazy running for it, and then comes back to me to repeat the process. He also loves it when I blow bubbles for him to watch. Also, when he eats crunchy food, which he does not like as much, I hold a plastic cup out to him so he can paw at it and eat it (by scooping a bit out with his paw each time). He finds this much more fun than eating it out of the bowl. He generally finds moving food much more exciting than static food. Maybe aside from your cat's scratching post get him one of those scratching post beds. Also, when you get empty boxes from packages and such, don't put them away immediately so your cat can climb into the new exciting box full of packing material. Leave drawers open occasionally.
posted by Blitz at 12:42 AM on April 30, 2014

Best answer: This is probably an inappropriate story and idea, but here goes....

My ex once bought my male cat a bean bag stuffed animal. It was a puppy sized toy from PetCo, not a cat toy.

Cat LOVED that thing. Took it everywhere he went. Occasionally our neutered cat would drop the toy animal on the ground and mount it, requiring frequent washings. This would generally only happen when Cat was "showing off" for dinner party guests. We started restricting access to the toy during parties to spare our guests the embarrassment.

Like I said, Cat loved that toy.

Best of luck.
posted by jbenben at 12:50 AM on April 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do you have an ice maker on your refrigerator? My cat loves ice from the ice maker more than anything that I could ever buy her at the pet store. I let a few extra pieces fall out every time I get ice, then kick them into the next room or across the kitchen, and she's in kitten heaven. She usually loses interest quickly enough that I can clean up the ice before it melts and harms the wood floor in the kitchen.
posted by cheerwine at 1:26 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding jamaro on both regularly changing things up and getting out some cardboard boxes. Our older cat loves cardboard boxes, and how he reacts to them depends on their size, location, and position (he likes them best in the middle of the floor; sideways boxes are caves, open-end-down boxes are puzzles, larger boxes are good for sneaking around, etc.) Sometimes we'll cut holes in a box and stick a toy in there for a cheap puzzle. Put them away once he loses interest, and bring new ones out somewhat regularly.

If you're looking for a more durable addition to your cat's environment, our younger cat really loves this tunnel, and it's cheap.

A ball feeder can be fun, too, if your cat eats dry kibble. We have the one MeghanC links above, and like it; this egg-shaped one is also good.

The Hexbug Nano is good cat entertainment, despite not technically being a cat toy, though I'd recommend bringing it out only when you're home, because they have a tendency to disappear under furniture.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:33 AM on April 30, 2014

Best answer: Changing things up, for sure. I moved the cat beds around last week and everyone is beside themselves with excitement now.

We also get a lot of mileage out of a couple of FroliCat toys - one that shoots lasers in a moving pattern and one that has a mouse that goes around a track. When I'm leaving the house, I often turn on the laser robot for them to wear themselves out in my absence. They've come to expect it now and get really huffy and dramatic if I try to leave for work without turning the robot on for them to play with.

Cat tree, if possible - many cats like to have options for going UP as high as possible. If it's near a window where they can watch the bird feeder, that's a whole day's entertainment right there.
posted by Stacey at 4:52 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Our cats seem to enjoy patroling the apartment. I also have different sources of water around, because that seems to make them happy. (I fill one of the bathroom sinks with water and it's JOY!)

Cats also sleep an awful lot, so for most of the day, when you're out, your kitty is sleeping. If that makes you feel any better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:19 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

we create little puzzles for our cat - different sized boxes stacked or leaned against each other, and then drop a toy in the middle of the whole mess and walk away.
posted by nadawi at 5:47 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

To build on cheerwine's suggestion: We put ice cubes in the bathtub for one of our cats. It's gotten to the point where if she sees one of us with a big cup of ice, she gets excited and bolts for the bathroom.

We'll sometimes keep cat-safe packaging from a delivery for a few days and throw toys in it for them to fish out. I've thought about getting them a puzzle box. (On preview: beaten by nadawi, so nthed!)

In case obvious is not missing because it's obvious: laser pointer. The automated ones seem to get mixed reviews, though.
posted by gnomeloaf at 5:49 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely do the bird feeder thing - we've got 2 bird feeders outside and our cats spend a ton of time avidly birdwatching. Bonus: watching them run from one side of the house to the other, trying to track the birds as they go between the feeders.
posted by 8dot3 at 6:51 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's kind of messy, but I line up empty cardboard boxes for my cat when I'm not going to be around. He loves to have them scattered around the room so that he can crawl into them as he pleases. I order a lot of stuff online, so I've always got plenty of boxes lying around.
posted by considerspace at 7:11 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've bought my cats all kinds of toys and stuff, including a bunch of electronic things, but here is what she loves most:

Looking out the window at birds.

I put a scratching post/cat tree right next to our balcony door and she basically will sit there 15 hours a day watching birds (we also have a bird feeder).

Her favorite toy is just a scraggly piece of ribbon from Christmas 2012. She carries it to us so we'll throw it and play fetch with her. Cats are weird.
posted by empath at 7:21 AM on April 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

A big paper bag. I'll drop a selection of toys in one before I leave the house. When I come home the bag will be somewhere else entirely and the toys scattered all asunder. Best located in areas of maximum skidability, so cat can take a run up into the bag and then slide across the floor in it.
posted by Helga-woo at 12:32 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody. I have lots of new ideas to play around with. Cat's insanely clever and just as lazy, so I'm going to have to work at it.
posted by moira at 7:33 PM on April 30, 2014

Response by poster: Toy in shoe in middle of floor = win.
posted by moira at 7:41 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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