My cat has a single-track mind at the moment
August 17, 2016 10:55 AM   Subscribe

My tabby cat, Jacqueline, has become obsessed with a nylon cord wand toy I made; please help me.

My cat, who has been intensely into various toys in the past (ice cubes, Cancor only crinkle balls), is now SUPERDUPER into a toy I made: a nylon string attached to a long wand.

I was quite pleased with the toy, as I had previously tried jute and she chomped right through it. Unfortunately, I have made the perfect toy for her to be obsessed with.

The problem:
- I am stuck with her all day today and tomorrow;
- She trills and also cries and I find it sad and usually give in and play with her;
- I have STUFF to do, I cannot play with her on and off all day;
- She is manic about chasing the nylon string and several times I have inadvertently overworked her and she's started panting (at which point I put the toy away). I feel this probably isn't good for her (am I wrong? I don't want to give her a heart attack!).

She parks herself on our pillow on the bed just outside of the closet door where I keep the toy, and points herself that direction and just *stares*. I find this unnerving. I also worry that I'm being mean or cruel by not giving it to her.

How should I handle this? I become unnerved when she cries and wanders around my desk - partner says I should ignore her, is this the best tact to take?

I feel like she would play with this all day if I let her. Other cats aren't getting as much play and, of course, I resent the amount of time I'm spending on this. (Note: Usually I devote part of my day to playing with the cats so they get a good amount of climbing/pouncing/stalking each day.)

WHY is she so obsessed? And when will it end?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you tried just leaving the toy out for her and letting her play with it by herself until she gets bored?
posted by hazyjane at 10:59 AM on August 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Rig up a way to securely attach the wand to the top of a scratching post so it dangles. She can jump at it and bat at it, it will swing around, and she will amuse herself.
posted by erst at 11:04 AM on August 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I second rigging your toy to the post or a wall, and/or maybe trying the Cat Dancer wall attachment.
posted by analog at 11:08 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Part of playing for cats is the "kill" stage, so flit the wand around and then let the cat have it. The cat will grow bored after the kill (because no eating) and usually let it go for a while. When the cat is in another room, hide the toy until you want to play again.
posted by xingcat at 11:24 AM on August 17, 2016

Partner here: cat will chew through the cord and probably swallow it if left unattended with it, and has done so previously with a suede tassel toy causing a "do we need to get her to the emergency vet" scare.

partner says I should ignore her

Right; because I fear that responding to "cat meows annoyingly for toy" with "get toy and play with cat" is teaching her that annoying meowing works.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2016 [7 favorites]

They also have automatic toys that you don't have to interact with. But I don't think there's anything wrong with ignoring her. She has to learn how to amuse herself too. It's not required to spend 100% of your time catering to your cats - they would probably disagree, but you're the adult. If you have other cats, why aren't they playing with each other?
posted by bleep at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Can you attach the nylon part to one of these battery operated spinnie thingies?
posted by sparklemotion at 11:35 AM on August 17, 2016

Response by poster: Hi - although I love the 'leave it out for her' approach, I'm afraid she'll swallow the nylon cord and we'll have to run to the vet's emergency room. She has been known to do this (above).

I have constructed a dangle approach using our large cat tree and a pre-existing loop that was sewn into the platform; unfortunately 2 cats seemed very interested in tearing off and eating the masking tape. It did work for a (brief) while.

I'm thinking maybe a small flagpole wall fastener that you can pick up at the hardware store, maybe.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:37 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

My cats are doing this to me and it's driving me bonkers.
I have one cat who, like yours, cannot be left alone with string as he chews it off and eats it. (I know)
He loves the laser pointer and will play until he pants. I too found the panting upsetting, but it's only happened twice and he seems fine afterwards. we have eased up on the length of time we play laser pointer with him.

I purchased a cat game for the I Pad which I can leave on and they both love it (it's called Painting for cats or something like that) and this game entertains them both for ages.
This too is a double edged sword though because now every time I pick up the I Pad, they both jump all over me until I put the game on!

Another thing I find helpful is to ball up a piece of foil and he will bat this around for ages as well. I don't know what it is about the foil specifically, but he shows no interest in balls, but foil... well, he goes nuts for it!!

Good luck - I'll be following this thread with interest!
posted by JenThePro at 11:39 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a cat who obsesses over pipe cleaners. Like COMPLETELY OBSESSES to the point of ridiculousness. She also fetches them (we cut them down to about four inches and twist them into spirals) so we do like to let her play with them occasionally. That said, we hide them when we're annoyed. And we seriously have to hide them. If one is on the counter, she'll find it. If it's sitting on a shelf in the pantry, she'll sit in front of the pantry and meow. Incessantly. So we put them in plastic ziplock bags and put them on the top shelf of the pantry, or in a desk drawer. Solves that problem.

If your cat is as dumb as my Chloe (I love the idiot, but she IS an idiot), hiding her new favorite toy and only bringing it out at certain times will work. It may take a day or two of extinction burst, but it will work.
posted by cooker girl at 11:55 AM on August 17, 2016

Response by poster: Final update: I made some adjustments to the masking tape and it seems to have worked: this is a great temporary solution, at least for today and tomorrow. Resolved!

I tried to get an action shot, but couldn't - at any rate, here's the cat parked under the string, at rest.

Thank you all for your suggestions.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:03 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Give her something else to obsess over that won't hurt her and doesn't require you. Cat puzzles!

Here's my comment in a similar question. The suggestion of a tissue/kleenex box with a toy (or treat) in it seemed to go over well with the cat in question.

You can make puzzle boxes of different complexity depending on how clever your cat is (and becomes, as she learns to open the existing ones). Different sized holes, different opening/access methods (easiest is a hole along a bottom edge so she can reach in with her paw and slide it out; much harder is a box with a flap she has to pry open).

I have found that lots of cats really go after a toy with a tiny bit of feathers poking out of a box's lid.
posted by amtho at 12:05 PM on August 17, 2016

One of mine practically broke me with her obsession for a particular wand toy. Oh my arms. For self preservation I took the mean human option and hid the damn thing ( all other toys still accessible). She does ok with out of sight, out of mind. Me not playing while she could see it didn't work.
posted by kitten magic at 1:40 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

As for the panting specifically, my cat has asthma and gets to the panting stage easily when playing. Vet said just to stop if he starts panting, but not to worry about it (unless he doesn't recover after a few minutes). Unless its very prolonged or happening randomly I wouldn't worry about that.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:56 PM on August 17, 2016

Panting is not bad - in fact it's actively good - as long as your cat is otherwise healthy and doesn't take an excessively long time to recover once it gets into that state. Jackson Galaxy always tells people that if you want your indoor cat to get enough exercise, you should regularly play with it until it's panting - if the cat doesn't get tired out it's not exercised enough. (But he does also tell them to stop once the panting starts.) If the cat seems to take a really long time to recover once it starts panting, consult your vet about possible heart/lung issues.
posted by waffleriot at 5:17 PM on August 17, 2016

Anubis is also fond of carrying around the feather bit in his mouth and dragging the plastic stick part around which is why it goes away at night because I have a downstairs neighbor and hardwood floors.

Ditto for The Bean, ruler of my apartment. She drags it out of the room and back in repeatedly to try and get my attention. Meowling the whole time and looking super pleased with her performance of the ritual. It's hilarious.

On occasion she drags it in and out of the bathtub and ties up the shower curtain.

We use this cat wand which has a wire string she can't chew through. She does chew the plastic parts but I cover them with hockey tape because I am Canadian.

We have gone through three in three years so they are pretty good bang for the buck.

We don't leave the toy out while we sleep or are out because there are legit strangling/tie up risks.
posted by srboisvert at 5:52 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

It is not humanely possible to give a pill to a living cat. It is possible to give a pill to a dead cat. When my cat needs a pill I call my vet, explain the problem, then take the cat to the vets office. The vet tech figures out a way to get the pill into the cat without stuffing the little pill down the poor cats throat. The method works almost every time.
posted by carol3y at 3:29 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just lose that still annoying toy and get her a couple new toys.
Like a ping pong ball, a little mousie and bird feather. She will adjust ...........
posted by carol3y at 3:34 AM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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