I think my cat is bored.
January 10, 2019 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Since we moved out of my parents' house, my cat has been acting weird and needy. Right now she is crying about ghosts in the basement. A minute ago she was just running back and forth through the living room. I think she's bored.

I'm sure she's happy not to have to deal with a large and ridiculous dog, but I think she misses having people around most of the time. She's overall about average-friendly as cats go, maybe a bit extra friendly with me in particular, but she's not used to being in an empty house during business hours. When I get home, she seeks attention more than usual—following me around, crying, just generally being weird. I do play with and pet her of course, but it would be nice if she had more to do while I was out.

My cat's setup is pretty basic. She has her litter box, she has her bowls. She has a cat tree by the window (also serves as her scratching post) and comfy beds and couches and things to lay on. She is an indoor cat, but she has the run of the house. She has a few toys of the thing-on-a-string variety, which she enjoys playing with. She's had other toys too in the past, but thing-on-a-string is her favorite. She doesn't play with them on her own though, only when I dangle and wiggle them for her.

What can I get my cat that might entertain and stimulate her during the day when I'm away? I'm considering the Another Cat option, but that would be a ways off. Food-related stuff is dicey, as my cat has absolutely horrendous allergies that are only managed through strict dietary control. Do you know of any toys that cats will consistently play with by themselves and not just grow bored of after a day or two? I don't have a huge budget for this, I'm not building like an overhead cat-sized Habitrail or anything. I would like to spice up my cat's life though, because I think she's starting to lose her tiny mind.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
When did you move? My previous cat was like this after any move, but she would settle in after a month or two.

One of my current cats seems to like little lightweight toys (crinkly balls, 1- to 2-inch catnip-stuffed soft toys, stuff like that) because he's able to throw them into the air with his paw and then chase them. My other cat ignores those toys, though (but he ignores pretty much all toys unless I'm actively playing with him).
posted by lazuli at 6:49 PM on January 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

But a toy, but what about pheromone diffuser or spray or a pheromone collar? Those have helped my cat adjust in the past. I like the Calming Collar because it goes where he goes.
posted by mermaidcafe at 6:52 PM on January 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

We lure birds to our balcony with bird feeders. Could you do that / would she like that?
posted by cat potato at 6:53 PM on January 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Bout a week ago, and yeah I should get that bird feeder set up outside her window.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:56 PM on January 10, 2019

My friend calls biird feeders kitty TV. I have a cat who plays with hackey sacks. I bought some and threw them on the floor. I never saw what the cats did with them, but they moved around. Sometimes they would be put neatly on a piece of my clothing, or in one of my shoes. Years passed, then one day my big kitty walked over, picked one up and threw it in the air and caught it about 4 times in a row, then walked off. I was properly amazed. You could get him a kitty friend.
posted by Oyéah at 7:10 PM on January 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

A bunch of cardboard boxes spread around do wonders for my kitty, especially if they have a handle cut-out. Even if your cat doesn't use them much while you're gone, they are fun for playing hide and seek together, especially with the thing-on-a-string yours loves so much. FWIW my cat prefers boxes from Aldi over Costco because the former are smaller.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:30 PM on January 10, 2019

A couple goldfish? Leave the radio on?

While acknowledging that you're dealing with EGC and need to have a hypoallergenic diet, are you still feeding a dry food? If so, perhaps a timed cat food dispenser to distribute her normal ration throughout the day might keep her amused as well as being easy on her stomach.

The cat mat seems to be the new thing, although old fuzzy baby blankets with a couple holes will keep our cats amused.

The SmartyKat chickadee bird is fairly cheap (cheep) and popular now, too.

Crinkle and rustle tubes and tunnels range in price and are great fun for goofy cats.

A couple helium balloons on a dangle string swaying in a draft just out of reach might be entertaining.

Don't forget all the free stuff--toilet paper rolls--w/wo paper, scrunchy hair ties, balls of paper, pill bottles with marbles or seeds to roll around, cardboard boxes with cutout holes, etc. Change them up and put out different ones ever so often.

Lots of petting and play when you are home.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:39 PM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pipe cleaners are our cats' favorite toys. One of them only plays with it when we dangle it, but the other will about once a week bat a pipe cleaner all over the living room out of no where. Maybe she plays with it more when we're not home.

Do you know anyone with a 3d printer? If the cat eats dried food, this holds maybe a dozen niblets, which probably wouldn't throw off the diet too much. Our cat also enjoyed this for a bit. We stopped using it because it ended up under the couch before she could get all the food out of it. That site actually has tons of toy options that can be printed for next to nothing if you know a person.
posted by lownote at 7:46 PM on January 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

My cat couldn't care less about boxes or catnip, but she LOVES to be played with. On her own during the day, a lot of toys get ignored, but those colorful little springs have always moved around when I get home (usually to way back under the couch, of course.)

I know food's not a great answer, but if there's dry food or treats she can have, puzzle feeders are also pretty good for keeping my cat occupied; you can make one out of a plastic takeout or old tupperware container, or buy one for a few dollars.

That said, after a week it sounds totally possible she's still just settling into all the changes.
posted by jameaterblues at 7:48 PM on January 10, 2019

I'm just here to nth the puzzle feeders, if you're using dried food. They've helped my chonk break the scarf and puke cycle, and they also keep my athletic smartie engaged through the day. I just use their regular food in them, and experimented with homemade puzzles they could both use before buying a 'real' one.
posted by PaulaSchultz at 7:53 PM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cardboard boxes are pretty entertaining for some cats. Leave a couple of different sizes around, with holes cut in the side that the cat can squeeze through.

If you get in the habit of leaving interesting things (cat toys, snacks) in high places that you are okay with the cat climbing up to (tops of bookcases, window ledges, etc), they will soon learn to investigate all these spots regularly. Jumping and climbing and doing circuits to check whether any new items have shown up will keep her busy and healthy.
posted by lollusc at 9:04 PM on January 10, 2019

My toddler has quite a selection of golf and ping pong balls and those small bouncy rubber ones you find at grocery stores. They fairly often go missing and we find them in our cat’s favorite hiding places. We’ve noticed her batting them around our hardwood floors - she gets more excited the faster they go.
posted by Everydayville at 9:12 PM on January 10, 2019

A recent discovery of ours is that we have one cat that LOVES mini marshmallows. They're just the thing for batting around the house, apparently, and they fly through the air so well! (And I realize you mentioned diet issues, but our cats never eat the marshmallow... now that I think about it, the dog won't touch it, either.)
posted by stormyteal at 10:49 PM on January 10, 2019

Cat's are weird. It'll take more than a week to adjust to the new home but they will.

Videos for Cats to Watch - Birds and Squirrel Fun in December Maybe he'll like TV. A cheap tablet that you can facetime throughout the day.

He'll probably be fine in a couple of weeks. Moving cats is always a few weeks of acclimatization to new environment and scoping thing out.

I have now officially spent too much time watching video's for cats
posted by zengargoyle at 11:45 PM on January 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

My cats are pretty playful (and young) but those small colorful springs are perfect. They chase them until they're all under furniture and can't be retrieved and if I retrieve them from under the furniture they chase them again.
posted by Lady Li at 11:49 PM on January 10, 2019

My cats used to love our aquarium. I recall that said aquarium lost a few fish before it was successfully cat-proofed. This was not good for the fish, but no doubt very entertaining for the cat.

And have you considered Confuse-A-Cat?
(sorry I'll show myself out)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:51 PM on January 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Although my cats eat mostly wet food, I do have dry food for them that I hide about the house so they have to search to find it. One of my cats sniffs the air just like a hound and it's hilarious.

They also love: tent forts made out of cardboard boxes and fabric, tinfoil balls, hair bobbles, and crinkly paper.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:26 AM on January 11, 2019

I also make "food puzzles" that are just a toilet tube roll taped shut and with some holes cut in, so they have to bat them around the floor to make the food fall out.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:28 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

It will take a month and she will settle in to the new routine.maximize cuddling .
posted by Enid Lareg at 5:33 AM on January 11, 2019

I recently discovered these hexbug toys, and they are my cat's favorite thing in the world now. I've tried other motion toys before, but these were the first ones my cat actually liked. They also sell a mouse version which my cat enjoys as well.

One cool thing about the mouse toy is you can set it to be in "chase" mode so that it won't move until your cat bats at it to wake it up. The hexbugs are always on, so they aren't something I would leave my cat with unattended, but I don't see any reason why you couldn't leave the mouse out on chase mode while you're gone.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:50 AM on January 11, 2019

Aww, this is hard. When I moved out by myself, my cat cried around the apartment looking for my ex for a few days. So sad.

Good window views is so important. Beyond adding bird feeders, I'd make sure your little buddy has good views in as many directions as possible. Moving from an apartment to a townhouse to a detached house, my cat's favorite thing was getting more windows with differing views. The move to the house was also a breakup, and he was so excited about all the new windows that he didn't mind losing his human or cat roommates and instead was SO HAPPY about all the birds and cats and other critters that he could watch.

I highly recommend this excellent suction-cup cat scratcher if you don't have deep window sills or other cat-safe furniture in front of some of your windows. I put it on my side door, and my two cats both love to sleep there even when there's nothing exciting to watch.

I did get a cat for my cat, too. He doesn't love her. He says she's annoying and gross (true), and sometimes he's jealous the attention I give her. While he's not particularly bonded to her, she is a source of stimulation ("wtf is she doing? what was that sound?" etc.) and serves her purpose as a boredom-reduction device. Also he's delegated some tasks to her (mousing, reminding me about meal times) and seems to enjoy his semi-retirement. She's super cute and sweet and good at killing gross bugs, so I'm pleased with how that worked out even though it's not the snuggle-fest I hoped for.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:41 AM on January 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Triceratops also loves things on a string. I have suspended a few from bookcase shelves and doorknobs and things so that they dangle tantalizingly even if I'm not home.

My folks have a suction cup bird feeder in the window where Triceratops hangs out in her basket on the radiator. Check the recommendations for when it is safe to have bird feeders out so you don't attract bears, but otherwise that might keep.

How does your cat feel about catnip? Triceratops goes CRAZY for an occasionally deployed drug fish or banana.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:58 AM on January 11, 2019

Oh, that catnip banana is serious business. Buy them for all your cat friends. This is my stupid girl on a banana high.
posted by katieinshoes at 8:03 AM on January 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Blanket Fort! Get a piece of fabric like a tablecloth or flat sheet, something that won't break your heart if it gets chewed on. Pull out a dining chair and spread the fabric over the seat so it hangs down the front and sides and bunches up on the floor all around. See example with exhausted cats. Tuck a couple of favorite toys under the folds of fabric on the floor, and maybe put something especially intriguing into the 'cave' under the chair. Maggie goes nuts if I take one of the 'string tied to a stick" type toys and hide it with the end of the stick poking out, but then she often carries these around and arranges them in different rooms anyway, so pick something your cat already interacts with.

This happened accidentally the first time, with a tablecloth I had thrown on a chair while clearing the table, but it's been a great cat activity since then. I actually buy a couple yards off the bargain table at the fabric store, and have best results with something semi-transparent. Right now they have a piece of "athletic mesh" that shiny stuff with tiny holes used for sports uniforms and it is a great compromise between durable, drapey, and not getting caught in claws.

When you're home you can play lots of'poke things at the fabric while cat is on the other side' games. Once it's a thing, hopefully she will play with it on her own. You can make it more robust by putting something heavy on the chair seat so she can't pull the fabric off.

When we introduced our younger cat to this, he turned out to love getting under the fabric while we were arranging it so now there's a whole 'catch the cat with billowing fabric and roll him up like a burrito' game as well. Sometimes we set up whole things with more chairs and little tables and the crinkle, tunnel and the play chase through it all.
posted by buildmyworld at 8:25 AM on January 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Our cats (and our friends' cats) love this ball-track thingie. Our friends use it to put some kibbles in that they have to fish out, but they all play with it on their own, too.

And on the Another Cat note, we did that and specifically looked for a) a same- or near-age cat b) that was fostered in a situation where we knew he loved other cats and c) was not super human-friendly. Reed ended up the perfect cat's cat, rather than just bonding with one of us monkeys and creating a lap scarcity problem, and he was pretty nearly unadoptable otherwise.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:07 AM on January 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Ologies podcast just had an episode about cats! A few things I learned:

- Cats like to have a space safe to tuck away in, especially spaces that are high up. So it's good to have a high cat tree or a high shelf they can access. Ideally it should be near a window so they can bird-watch.
- They like to be warm (their base temperature is different than ours or something), so they love heated cat beds. This also explains why they want to sit on your laptop, router, etc.
- They really like the stalking/hunting part of play, so really get into dragging the cat toy sloooowly for them.
- They're most active at dawn and dusk, so try to play with them then (LOL, probably dusk is more likely)
- They prefer their litter box to be as clean as possible, so best to clean it every day
- Cats are more concerned about "place" than "people," so even though you are in her new place, it's confusing to move

That said, 1 week is a really short time to acclimate. It's hard enough to acclimate as a human, and you have an intellectual understanding about what's going on. Give it some time. Also, listen to that Ologies episode, it's fascinating!
posted by radioamy at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

@buildmyworld, my cat has completely ignored the nice cozy caves I’ve bought her, but she went right into the blanket fort. Plus, this can go away when she’s bored with it. Thanks!
posted by jameaterblues at 7:20 PM on January 11, 2019

@buildmyworld - another successful blanket fort experience here, thank you! We finally set one up this afternoon, and she made a beeline as soon as she saw it. Will try (carefully) poking the fabric and see if we can create further entertainment.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 3:41 PM on January 20, 2019

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