How to entertain a bored kitty when I'm not around?
April 10, 2019 10:19 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep an elderly cat occupied and engaged after the loss of her feline housemate?

I've had two cats for 18 years. They've lived together with me since they were kittens. They weren't super friendly with each other, but they kept each other company.

A week ago, I had to put one of them to sleep, and now I have one cat.

Sometimes, she seems checked out (sleeping even more than usual). Other times, she seems eager for interaction (following me around and soliciting affection). Overall, I get the sense that the loss of the other cat has rendered her life rather boring and uneventful. (She may be going through her own grieving process, as well. It's hard to tell.)

I try to indulge her requests for attention when I can, but I can't pet her 24/7.

What can I do to keep her little kitty life interesting when I'm not around?

She's doing pretty well for her age, but she's too old to play with toys. (Except for laser pointers. She still goes bananas over laser pointers.)

posted by escape from the potato planet to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Petcube makes a WiFi camera that you can check in on your pets while away. I t also has a laser which you can direct remotely or I believe it can be set to motion activate.
posted by tman99 at 10:37 AM on April 10, 2019

I'm sorry about the loss of your other cat.

Does she respond to video/audio of birds? Before our now deceased cat went blind, we used to set up an old laptop to auto-play nature videos when we were out of town. She seemed to like them, at least when we were home.
posted by eotvos at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2019

Our cats go crazy for the sort of self-activating toys, like a busy box where you can add treats or fun things for them to bat around. We have another one that's plastic balls along some tracks in a circle that they'll whap at for seemingly hours, especially when the house is quiet and cat-boring.
posted by xingcat at 10:48 AM on April 10, 2019

I'm in a similar scenario. Something that has helped my surviving cat (and me too) is establishing a consistent daily play time.

Jackson Galaxy hipped me to the concept that play does not require constant kitten-like jumping and running. So even if there's only modest physical activity, and your cat watches you moving a feather around for half an hour like an idiot and makes just one (seemingly half-hearted) attack, you are still effectively stimulating some primal cat mojo. They need it. If your cat doesn't get it naturally (like he probably did by having a buddy) it's up to you to provide it.

It's been super effective for us. He was pretty mopey and retreating after losing his lifelong playmate (of course) but he's become so much more engaged and confident since the routine was established. He now shows all the signs of a content, confident cat. It's pretty cool to see the change and it makes me feel better too.
posted by quarterframer at 11:09 AM on April 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

My sister has the treatcube version of the PetCam, where you can launch treats at your pet. Her kitties go wild over it, though she often gets an eyeful of cat eye when she turns it on and talks to them and they rush up to examine it.
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:14 AM on April 10, 2019

In your shoes, I'd get her a new companion. After all, your household is already prepared for two.

As an old girl, odds are very good that she would quickly embrace a kitten -- I've seen older cats suddenly regain the spirit they showed ten years ago in the presence of a youngster they can easily dominate and "mentor" on their own terms. Just be sure she has access to defensible retreat spots when she's ready for a rest.

Or, if you fear that a baby may be too much stimulation for her OR for you, rescue shelters are full of sweet, older cats who have been repeatedly passed up. It would likely take more time and commitment to introduce a mature cat to your girl, but rescue personnel can make solid recommendations for congenial potential buddies, as well as help you understand the best approach to managing the introduction. Again, I've watched well-matched feline strangers become cuddle buddies in their golden years.

Of course, if your grieving heart isn't ready, feel free to ignore this internet stranger. I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by peakcomm at 11:18 AM on April 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

You say "too old to play with toys," but that doesn't really make sense - there are a lot of different kinds of cat toys and not all require much physical ability on the cat's part. My vet recommends the food-puzzle toys by Catit and Trixie Mad Scientist for enrichment when no one's home.
posted by waffleriot at 11:42 AM on April 10, 2019

We have a Furbo - a treat tossing pet camera for our cats. It allows you to check in on them during the day, talk to them, and treat toss. The cats do enjoy the interaction and I enjoy the stress relief of playing with my kitties.

We did use the Furbo when we had a cat in isolation recovering from surgery -- and it was really comforting to be able to check in on her. I think she appreciated the attention even when she didn't feel like eating treats.
posted by countrymod at 12:04 PM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

How's the window setup? Does she always have a place to sit with a good view (at every window if possible) and sunshine?
posted by serena15221 at 1:16 PM on April 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

TV / radio on, just talking, and a basket of toys/hidden treats placed in front = toys/treats tell the tale of action or lack thereof. Then see if music gets the same result, mix it up.
posted by Freedomboy at 1:50 PM on April 10, 2019

A close friend of mine takes 5 minutes most mornings and hides the cat's kibble all over the house, in places that a cat would discover them via active 'hunting' for them. She puts them behind chair legs and in the corners of windowsills and so on, places that the cat will find them if she is patrolling her space and investigating. That cat is the most active, engaged, healthy-seeming cat I've ever met. My friend swears she does better if she 'hunts' her food most days.

I'm not saying that you should break a long-established 18-year feeding routine, but perhaps you could try this with her cat treats or some other high-value treat and see if she enjoys it.

I'm also very sorry for your loss. It's hard to lose a pet and a companion.
posted by DSime at 2:11 PM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Can you put up a bird feeder outside or affix one to a window? Our cats spend most of their waking day in windows it seems.
posted by rawralphadawg at 5:32 AM on April 11, 2019

« Older NYC solo dining with view of kitchen?   |   Essay or Quote on How Existence Is a Product of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.