Another bored cat question
August 20, 2019 6:23 PM   Subscribe

We call our cat, Pumpkin, the two-minute cat. After two minutes of anything (besides sleeping), she walks around the house yowling, chirping, moaning, singing the song of her people, and generally sounding like she is on the brink of a very painful death. She is not, of course.

She is bored. If you ignore her, she eventually lays down and calms down. Or starts jumping on counters and banging cabinet doors. But I hate seeing her act this way so many times a day. She is a smart cat. We have tried SO MANY toys. Even a monthly cat box subscription. Except for 3 favorite toys, nothing holds her attention. Doesn't care for the cat fountain. Enjoys her scratching posts. She does walk outside on a leash as often as we can take her (it's so dang HOT right now), at least twice a week. Should we get another cat? Try one as a foster to see how she does? We have no other pets and just me and DH at home. DH is home almost 24/7. So she gets plenty of attention. She is very healthy. Help?
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, you should get another cat. The only thing that can keep up with an active cat is another active cat. The other cat will literally have nothing to do but entertain Pumpkin, and vice-versa.

That said, you can (and probably should) also:

- Hide toys away in a closet when not playing with her/them;

- Make sure she has something huge to climb/scratch, and maybe rearrange things occationally;

- Don't just walk her, exercise her;

- Look into a cat exercise wheel;

- Challenge her with homemade and commercially produced puzzles.
posted by amtho at 6:43 PM on August 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you've tried a lot of toys, you may have tried a similar toy (or this exact one), but I must mention it. Most cats I've met get very into play hunting with this Cat Dancer toy. I usually spend 15-20 minutes in a session, challenging them to catch it. It seems to wear them out and then they snack afterwards when their "hunt" was successful.

I think any toy that involves movement has a better chance of capturing their attention versus one that remains stationary like a stuffed mouse. Have you tried a laser pointer?

Also, novelty seems to be super important. If a toy is a favorite for a while, take it away for a few weeks, then return it to the rotation. If something just sits out, it becomes part of the scenery.

Toss a box on the floor for a day, then move it to a new location. Connect the box to a cat tunnel. Take it away when she is bored of it. This rug has holes and can be reshaped to seem new. Try treat puzzles. Anything she can crawl through, interact with, or be challenged by.
posted by pdxhiker at 6:45 PM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should get another cat. It sounds like you're really great cat parents with the kind of attitude and lifestyle that cats would be super lucky to find. The hard part would be finding a cat that meshes with Pumpkin well. Find a local adoption group and ask them for help - they will undoubtedly love to help find you a match. You might even think about a dog.

I got a cat for my cat Korben because he was singing the song of his people and I suspected he was lonely and missing the large cat he'd evidently been separated from years ago when his previous people had surrendered him to the ASPA. I was totally right - Korben is still chatty but almost never yowls like before, and he's in much better shape because he gallops around the house with our other cat multiple times a day. I am lucky because apart from the yodeling, Korben is kind of low energy (and frankly a little dumb) and the cat we found was really accepting, so the match worked out well. They aren't snuggle buddies, but after they proved they weren't dangerous to each other they've never really fought. I suspect Pumpkin might be harder to find a match for, but it seems like it'll be worth the effort.

On preview, pdxhiker is totally right about novelty. I have a toybox for my cats where the toys go when I'm picking up for the robo-vacuum, and then new/old toys get pulled back out over the course of the week. This natural shuffling of toys means that old ones are suddenly interesting again, at least for a day or so. It doesn't hurt that the bottom of this toybox has a bunch of loose catnip I never bothered to clean up, so the toys get an herbal infusion over time.
posted by Mizu at 6:59 PM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed clicker training our smart and easily bored cat - he learned to high 5 really quickly, and within a week or so could navigate a little obstacle routine with sitting and jumping on command. It was more fun for me than other forms of joint play, too! I haven't done it much for months (newborn) but it's worth a shot, as apparently the extra mental stimulation of training can calm busy cats down.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:59 PM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

The standard verbal shorthand for this in our house is: Cat? Works.

(Also: Laser pointer? Works with cats. IR temp sensor that projects two laser dots to show the sense cone? BREAKS CATS.)
posted by sourcequench at 8:16 PM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bird feeder outside a window she can watch!
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 8:29 PM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

You’ve probably already done this, but if not – the next time you take her to the vet, you could ask for a routine T4 level lab test, just in case.

We had a yowling ”two-minute cat” with the attention span of a squirrel for many years until one year he started vomiting frequently and we went for a check-up. Turned out his super loud yowling, singing, purring and hyperactivity were a symptom of hyperthyroidism and they responded to medication within a few days’ time.

Before we found this out, he would usually settle down after yowling for a while, but only if we didn’t move a muscle. The minute anyone moved he’d be there and sing and purr and yowl and want stuff, jump on counters and tables and knock stuff down. He didn’t seem anxious as much as hypersocial and hyperactive, always sweet, always purring, always snuggling and wrapping himself around our feet. That’s why we didn’t realise it wasn’t just his personality. The behavioural symptoms were present 5+ years before the physical symptoms started to appear. The hyperthyroidism was diagnosed when he was 10 or 11, I think. (Now 16,5 and still going strong.)

He still yowls and jumps on counters and tables, knocking stuff down, until he gets what he wants (food, attention or a door opened for him), but it’s down to like 10 % of his hyperactivity before starting medication. When it gets excessive, we know it’s time to check the T4 levels and see if his dosage needs to be tweaked.

He seems a lot happier now. Still sweet and friendly – and occasionally yowling, we still get the 5 AM serenades – but it’s not excessive and tiring for him; he’s able to calm down and relax.
posted by kaarne at 12:38 AM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Turned out his super loud yowling, singing, purring and hyperactivity were a symptom of hyperthyroidism and they responded to medication within a few days’ time.

We had a cat like this. For older cats, I think it is one of the first things a vet would test for if you mentioned constant yowling. Hyperthyroidism is quite common, can shorten your cats life substantially if untreated - the link talks about some treatment possibilities as well as some other behavioural clues that could help you get closer to a diagnosis.
posted by rongorongo at 1:16 AM on August 21, 2019

I think she could do with a pair of kittens. They’ll keep her busy. Otherwise there’s the risk of her annoying a cat who likes a quiet life.
posted by kitten magic at 2:07 AM on August 21, 2019

IJWTS that I enjoy the fact that, at MeFi, any post involving a floof must by law also include a photo of the floof in question.

Excellent floof, btw.

I'll second the add-a-cat solution. My late lamented floof Bob (warning: eulogy post) was a single-cat, and she was mostly fine with it, but I regretted not getting her a companion when she was young enough to accept one. I tried later in her life, but she was very clear about her, um, rejection of the interloper.

When she passed away in 2009, we adopted a pair from the same rescue. They're not related, but were in the same cage together and are close in ages. They don't play a LOT anymore, but they definitely do enrich each other's lives. (Wiggins, named for a silly town in Mississippi / also possibly for a British cycling champion; Saracen, named for a fictional quarterback).
posted by uberchet at 7:15 AM on August 21, 2019

Thank you everyone. I didn't mark any of the toy/box answers as best because we have tried them all. I'll definitely get some blood work done and then consider a second cat. Three would be way too many for our condo and our budget. Thanks again!
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 7:24 AM on August 21, 2019

I have two kittens and even though they have each other, they still sometime circle around like sharks, looking for mischief. I discovered that one of them really likes tunnels, and so have provided some pieces of rough fabric (I think they are supposed to be doormats? Got them from the dollar store) that he can burrow under and push around. Seriously, if I make a tunnel with a box or create a cave out of the edge of the area rug he immediately has to check it out. The other I thought really liked ice cubes, but it turns out he just really likes to play with water when he's not being forced to take a bath. If I provide him with a small tub of water and an object that will float like a piece of straw, a bottlecap or an ice cube, he sits there and paws at the water until half the contents are sloshed out.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:55 PM on August 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

felliway diffusers may help.
posted by evilmonk at 10:26 AM on August 22, 2019

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