It’s been an uncertain time for all of us – including the kitties in our lives.
We’re home more and our cats are likely wondering why their nap schedule has been suddenly thrown off by human intervention. Cats thrive on schedule/routine, and even if they’re used to you being home, they’re likely not used to you being home ALL of the time, and their normalcy can be easily disrupted. Cats may respond to this change in many ways, like being active at times they’re usually not (cat suddenly waking you up at night?), vocalizing more than normal, seeking more attention and playtime, or feeling a bit scared or stressed. After all, they may be used to alone time during the day, or perhaps their person is scared and they sense it. One thing is for sure, it’s a great time to practice some extra self-care, and that can extend to interactions with our cats. These suggestions should/ could all be things that you already have at home!
If your cat is fearful
If your cat seems abnormally fearful or unsure, try increasing bonding time. It will help both you and your cat (who doesn’t love a purring kitty in their lap?). Spend time with your cat in the space where they’ve retreated, gently talking and offering yummy treats (even ones you may not normally give your cat, like lunch meat, cream cheese, or regular cheese if your usual cat treats are not working).
If your cat is feeling stressed and hiding, do things that will help him feel safe with you. Sitting together, gently talking and offering a high value food motivator will provide reassurance that everything is okay. Once he knows that his favorite person is still there for him, and that there are delicious treats attached to his favorite person, he’ll quickly be out and seeking attention. Make sure to shower your kitty with love when he does appear, offering attention in the way he likes best, as often as you can.
Engagement activities for an active cat
It’s important that you keep your cat’s routine/schedule as normal as possible during this time, but no matter how hard you try, your cat may be awake much more during the day. If you have a cat that’s more active and energetic, or a cat who’s used to going outside, there are many fun ways to engage him now that can also be used after returning to work.
Set up a game of hide and seek:
- Put some favorite toys in a bag with some catnip. Shake the bag up so the toys are well coated with cat nip.
- Once coated in catnip, hide the toys in a favorite space in your home. This could be the living room, a bedroom, any space where your cat loves spending time.
- Hide them under pillows, under the couch, any safe cat space in that room. Don’t put them in a space that’s off limits to your cat as we don’t want to encourage exploration into undesired areas.
- Give your cat time to explore the space and find the toys. You can encourage him to find ones still hidden or you can pick up any toys not discovered at the end of the game.
- Putting all of the toys away at the end will keep the game new and fresh for the next round.
Paper bag/ cardboard box:
- This works really well with paper grocery bags (remove the handles) and cardboard boxes.
- Put catnip, treats or toys inside of a paper bag (lay the bag on its side, open for your cat to peek into) or an open cardboard box.
- Leave the box or bag in a communal space for your cat to discover and explore.
- Try a variety of toys, catnip and treats. This type of enrichment can have a lot of variation and be used multiple times with new things to explore inside the box or bag.
- Add some variety or difficulty: add shredded paper on top of the toys, treats or catnip to encourage foraging… it’ll make the game last longer!
Egg carton or ice cube try feeding puzzle:
- The simplest place to start if a cat has no experience with a feeding puzzle.
- Put bits of dry food or treats in the bottom of the egg carton or ice cube tray.
- Let your cat paw at the food. Working to get it out will encourage mental stimulation, which can be just as good as physical exercise.
- To increase the difficulty, you can put shredded paper on top of the food or treats, again, encouraging some foraging.
- To make it all about fun, you can use catnip instead of food or treats. Put shredded paper or toys on top of the catnip and let them work their way to the catnip.
- Fill a casserole pan about halfway with some water.
- Put any floating toys that you might have in the water and let your cat bat at them.
- If you have them, ping pong balls are great for this, as are plastic Easter eggs, if they’re closed tightly.
Bring the outdoors in:
- Put some grass, leaves or sticks (or any combination of these) inside of a cardboard box or paper bag (again, with the handles removed).
- Let your cat explore the contents.
- Make sure to avoid any leaves or sticks that might be toxic to cats. Maple leaves can be toxic, make sure you’re sure of what kind of trees you have around you and that they’re safe for cats.
- Mix some wet cat food with some cat nip and freeze in any small freezer safe container that you might have.
- Offer to your cat at a time of day when they’re particularly restless. Working on this frozen treat can give them something to focus on.
Toilet paper fun, if you have a roll to spare:
- Attach a roll of toilet paper to any secure surface. You can tie it to the back of a chair or to a doorknob, anything that can safely hold it in place is fine, as long as it’s a cat safe space.
- Pull some of the toilet paper off of the roll, let it hang down a bit.
- Let your cat paw at it, scratch it, pull it with their teeth.
- This can be messy, but this is a game that can last a long time for some cats.
Carboard box fun:
- Have a stash of boxes laying around waiting on recycling?
- Set them up in your cat’s favorite room, one next to the other.
- Put favorite toys or catnip inside of each box.
- Let them leap from box to box, scratch on the boxes, hide in them.
- The more boxes, the better… you can create an entire city of boxes, if you have the space.
Other helpful resources: