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Tips to stimulate your indoor cat

If you have an indoor cat with a lot of energy, it can sometimes be a challenge to offer sufficient mental and physical stimulation. Here, Agria's behavioural advisor Anna Jönsson Bergstedt gives you tips on how to activate your indoor cat.
Cat playing with a toy

All cats need both mental and physical stimulation to feel good. Does your cat seem bored or restless? Then it might be a good idea to come up with something to activate it.

1. Let the cat look for its food

A simple way to stimulate your cat is to spread the dry food in different places in the home instead of putting it in the food bowl as usual. Instead, hide some food pellets in the tree, some on the windowsill and some more under a table. 

You can also create food activity toys for your cat by e.g. use the bottom of an egg carton to put food pellets in, or use toilet paper rolls (separately or put together to form a pyramid, for example), where the cat has to work to get the food up and out. There are also plenty of such feeding activity toys to buy in well-stocked pet stores!

2. Play with your cat

Cats are creatures of habit and like routines and playing at times that correspond to when they would have been hunting (and their prey is active), meaning that many cats are extra active at dawn and dusk. Take this into account and schedule play in the morning and evening. Preferably several, short playtimes (about 5 minutes) and offer the cat things it can occupy itself with, in a safe way, even when you are not at home.

To adapt as much as possible to the cat's natural behaviour, the toy should imitate the cat's hunting behaviour. For example, use toys that:

  • Behave like a prey animal (e.g. different forms of "flippers")
  • Look like a prey animal (such as toy mice or feather toys)
  • Make sounds (e.g. rustling toys)
  • You can hide food in (e.g. feed balls and other similar things)

Some cats also become extra interested in toys that contain catnip.

However, primarily play with your cat under supervision and don't forget to put away anything that could be dangerous when the game is over or the cat should continue playing on its own. Package strings and yarn that get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract are common reasons for veterinary visits!

3. Make new creeps to explore

Have you bought anything new for the home? A large cardboard box can amuse a cat for a long time, and the same applies to a large cardboard box with cut-off handles. Or why not build a hut for the cat to explore by placing a blanket over a table or chair. New objects and new things to explore stimulate the cat's curiosity.

Other "new" things such as e.g. cones or other natural materials can also amuse your cat for a long time by offering an opportunity to explore and possibly Play with. Why not combine e.g. cones with a box filled with packing material? Extra lots for your cat to explore!

4. Teach your cat fun tricks 

Why not teach your cat to wave, sit and lie on command? Cats can also learn to jump, crawl and slalom. Clicker training is easy to train indoors and builds your relationship. 

5. Go outside and walk with the cat in a harness

You can also train your cat to walk in a harness and leash. First, start indoors until the cat is used to it. Then you can take the cat outside and let it feel the grass under its paws.

The basis for the cat to feel good

In addition to the need for stimulation, there are other needs to satisfy in your cat. Examples include resting places, opportunities to scratch, and places to hide in order to thrive. Cats also like to lie high up, preferably on a shelf or in a scratching post. It also needs to have other basic needs met such as access to food, water and a litter box. Cats are not herd animals, but are still social creatures along with us. Therefore, make sure to set aside time to be with your cat, especially if it is alone for large parts of the day. This is also a basic need of your cat!

By Anna Jönsson Bergstedt
Animal nurse and cat behaviour consultant

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