Enrichment Activities

Ball Pit
Blowing Bubbles
Butterflies for Cats
Cat Activity Center
Cat on the Mat
Catnip Tea Ice Cubes
Clicker Training
Enrichment Toys for Cats
Grass Enrichment Containers
House Rule
Magical Shell Game
Muffin Tin Treat Puzzle
Ravioli Cat Toy
Rolled Feather Toy for Cats
Twisted Towel Treat Puzzle

 

 

 

 

Ball Pit

Cats have been known to enjoy batting a couple ping-pong balls around in a bathtub or tissue box. A whole box of balls can provide the next level of enrichment fun!

Drop a treat, toy or some catnip into the box. Your cat must search in the box to recover the treats or toys. Because the balls move and make noise, the game can help build confidence. Let your cat investigate at his own pace or just play!

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Blowing Bubbles

Everyone loves bubbles! Bubbles can provide something interesting and new to look at for your cats and dogs. Moving bubbles will stimulate the animals’ minds and the adventurous pet will pop them! If you feel like splurging, check out “PetQwerks Doggy Incredibubbles” at Amazon. These bubbles land without popping, easily wipe up, and are edible!

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Butterflies for Cats 

Supplies:

  • Tissue paper
  • Pipe cleaners

Directions:

  • Cut pipe cleaners into thirds.
  • Cut layers of tissue paper into rectangles (about 2" x 3").
  • Gather the tissue paper in the center of the rectangle and bend the pipe cleaner around the tissue. Twist the ends into antennae to secure.
  • Always supervise your pet with a new toy to ensure that they can play safely.
  • The tissue butterflies are easily tossed and make a crinkling sound to stimulate the play.

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Cat Activity Center

It could be said that one man’s trash is another man’s cat activity center. Throw-away items can be made into entertaining play stations or activity centers for cats. The activity center can include scratchers, empty candy trays, toilet paper tubes, pipe cleaners, clean medicine cups, ribbon spools or egg cartons. The only limit is your imagination!

Choose a shallow box as your base and add the activity items. Once the items have been securely glued in place, add pinches of catnip, jingle balls, toy mice or treats. Place on the floor and let your cat explore on his own. The textures, smells and sounds will get your cat thinking! Once the cat has lost interest, refill with the goodies and move it to another location. Your cat will think they have made a brand new discovery!

 

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Cat on the Mat

Cats can do tricks just like dogs! This trick may take several sessions but the learning process is what is valuable to the animal. Try this activity after other play so that the mat will be a place of relaxation.

  • Place the mat (towel, bandana, whatever you choose) on the floor and be very interested in it. Let your cat see where you placed the mat. Place a treat on the mat. He may take the treat and leave – that’s OK!
  • Place more treats on the mat repeatedly to get your cat to return to the mat. Your cat should just be making a connection between treats and the mat.
  • To end the session, toss a treat away from the mat and put the mat away. Practice this over several sessions.
  • When you feel your cat is ready to move on, place the mat on the floor. When he approaches the mat upon sight, stop placing treats. Only place the treat when the cat touches the mat. Your cat will now learn that the treats appear when the mat is touched.
  • Every time your cat touches the mat, mark the behavior and place the treat on the mat. Let him do this successfully four or five times. Stop the activity while the treats are still interesting. Repeat this portion of the activity in several different sessions.
  • Once your cat is settling on the mat, treat and praise him in a way that he finds enjoyable with petting. Your cat should be relaxed on the mat.
  • You should end the session before your cat gets up from the mat. Toss a treat and pick up the mat when he goes to retrieve the treat.
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Catnip Tea Ice Cubes

Scent, texture, and play enrichment may be found with a catnip tea ice cube. Make a catnip tea by placing fresh catnip leaves in a tea ball or strainer. Pour boiling water over catnip and let steep for 10 minutes. Ensure the tea is completely cool before trying to freeze it. Pour into smaller ice cube trays and freeze. Pop out a frozen cube for unusual catnip fun!

 

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Clicker Training

Repeat the positive and stop the negative! This psychology principle is called operant conditioning and is the basis of clicker training for animals. Your pet will be taught to repeat the action which resulted in a treat and the treat will be associated with a clicking noise.

Getting started: You will need a clicker (or you can make a clicking sound yourself), tiny treats or kibble.

1. Click and treat. Repeat a few times so the pet is expecting the treat with the click.

2. Ask for pet to do something such as sit. As your pet sits, click and treat. Offer the click and treat immediately with the desired action.

3.
To teach a behavior, click and treat any motion towards the desired action. For example, if you are teaching “come” reward any step towards you with a click and treat. Gradually move farther away from your pet. You can also watch for the action to happen on its own, such as a sit, then click and treat.

You can learn more about clicker training for any pet at www.clickertraining.com.

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Enrichment Toys for Cats

A modest change in the environment can prevent cats from becoming at risk for behavioral problems and decrease stress. A different object or toy each day can stimulate the cat’s mind and senses. Physical play with the object is not necessary; the goal is to provide a chance to think and learn with the introduction of a novel object in the animal’s environment.

A disposable object can be a fun toy and something to investigate. Throw away the item when play is over and introduce something new each day.

  • Pipe cleaners shaped into corkscrew twists or pretzels
  • Shower curtain rings
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • An uncooked penne pasta tube
  • Milk jug rings
  • Toilet paper tubes – fringed edges are fun!
  • Origami paper balls or lucky stars
  • Drinking straws
  • Wine cork
  • Wooden thread spool
  • ½ of a plastic Easter egg with wet food spread inside
  • Plastic Easter egg with a pinch of catnip
  • Tea bag envelope pinched open for unique scent
  • Catnip sock

Always supervise your pet so you know he can play safely with a new object.

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Grass Enrichment Containers

Bring a little of the outdoors inside for enrichment. Cat grass is easy to grow and can be made in little disposable containers.

  • Wash small plastic containers thoroughly. Small yogurt cups, applesauce cups, or dip snack containers work very well.
  • Soak the cat grass seeds for 8 hours or overnight.
  • Fill the containers with potting soil.
  • Plant the seeds in the soil and water well.
  • Place in a warm dark location and keep the soil damp, not soggy.
  • When the grass sprouts, place the containers in a sunny window. When the grass reaches an inch or two, give it to your cat to enjoy.

The enrichment grass will introduce something new to investigate and provide the opportunity to graze for cats who choose to indulge!

 

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House Rule

Play opportunities help a cat relieve stress, stimulate the mind and engage his hunting instinct. The simplest way to provide enrichment for your cat is to institute the following "House Rule."

  • Never pass a cat a toy that is lying on the floor. Instead, pick the toy up and hide it - behind a door, on a step, up on a chair, peaking out from under a blanket or from under the cat bed. Hide it anywhere!

This activity only takes a second and freshens the toys for your cat. The cat can discover the toy behind a door and enjoy the hunt while he is home alone.

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Magical Shell Game

Scent games are mentally tiring for animals and stimulate their brain in a way that physical exercise does not. In addition, the game requires the pet to think and problem solve.

  • Place a treat on the floor (or a dab of canned food) and cover it with the “Treat” cup (small yogurt cup). Ask the cat to “find it.”
  • When the cat touches or nudges the “Treat” cup, say “good,” and lift the cup to let him have the treat.
  • Repeat this simple step 2-3 times until it appears that the cat knows there is a treat under the cup.
  • Now, hide the treat and hold the cup down to keep him from tipping it over. Lift the cup when he touches it with his paw and let him take the treat reward. Practice this, rewarding for soft paw touches. Sessions should not last more than 10 minutes.
  • Once the cat is tapping the “treat” cup with a soft paw, part two of the game can be introduced. 
  • Add two more cups. Tap each cup to direct the cat’s attention to each. When interest is shown in the “treat” cup say "good" and let him take the treat.
  • If multiple cups cause him to lose interest, show the treat quickly and cover the treat up again.
  • Always hold the cups to keep the cat from knocking them over.
  • Shift the cups around for added interest and to challenge him with slight of hand. No betting is allowed!
  • End on a positive note.
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Muffin Tin Treat Puzzle

A puzzle activity can provide enrichment by stimulating your cat’s mind.

Supplies:

  • Mini muffin tin
  • Ping pong ball or practice golf balls
  • Treats

Place a few visible treats in the muffin cups and let your cat find them. When he is easily getting the treats out of the cups, cover a couple treats with a ping pong ball to increase the challenge.

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Ravioli Cat Toy

Cut out two squares from your fabric of choice with pinking shears for that authentic Italian pasta look! Stitch a 1/4-inch seam allowance and leave an end open for stuffing. 6-8 tight stitches on each side are all that is needed. Pinking the edges and stitching without turning it inside out make sewing the toy quick.

Fill end with fiberfill and a pinch of catnip. Stitch closed and give to your favorite cat!

 

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Rolled Feather Toy for Cats 

A feather is very tempting to a cat. The rolled feather toy moves, is textured and appeals to the hunter.

Supplies:

  • Corrugated paper
  • Feathers
  • Tape
  • Non-toxic school glue

Directions:

  • Cut a 4" x 4" square of corrugated paper.
  • Tightly roll up the paper and secure with tape.
  • Glue a feather in each end or multiple feathers in one end of the roll.

Hide the toy so that a feather is peaking out waiting for the cat to discover it!

 

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Twisted Towel Treat Puzzle

Dogs aren't the only ones who can use their nose to search for a treat!

Place treats, kibble, or catnip on a bandana and roll it up. Let the cat see the process and work the towel open to find the treats. Too easy? Place the treats in the little Kong (or empty toilet paper tube) and then roll up the Kong in the towel. Is your cat ready for the ultimate challenge? Hide the towel for your cat to discover during the day.

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Animal Friends

Caryl Gates Gluck Resource Center
562 Camp Horne Road | Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Phone: 412.847.7000 | Fax: 412.847.7001
speak@ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org
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