By Suzanne Denk, Dip.FBST, Animal Enrichment Specialist
Providing entertainment for your cat is fun and can easily fit into any household routine. We often think of a cat as a low-maintenance pet compared to a dog who has to be taken outside. But, this idea can cause us to overlook how intelligent cats are and how important it is to fulfill their natural instinct to hunt.
Of course, cats sleep many hours and can develop a lazy lifestyle when there is nothing else to do, but there are easy ways to bring out the natural hunting instinct in your cat. Opportunities to play and prowl can increase your cat’s quality of life.
Interactive play twice a day with a teaser wand toy will engage their natural instinct and channel energy appropriately. The daily routine for cats is stalk and hunt, kill, eat, groom then sleep.
Here are some simple rules of engagement:
Determine your cat’s play style. Do they like the teaser wand moving like a bird flying in the air, a snake slithering on the ground or a mouse moving along the floor and hiding? Use the wand toy to imitate the movement of prey.
- Don’t dangle the toy in your cat’s face. Live prey would never come that close!
- Allow your cat to have many successes in catching their prey so that the playtime is fun and rewarding.
- Provide a cool down session by slowing the movement of the toy gradually so your cat is not left feeling frustrated.
- Always end with a catch of the prey. Your cat may even roll on their back and use all of their weapons (claws and teeth) to finish off the catch.
- Offering this kind of play before serving a meal is the most rewarding for your cat.
Providing daily interactive play can channel your cat’s energy appropriately and reduce stress. Allowing your cat access to a window where they can watch the birds outside is a form of enrichment. This quiet activity also starts the natural hunt cycle for a cat, but because they cannot catch the birds outside they may try to catch your ankles or other pets in the home. Interactive daily play will save your feet from attack. Your cat can watch the birds and then catch a teaser wand toy instead!
You can also provide hunting opportunities by hiding small toys for your cat to find throughout the day or feed dry food in a puzzle toy. My favorite puzzle is the Egg-Cersizer or you can use a muffin tin, water bottle or cardboard tube with holes cut for kibble to fall out when rolled. Remember, it’s up to you to keep your cat’s life interesting. Let them hunt!