Cats aren’t always the easiest pets to keep entertained. Yes, some kitties are remarkable in their ability to cure themselves of boredom; my mum’s cat, for instance, will even go so far as to choose a toy out of a basket, pull it out himself, then play with it for some time with no human intervention necessary.
I’m convinced that these types of cats are rare, however, and that most cats need a lot more help from people to cure themselves of the boredom bug – especially when we humans aren’t around for them to entertain themselves by watching us, say because we’re at work or (for those of us who work from home) because we go out for hours in a day. Mine most certainly does.
My cat Avery is actually quite a lazy cat, especially when it comes to playtime. He needs a great deal of encouragement to get him to play. While it’s easier for me to find things that entertain him than it is to find ways to get him to exercise, it’s still difficult to entertain him some days.
Then there are kitties I’ve met (some I’ve even cat-sat, actually) who make trouble whenever they’re a bit bored – get themselves into places they shouldn’t be in, meddle with objects they shouldn’t be touching, you get the picture. Basically, with cats like these, entertaining themselves becomes synonymous with getting up to some mischief.
If you’ve got a cat that needs help curing his/her boredom, and needs help staying entertained indoors, it’s time to work toward making sure your home has enough engaging things for kitty to do, look at, watch, etc. to keep away the boredom bug. Because while it’s exceptionally important to make sure kitty gets his/her daily dose of high-intensity exercise, it’s also very important to keep your cat entertained and amused throughout the day during times when he/she doesn’t necessarily want to expend too much energy.
Okay let’s get into it! And of course, if you’ve got any other ideas, please do let me know what they are in the comments. Advice is always welcome!
Picture from post Phone Picture Roundup Part I: Cute Cat Pictures
Curing Cat Boredom: Things to Do & Have Inside to Keep Kitty Entertained
1. Leave out different types of toys that kitty’s able to play with on his/her own.
Now, this definitely doesn’t work often for Avery, but as I’ve said, it works for my mom’s cat, who will pick out his toys from a basket-full and go off playing by himself for short spurts of time.
Impressive, I think, and certainly not the norm, but if your cat is perfectly content playing by him/herself try this one out for sure.
I’d recommend toys like: bouncy balls, cat springs, and cork eggs, because they’re all pretty durable, especially compared to catnip toys with cats that obsess over catnip – those have a good chance of being torn to shreds while you’re away (check out the middle picture in this catnip toy article for a visual).
I’ve purchased many a bouncy ball, cat spring, and cork egg myself, and whilst my own cat won’t play with these toys by himself anymore (he used to love the springs!), I know my brother’s and mother’s cats do use these toys happily without human intervention.
Looking for more suggestions? Check out this list of cat toys kitties can play with by themselves.
2. Try new toys, and change in and out toys every once in a while.
Trying new toys is something I constantly have to do anyways since my cat is such a lazy little bug and I really need to make sure I have backups in case he ever goes cold turkey and stops loving a toy he’s been obsessing over for months (yes, this frequently happens with Avery!).
My best advice for expanding the number of actually-played-with cat toys you have in your arsenal: if your cat seems to really like one type of feature, or one type of toy, try to get your hands on unique variations of those cat toys. For instance, if your cat really likes feathers, get different types of toys with feathers, or if your cat really likes balls, try out one of the many varieties of cat toy balls.
Interactive cat toys are also a good idea to try. Though they’re not as ideal as toys cats will play with completely by themselves, set it and forget it types of toys are wonderful for when you’re home, but don’t necessarily have the time to try to engage a kitty. My favourite of these are currently automatic laser toys like the Frolicat Bolt, because for now, Avery actually engages with these every so often. You can read my review of the Bolt here if you’re interested.
Finally – while very few in number – there are a few hybrid cat furniture/cat toy products coming up on the market that could really help you with play time, and even have potential for helping keep cats entertained by themselves. Products like the Ripple Rug, which I sadly can’t get my hands on yet because I don’t think it’s available in the UK. These are pretty much cat furniture that I can see cats loving to play in as well. While doing some digging for my article on cat trees with leaves on them, I actually found one more piece of cat furniture that might work out well for this type of thing – this On2Pets CatHaven Cat Condo, which I think any cat would love playing grab-the-feather-toy while hiding inside.
In terms of switching cat toys in and out – while I have heard this works for many cats, it sadly doesn’t ever seem to work with mine. In case yours is one it will work for, however, I’ve listed it here. Changing toys in and out is easy enough to do, so you might as well give it a shot in case it helps kitty stay entertained.
Picture from post “Nesting” in the Packaging
3. Leave out some cardboard boxes, paper bags, and the like.
Cats really do love their cardboard boxes. All boxes for that matter, but cardboard ones do seem to have slightly more allure. Get a lot of packages from Amazon? Visit supermarkets that have cardboard boxes for you to take free often? Grab a box or two for kitty.
Try to get different sizes, with different shapes (long rectangle, square, etc.), some without holes and some with (for handles or air holes for the veggies they used to carry). Grab a diverse bunch if you have any control over the matter. Once kitty is bored of a cardboard box or bag, move it to a different location. Turn it on its side, put two together that weren’t stacked next to each other before – move some back to back. Cat still bored? Throw out the cardboard boxes kitty’s no longer interested in and replace them with other ones if you can. Just keep a steady stream of these different sizes and shapes coming if they’re free for you to grab anyway.
If your cat likes paper bags or re-usable shopping bags – try leaving those out for kitty, too. Again, relocate and put away if your cat’s gotten bored of the original location, but simple things like these can really help cats entertain themselves.
4. Increase vertical space in your home: make sure there’s plenty for kitty to jump on.
I’m a little biased with regards to this one because of the amount of time I’ve spent in a single, small room with my cat Avery over the years. Thomas and I have lived in what most would consider small spaces with Avery for, I’d say, roughly 5 years so far, and we’re still in a studio flat (though we do have a separate kitchen), so it’s not like Avery has a crazy amount of space to work with now. How do you get around this and keep a cat happy and entertained in “tight” quarters? The trick I’ve found works like a charm: make sure there’s plenty for your cat to jump on.
Cats don’t care if they have space horizontally or vertically. Of course humans do – we can’t jump on the tops of dressers or stand at the very top of a bookshelf – so it matters more to us that there’s space in the length and width of the room. With kitties, if you just add more dimension – nooks and crannies high and low for kitty to sneak into for naps, chairs that kitty can jump on the back of, then jump onto a dresser, then onto a bookshelf – there will be absolutely no problem with regards to feeling tight on space from kitty’s perspective.
Have plenty of room? Make an awesome cat wall out of jumping shelves and cat climbers for your cat to have fun on. Throw in a massive cat tree to top it all off, and kitty should be happy as a clam. Don’t have the space? Try a narrow cat tree instead. I can almost guarantee your investment will be worth it. Cats adore spending time jumping from one spot to another, and they love spending time high up above watching the goings on of the house and napping in these high spots as well.
In case you don’t have the budget, really don’t have the space, or are looking for additional ideas to further enhance the vertical space in your home, try doing the following –
Push furniture closer together and make it easy for kitty to jump from one item of furniture to the next. I’d recommend having a small sofa or couch under a window, then having a tall dresser/chest of drawers right next to the window for kitty to jump onto and peer outside the window from. Then if you can, put a book shelf next to that dresser. If you have a mantle, clear that off and make that accessible for kitty to jump onto. If your cat is uncomfortable jumping high enough to reach the mantle, put a footstool or re-angle a sofa near that spot so that kitty can be happy jumping from the footstool/sofa to the mantle. Same goes for tall dressers or bookshelves – have something shorter for your cat to use as an in-between step.
Have kitty practice jumping on things that are meant for him/her to jump on by luring your cat with food. If you do this, you’re basically telling your kitty it’s okay to be on these specific surfaces, which will make it much more likely your cat will use these surfaces as intended in the long run.
Picture from post Cat in a bag
5. Increase napping spaces: make sure there are plenty of little spots for kitty to get into.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. Have an Ikea Kellax bookcase or something similar? Leave one spot empty near the bottom for kitty. Regular bookshelf? Line the bottom shelf with your cat’s favourite blanket. He or she should take to napping there in no time.
You can also grab a cat perch/window seat for your window for your cat to spend his/her time in. Have a couple rooms that kitty particularly loves the view from? Get one perch for each room. I’ve even seen two or more perches on the same window at different heights – excellent for showing kitty the beautiful view from different vantage points.
If you’ve already got a number of spots your cat frequents, you might be wondering why you’d need more. The answer is simple: cats love spending a little time here and there, checking in on their favourite spot, then moving to their next favourite spot, and so on. They can entertain themselves for hours moving from spot to spot, taking a nap here or there, checking on birds outside from different vantage points, even if it’s all from the same window. Cat entertainment isn’t complicated, but it does have to be well planned and as diverse as possible to make sure it’s hands-off from the perspective of a cat-keeper.
6. Keep kitty on his/her toes: move things around every once in a while!
Now, of course when I say this, I don’t just mean shoving the cat tree an inch or two (or ten) away from where it used to be. Yes, that’ll throw kitty off for some time, but it definitely won’t be considered entertaining – just a minor nuisance.
I mean literally moving whole cat trees from one side of the room to the next, or swapping the location of a cat tree to a while new room completely. Rearrange furniture as well if you’re happy to do that. You can also switch books off a shelf and onto another to give kitty a “new”/different place to cat nap in, and move those cat perches/window seats from one window to another as well, especially if they’re not getting much use anymore.
Hard to do this in your place because you like the way things are currently arranged? Grab a couple cat cubes or cat beds and move these around regularly. You can hide them under tables, stick them beside the couch or the TV, even throw them up on top of a dresser. Kitty is much more likely to follow them to a new spot considering his/her scent is already on them after sleeping in them a few times, and they’re one heck of a lot easier to move around for us humans than rearranging furniture.
It’s true that cats don’t like change to a certain extent, but even cats gets bored of how things are and want something novel to happen every once in a while. I’d bet while you’re shuffling things about, your cat may just stare at you intently the whole time, curiosity brewing, then investigate once you are done, for hours even if your change happens to be big enough. Getting re-adjusted to the same old stuff in new places is actually quite stimulating, even for people. Definitely true of cats, too.
7. Get a pet fish in a closed off fish tank.
Yes, I know I’m basically telling you to get a pet for your pet, but it really does work!
My brother took a couple fish in – returns from the pet store he works at – and his cat, Beau, watches them quite often, and even used to sleep next to their tanks at night!
This coming from a cat who we’ve all suspected has pica because of the fact that he’s tried and successfully eaten pretty much everything – including the handles of pots and pans, hand towels, shoe laces, and bed covers to name a few things. He’s getting better at not eating so many crazy things now, but the fishes definitely seem to be doing wonders with regards to entertaining him. And yes, they are safe.
Cats love to watch fish. We all know this, and yet not many of us like having fish tanks at home because we’re worried about the poor fishies being caught straight out of the water and ending up eaten! If you’ve got a cat-proof or closed off fish tank, though, this problem is solved, and you can reap the benefits of having fishes for cat entertainment without the potential casualties taking place.
8. Place bird feeders on or just outside your windows.
The whole bird-feeder-in-your-garden trick for entertaining cats is popular for a reason – it works like a charm! There’s absolutely nothing like a bird feeding near kitty to make him/her completely attentive and in the zone. Not only are cats obsessed with bird-watching, but the fact that there’s a window between your cat and the birds means there’s no potential for casualties in the same way there may be with a non-cat-friendly fish tank in your house.
If you’re currently using a bird feeder in your garden as a form of entertainment for your cat, do make sure you have your feeders in a place that makes it easy for kitty to spot the birds. If not, those feeders need to be relocated.
Want to make it even easier for a cat to bird watch? Get your hands on a suction-cup window bird feeder, preferably one that’s made of see-through plastic, and stick that to a window frequented by kitty. These work really well if you’re in an apartment or flat as well, so long as you have birds in your area. Just make sure to keep refilling them when they’re low and to watch to make sure the suction cups are holding well, and you’re all set!
9. Play some videos for cats on your TV with the sound up.
If you’re having a hard time getting birds to feed in your area, can’t place a bird feeder near or on your window, or just plain need something for kitty to do at night when birds aren’t out feeding, try some cat videos to keep kitty entertained.
Avery loves watching cat videos, as does nearly every cat I know. I used to seat Avery in front of my laptop or Chromebook and watch him watch birds & fishes go past, but this would work so much better on a TV with the sound up. There are plenty of free-to-watch videos for cats to go through on YouTube, and if you want some more options, you can rent/buy videos for cats on Amazon as well. Put these on while you’re at work with the sound up (doesn’t need to be too high, but not on mute!) and kitty should be a lot happier with the passive entertainment.
*Bonus: Have one kitty? Get a second cat to keep the first company.
While cats are a lot more independent than many other animals, they still are social animals and often do a lot better indoors with company. Cat lately want more attention from you than you can provide? If your living situation makes it possible, getting your cat a feline companion should definitely be considered.
Make sure whatever cat you get next has a similar temperament to the first to minimize squabbles between the two pets, and so long as your first cat is well adjusted, expect a little push back initially, but that the two will keep each other company quite well in the long run. Adopting a second cat is an option that should especially be considered if you’re away for long hours at work all day and can’t have anybody stop by to spend some time with your cat in the mornings. Yes, you still should be using the techniques listed above to keep your indoor cats entertained if you have more than one, but having a second cat will do a very good job of curing any kitty loneliness or fill any need for more attention your house cat might have.
Other Tips for Keeping Indoor Cats Happy & Healthy
These tips have nothing to do with keeping your kitty fit with regular playtime and exercise.
If you happen to have a lazy kitty like mine – i.e. a cat who’s hard to get in the mood to engage in a regular playtime – try using these techniques to encourage your lazy cat to play, as well as these tips to get your cat to stay fit by passively and actively encouraging exercising. And good luck, because I know how hard it can be to coax cats like mine into an active playtime!
Live in a small apartment like I do? It’s a bit harder for us to keep indoor cats happy, but it’s still completely possible to do! Find out how to make your small space ideal for indoor cat life here.
How Do You Keep Your Cats Entertained Indoors?
Is there anything you do to keep your cats entertained that I haven’t listed here?
Do you do anything special for your cats to keep them from getting bored while you’re away from home, say while you’re at work? Have you tried any or all of the above tips? What has and has not worked for you? Does anything do the trick perfectly by itself?
Do let me know in the comments – always looking for new methods to try to keep my own indoor cat entertained! 😉