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November 12, 2019

Cats for a Busy Life Style

Life styles are changing. People are spending more time away from home—working longer, harder hours. Some, out of necessity, are working two or more jobs.  Understandably, cat-parents are concerned that their grueling schedules are adversely affecting their cats.  They wonder if there are specific breeds they can adopt who do well when left alone. Recently I was interviewed for two different publications, both interviewers asked me the same question “What breeds of cats are best for people who spend long hours away from home?

Although some breeds are sedate and seem more self reliant then others, no cat does well when left alone for long hours every day without companionship or stimulation. They can become depressed, bored and lethargic. Some develop behavior challenges such as over-grooming, litter box avoidance or other destructive behaviors.

Busy cat parents with active life-styles do not have to forgo cat companionship. They can take steps to keep their felines stimulated while working those long hours away from home.

A buddy

© Konstantin Kovtun - Fotolia.com

Two cats are better than one © Konstantin Kovtun – Fotolia.com

People who do not spend much time at home should seek out and adopt cats who are bonded to each other. Bonded friends keep each other entertained while their favorite people are away. Adopting a new friend for the resident cat is also an option. It is essential that both cats have histories of getting along well with other felines.  Adopters should be aware that successful introductions could take weeks, sometimes months.

Environmental enrichment

Creating cat-centric home environments will help mentally stimulate cats. Although homes do not have to become Cat Disneylands, they do need to be equipped with cat furniture and toys.  Toys cats can interact with by themselves will keep them engaged and active. Puzzle boxes, Turbo Scratchers, puzzle feeders as well as ping-pong balls are good toy choices. Boxes and paper bags without handles become intriguing places to explore and hide in.

Homes need to be furnished with vertical territory such as shelving, window perches and tall cat trees. Cat trees put in front of windows are perfect places for cats to relax and watch the daily happenings in the neighborhood.

Activities

Cats are predators—their feral counterparts hunt for a living. Meal and treat times should become mentally and physically stimulating. Instead of placing cat food in bowls or tossing treats directly to them, encourage cats to work a little for their food. Treasure hunts are the perfect solution.  Before leaving for the day, busy cat parents can hide treats and dry food throughout the home—on cat trees, shelves, in tunnels, paper bags, cardboard boxes, puzzle boxes, Turbo Scratchers and in other toys.

Don’t forget clicker training and play! Clicker training is a fun activity for everyone—cats and their people alike. It helps keep cats mentally challenged, physically active and strengthens relationships between cats and their people.

Daily play sessions using pole-type toys will also help keep cats from becoming bored. The toy is pulled away from the cat in a way that imitates hunting. These types of toys should always be placed out of cat reach when no one is around to supervise.

Quality time

In addition to activities and creating a cat-centric environment, cat people need to spend quality one-on-one time with their cats every day. Special times together include cuddle and lap times and active play and clicker training sessions. Quality time benefits all participants—cats and their favorite people alike.

More help

For further help with cat behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.

The Problems with Laser Pointers

Play!

No. Well maybe… there are exceptions.

As a general rule, I recommend against using laser pointers when playing with cats. I don’t like them because they frustrate cats. Cats need to catch their prey, to have the satisfaction of feeling their hard earned prize beneath their paws.  Because cats can’t catch the elusive beam of light, it leaves them frustrated. I usually encourage people to avoid laser pointers; there are so many other exciting toys to use. But, sometimes there are situations when laser pointers are the only way cats can be played with. It’s either laser play or no play.

The best way to play with a cat is to mimic hunting by dragging the toy away from or across the line of vision of the cat. Pole type toys are perfect for this. Unfortunately, some people may find it difficult or impossible to drag the toy or flick it in the air. Their movements may be restricted for a variety of reasons, including physical challenges, or they may be living in a small crowded space. People still want to play with their cats and cats need to play. In these circumstances, laser pointers may be the best tool for the job.

Laser pointers can be played with in a way that minimizes the cat’s frustration while still mimicking the hunt. In addition to the laser pointer, soft toys and coveted cat food need to be recruited for the job.  The toys are placed strategically in the play area so that the cat will be able to “catch” the prey. Food is at the ready.  Using a variation of Pam Johnson-Bennett’s hunt/play technique, play by aiming the beam in front of the cat and zigzag it away from her. Periodically, let the cat “catch” the beam by resting it on one of the stuffed animals that is doubling as prey. The cat should be able to feel the toy solidly under her paws before moving the beam away.  Although the length and intensity of play sessions vary, don’t end abruptly. Slow the beam down until it lands on the final catch of the session. Immediately feed the cat. She will eat, groom and then take a nap.

Considerations

  • Care must be taken to play within the cat’s limitations. Consider the age, health and general condition of the cat. Play should be fun, not painful.
  • Laser beams should never be shined in the eyes of cats or any other animal who happens to be hanging around.