Cats have acquired many reputations as their media portrayal is always changing, but a persistent belief that continues to show up is that cats are lazy and uncooperative. Some people would probably say, “If you want a fun animal, get a dog!” The truth is that there are many ways to engage with cats to make their lives more exciting, and improve our bond with them. Plus there is the bonus of getting some kitty entertainment.
1) Play With Them
We will start with the more obvious way to have fun with your cat – just play with them! Cats naturally follow a pattern of hunt→eat→groom→sleep, but we won’t always offer our cats an outlet for the instinct to “hunt”. Play is an excellent way for cats to get the mental and physical benefits of “hunting”. Different cats will enjoy different toys – the toy-on-a-string style is often a favorite, allowing you to directly interact with your cat and provide unpredictability with ups and downs. Some cats will be happy to play fetch with a ball, or even paw at an iPad playing a cat-specific app. Laser pointers are known to excite cats, but it is important to offer a cat a physical toy to “catch” at the end of a laser pointer play session, otherwise a cat can become frustrated by not succeeding in their hunt.
2) Clicker Training
Positive reinforcement training is hugely popular in the dog world; dogs are taught basic instructions and fancy tricks using clicker training. A clicker is a tool that makes a distinct sound that can be used as a marker to tell an animal “you did a good thing”, which should be followed by a reward. And yes, this style of training can work with cats too! Some things they can learn are to sit, high five, come when called, wait on a scale, and touch noses. There are many resources online on how to effectively use clicker training, as well as many ideas of tricks that can be taught to cats specifically.
3) Explore Outside on a Harness
The outdoors are full of interesting sights, sounds, and smells; however, they are also full of dangers to cats who roam freely. Taking your cat outside on a harness allows your cat to enjoy the excitement outside while staying safe from things like cars, potential poisons, and wild animals. It is easiest to accustom a cat to wearing a harness when they are introduced to it during kittenhood, but exposure training works for adult cats as well—you just need to be patient.
4) Arts & Crafts – Puzzle Feeders
The American Association of Feline Practitioners released a consensus statement on cat feeding guidelines in 2018, which includes mention of puzzle feeders as useful tools to improve our cats’ welfare: “Using puzzle feeders and hiding kibbles around the home increases activity, provides mental and physical stimulation, and improves weight management without contributing to patient and owner distress.” While there are many commercially available puzzle feeders, people who enjoy DIY projects can have fun constructing challenges for their cats. For inspiration, check out http://foodpuzzlesforcats.com/homemade-puzzles
5) Take an Afternoon Nap
“You said this post was about having FUN!” you might be crying out at your screen. But really, who doesn’t enjoy a nice nap? And not every animal is going to enjoy curling up for a nap in the afternoon sun with you. Cats excel at napping—in fact, they spend over 12 hours a day snoozing (are you jealous yet?). Spending quality downtime with our cats can prove to be helpful for our mental and physical health, as research has shown cat companionship reduces risk of heart disease, and the frequency of purring matches healing frequencies used in human medicine. So go ahead, enjoy that nap with your cat—it will help motivate you to enjoy the other fun ideas on this list