Coping with a bored cat – and other common feline conundrums

imagesSince housebound cats do not have the challenges of finding food and seeking shelter, they are looking for something else to do. It is important to involve your pet in some sort of daily physical activity. Several factors make this a challenge.

You’ve probably heard the saying: dogs have owners; cats have staff. While usually said in jest, the expression illustrates a common view about these animals. Dogs are seen as friendly, trainable and loyal. Cats are perceived as independent, self-centred and demanding. Furthermore many believe that cats aren’t as smart as dogs since it is difficult to train a cat to obey a simple command, let alone perform a trick.

However, much of the difference stems from the fact that dogs like to please their owners and are very food motivated. Cats generally do things that are in their best interests and because they are fussy are difficult to bribe with food.

Masters of manipulation

Like dogs and people, cats possess short-term and long-term memories. In most cases you have to show a cat its litter box only once or if you move the food bowl the cat remembers where to head for the next feeding. Cats will also recollect a place even if it’s been years since they’ve been there.

By being extremely observant of the happenings around them and studying their environment, cats become successful predators and elusive prey. A domestic cat, however, can use these attributes to learn how to open drawers, cabinets, and even fridge doors. They learn our habits and schedules and know when something has changed. They also learn how to get our attention and are masters at manipulating us.

Studies have shown that domestic cats are far more vocal that wild cats. This would suggest that our little kitties have learned that insistent meowing usually gets results. Some cats sit by the door and meow relentlessly to be let outside; some cats meow repeatedly at dawn to let the owners know it’s time to get up. They quickly learn that by doing this they will get their way.

To outwit your cat you must ignore these demanding howls. Don’t make eye contact and don’t scold the animal since any reaction will be perceived as success and the cat will continue until the result sought after is achieved. If you have already reacted to these insistent demands it becomes more difficult but not impossible to convince the cat that you are oblivious to his whining.

Meeting their needs is a challenge

Sometimes, however, cats walk around the house evoking this long persistent meowing as a sign of boredom or frustration. Many owners think that the cat is hungry and so put out more food. Cats may eat the food but often do so out of boredom and as a result gain unnecessary weight.

Since housebound cats, unlike feral cats, do not have the challenges of finding food and seeking shelter, they look for something to do. It is important to involve your pet cat in some sort of daily physical activity. There are several factors that make this a challenge. First, cats have short bursts of energy. They do not engage in long periods of strenuous exercise. Secondly, cats are active when they want to be; no amount of coaxing will make a cat playful if he is really not in the mood. Thirdly, for cats play is largely learning and once a toy is no longer a challenge or novelty cats usually lose interest.

Most of the activities of indoor cats mimic stalking, chasing, hunting prey or running away and hiding from possible danger. One reason kittens run, jump, chase and pounce so readily is that these are new learning experiences. As cats age, it becomes increasingly difficult to engage them in activity. However, most cat toys are fairly inexpensive and something as simple as a ping-pong ball or sponge golf ball can be interesting for a while. Homemade toys such as twist-ties, bottle caps or a piece of string can also elicit interest.

Give your cat a tree

Many cat owners bemoan the fact that they buy toys that their cat ignores. Try to figure out the types of toys your cat seems to be drawn to and if the cat doesn’t seem interested at first, leave it around. Sometimes months later the cat will suddenly find it appealing. Frequently introduce new playthings to pique the cat’s curiosity. A cat tree of at least five feet is usually a worthwhile investment since it encourages running and jumping.

Studies have shown that in households where a cat and dog coexist harmoniously, the cat remains playful, usually being the instigator of friendly romps. Also if two kittens have been raised together they usually play together most of their lives. However, most cats are the only household pet and, therefore, the owner must try to instill interactive playing.

Of course not all sounds that a cat makes are meant to annoy us. The pleasant, high-pitched mew sound is used to greet or to ask politely for some petting. Then there’s the contented purring sound that makes everything else just fine.

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