As a cat parent, you know how important it is to nurture your bond with cat quality time. Sitting quietly and petting your cat while she snoozes in your lap is a peaceful way to spend some time together. But there are many other things you and your cat can do together to nurture and strengthen your bond.
Incorporating healthy activities, such as playtime, training, grooming, exercising, and health checks into your cat’s routine not only nurture your bond, they also help your cat live her healthiest and happiest life.
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7 Healthy Habits to Help Bond with Your Cat
If you don’t already know what your cat likes, spend some time observing her. Which toys does she play with most often? What food and treats does she get most excited about? Where does she like to spend her time? Knowing these things will help you choose what activities you do with your cat to strengthen your bond.
Bonding with cat playtime is one of the best things you can do with your cat. It’s important for your cat to have toys she can play with on her own when you’re away, but interactive playtime with your cat is important for her physical and mental health as well.
When a cat is bored, she may begin to exhibit behavioral issues, such as excessive grooming or licking, eliminating outside the litter box, overeating, and destructive behaviors. Boredom can also lead to anxiety and depression.
Fishing pole or wand toys are great choices for interactive play sessions. Most of these toys come with feathers, bugs, or other small toys attached to the string. Moving the toy around like it’s prey will stimulate your cat’s natural hunting instinct. You may need to try a few different types of wand or fishing pole toys to see which ones your cat likes best. I had a cat, Lita, who especially loved Neko Flies.
At the end of interactive play sessions, don’t just randomly stop playing with your cat. Instead, move your cat’s “prey” (toy on the end of the string) more slowly, and allow her to capture it one final time.
It’s best if you can incorporate interactive playtime into your daily routine. Cats are most active at dawn and dusk, so these are good times of the day to play with your cat. Before meals is another good time for interactive playtime.
You’re more likely to stick with interactive play sessions on a daily basis if you choose a time that’s good for you, so try to come up with a specific time each day you can play with your cat. You could play with your cat in the morning before you leave for work, in the evening after you finish washing dishes, or before her regularly scheduled dinnertime. Try to play with your cat for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice each day.
Hunting games are a fun way you can bond with your cat. What I love about hunting games is that most cats can easily participate in them. My cat, Carmine, has very little vision due to cataracts in both of his eyes. He cannot see a toy flying around him, so fishing pole and wand toys aren’t very fun for him.
However, Carmine absolutely loves playing with his puzzle toy! The puzzle toy doesn’t require him to have good vision to use it. He can use his sense of smell to find the treats and his sense of touch to help him figure out how to move the obstacles so that he can get to his treats.
Puzzle toys are great for feeding your cat her daily allotment of kibble or treats. Carmine always gets excited when I pick up his puzzle toy to put treats in it. After I set his puzzle toy down, I enjoy watching him play with it. I believe it strengthens our bond.
You can also set up little Easter egg hunts for your cat so she can tap into her natural hunting instinct. Alternatively, you could hide a few treats around your home each day before you leave for your cat to find. However you decide to use food to create hunting games for your cat, be sure to subtract the kibble or treats you use from your cat’s daily total calorie allotment.
Dental care may not be on the top of your cat’s list of enjoyable activities to do with you, but it’s essential to maintaining your cat’s health and happiness. Not only should you take your cat to your veterinarian for regular dental checks and cleanings, but you should also start a dental care routine for your cat at home.
If you want to start brushing your cat’s teeth at home between professional veterinary dental cleanings, you will need to slowly acclimate your cat to the idea. There are some great instructional videos on YouTube guiding you through the process of acclimating your cat to teeth brushing. Remember to use toothpaste specifically formulated for cats; toothpaste for humans is not appropriate to use on your cat.
Feeding dental treats to your cat may be more to her liking, and it will definitely strengthen your bond with your cat. The Veterinary Oral Health Council recommends a few different brands of treats for your cat’s oral health.
These treats include:
- Greenies Feline Dental Treats
- Whiskas Dentabites Cat Treats
- Purina Dental Life Daily Oral Care Cat Treats
- Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Crunchy Bites Feline Treats
All of my cats have loved Greenies, but every cat is different. You may have to buy a few different brands of dental treats to figure out what your cat likes.
You can train your cat to do tricks just like you can a dog. You might want to train your cat to give a high five or sit. You can also teach your cat to do practical things like getting into her carrier before you take her to the vet.
Clicker training is a type of operant conditioning that uses positive reinforcement to teach your cat desired behaviors. First, you’ll need to teach your cat to associate the clicking sound the clicker makes with a positive reward, such as a treat. Once your cat has learned to associate a click with a positive reward, you can begin working on teaching her a behavior.
You’ll click and give your cat a reward as she takes steps toward the desired behavior. For instance, you want to teach your cat to give a high five. Initially, you’ll click and reward her for picking up her paw. Once your cat is doing this consistently, stop clicking for this behavior. Don’t click again until your cat lifts her paw a little higher in the air. Keep rewarding your cat for incremental steps until she is giving you high fives for her click and treat.
There are a lot of great instructional videos and tutorials on clicker training out there. Such demonstrations and tutorials will walk you through the process of clicker training more thoroughly.
You should keep clicker training sessions short with your cat. A few minutes of training each day can help combat boredom for your cat, strengthen your bond, and mentally stimulate your cat.
Agility is a great activity to do with your cat because not only does it provide your cat with mental and physical stimulation, it also gets you moving a little, too. You can make your own agility course for your cat in your home using tunnels, A-frames, and cones.
Start small. Your cat will need to learn how to do each obstacle before she can go through an entire agility course. You can use treats or a wand toy to guide your cat through obstacles; use whatever motivates her the most.
To teach your cat to walk through tunnels, start by getting your cat to walk through a paper bag. Cut the bottom and handles off a paper bag, and set it on the floor. Place your cat on one side of the bag, and encourage her to go through it by placing a treat or waving a wand toy on the other side of the bag. Once your cat seems comfortable walking through the paper bag, you can graduate to a small tunnel. As your cat learns to walk through tunnels, you can make the tunnel longer.
Other obstacles you can include in your agility course at home include hoops for your cat to jump through, a line of cones for your cat to weave through, and A-frames. You can easily make a small A-frame by placing two inclined cardboard or sisal cat scratchers back-to-back.
You can also bond with cat grooming time. If your cat enjoys being brushed or combed, she’ll love it when you sit down and spend time grooming her.
I had a cat named Jewel who absolutely loved being brushed. I really miss our quality time together where I’d sit and brush her. Sometimes we’d have conversations while I brushed her. Other times, we’d just enjoy some quiet time.
Neither Carmine nor Tylan particularly enjoy grooming sessions. Carmine is 17 years old and has arthritis. He needs a little help keeping his coat clean these days. I make grooming sessions as positive as I can for him by praising him while I comb him and giving treats after the session is done. Praise and treats are two things that will always help strengthen your bond with your cat.
Physical activity is as important as mental stimulation for your cat. In the wild, cat habits include hunting for food, eating and drinking, and sleeping, much like that of an indoor cat. Indoor cats typically don’t have to spend much, if any, time hunting for their food, though, which means they typically get significantly less exercise than wild cats. Exercise is important to your cat’s overall health and happiness, so it’s vital to find ways to give your cat the physical activity she requires.
The great outdoors gives your cat a lot of opportunities to exercise, but it’s not safe to allow your cat to go outside on her own. One way you can nurture your bond with your cat is to take walks with her outside.
Before you go outside, you’ll need to leash and harness train your cat indoors. Invest in a harness that fits your cat well, one that she cannot easily escape from. Make sure she is completely comfortable with her leash and harness indoors before you take one step outside.
When you are outdoors, keep a close eye on your cat at all times. If she appears to be stressed, she may not be ready to spend time outdoors yet. Go at your cat’s pace. You want her to enjoy her outdoor adventures.
There are several fun places you can go with your cat. A trip to the park on a nice spring day, a Sunday stroll through a peaceful cemetery, or a warm summer evening in your backyard are all great ways to spend time with your cat while giving her exercise and mental stimulation. Just be sure to watch your cat closely in all situations and take her out of any situation where she seems uncomfortable or stressed.
Cats are wonderful companions. As a cat parent, you want to do everything you can to ensure your cat has a healthy and happy life. Grooming sessions, agility, clicker training, exercising, dental care, hunting games, and interactive playtime are all healthy activities you can do with your cat to strengthen and nurture your bond with her.
What do you enjoy doing with your cat? How do you incorporate bonding with your cat into your daily routine?
About the Author: Sierra M. Koester has been writing in the pet industry since 2006, and she has written for several online publications. She shares her home in Colorado with her two cats – Carmine and Tylan. In her free time, Sierra enjoys reading, penpalling, and spending time with friends.