Despite what some people may think, cats do require mental and physical stimulation, and one of the best ways to provide that is with cat enrichment toys. Without proper enrichment activities, cats can become bored, depressed, destructive, and/or overweight.
As cat parents, we know you want to give your cat the most amazing life possible, which is why we’re here to share our favorite indoor cat activities with you. Whether you’re looking to bring the outdoors in, make your own cat DIY toys, or find some new activities for your cat, we’ve got you covered!
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The Importance of Enrichment Through Indoor Cat Activities
Would you be happy if you were stuck inside your house with nothing to do but eat, sleep, and stare out the window? We didn’t think so! Your cat isn’t happy or thriving in that kind of environment either. While cats certainly know how to nap like a pro, they also enjoy and need both mental and physical exercise.
Keeping your cat indoors is known to increase their lifespan and keep them safe from dangers such as predators, cars, poisons, etc. However, a cat kept indoors without proper stimulation can suffer from other issues.
Keeping your cat engaged and entertained with activities such as food puzzles, brain games, interactive toys, leashed outdoor walks, etc. can greatly increase their quality of life and help prevent boredom, depression, destructive behaviors, and more. Studies have even shown that an enriching environment can help treat and manage bladder disorders and other serious health issues.
Dr. Lynn Bahr says, “We know that physical and mental exercise keeps people healthy, and cats are no different. They need lots of different activities to keep them fit and playing is one of the best ways in which to provide exercise, mental and physical stimulation, and it’s fun.”
Also as with humans though, no two cats are exactly alike. They have different personalities, likes, and dislikes. Dr. Bahr stresses this point by saying, “Because all cats are different, they will develop preferences for hunting techniques and activities that bring them the most success. Some cats are more adept at fishing, while others excel at chasing. One of our cats loves to jump and would likely be good at snatching birds or butterflies out of the air if given the opportunity to hunt outdoors. Cats who prefer to chase after toys on the ground might excel at hunting lizards or mice. It’s important to engage your cat in the type of play that best suits their hunting style.”
7 Cat Enrichment Toys That Bring the Outdoors In
Thankfully, there are so many options of ways to bring more enrichment into your cat’s life. Giving your indoor cat the chance to act on their natural instincts and experience the sights and smells of the outside world is easier than it probably sounds too. Check out our list of recommended cat enrichment toys:
1. Sensory Box
The sensory box DIY cat toy idea is easy, doesn’t cost you anything, and will allow your cat to interact with elements of the outdoors from the safety of your home. To create your sensory box, all you need is an old shoebox or cardboard box, dried leaves, pine straw, pebbles, clippings of cat-safe plants, etc. Really any sort of debris you can find in your yard will work great.
You can let your cat interact and play in the box, enjoying the different smells, sounds, and textures. As a fun bonus, you can sprinkle in some of your cat’s favorite treats for them to forage around for amongst all the yard debris.
2. Vertical space
Cats love to climb. They love to be up high. Being up high gives them comfort and security and allows them to survey their surroundings from a secure vantage point. Providing your cat with vertical space in the form of cat trees or cat shelving allows them to experience what it’s like to climb a tree and be up high.
3. Laser toy
Cats love to hunt. As Dr. Bahr mentioned, some cats are ground hunters and prefer the thrill of the chase. A laser toy gives your cat the opportunity to run and chase its “prey,” the same way they’d be able to chase a lizard or bug scampering across the ground.
4. Wand toy
While your cat can chase a wand toy being dragged on the ground, they can also jump through the air after it. Wand toys encourage your cat to jump and fly through the air, leaping after their “prey.” A wand toy is perfect for air-hunting cats.
5. Cat grass
While not exactly a toy, cat grass is an excellent way to literally bring the outside in for your cat. Growing cat grass yourself is easy and only requires a small pot and some seeds. You can even find cat grass growing kits. It grows quite fast and doesn’t require any master gardening skills.
Cat grass is said to help improve your cat’s digestive health, and it also gives them the opportunity to chomp down on some greenery and experience the feel and smell of grass.
6. Food puzzles
Cat food puzzles, or puzzle toys, come in varying difficulty levels and allow your cat to forage and hunt for their food in a way similar to how they would in the wild. They are also a great form of mental exercise. They can help to prevent boredom and can even help an overweight cat to shed some pounds.
Food puzzles can be used as the primary way of feeding your cat their meals, or you can use them as a supplementary enrichment activity.
Cats love to hide and squeeze into small places. Providing your cat with tunnels to run through and even nap in is a great way to give them a taste of the outdoors, as tunnels mimic some of the types of hiding places your cat might find outside. Some cat tunnel toys even come with hanging toys inside, which adds an extra layer of fun.
Finding ways to give your cat more mental and physical exercise is great enrichment for both of you. You get to enjoy the excitement of picking out new activities for your cat to enjoy and figuring out which ones your cat likes best. Not to mention the fun of watching really begin the thrive in their home. You can use the above-mentioned cat enrichment toys and activities as a way to strengthen the bond with your cat as well. It’s a win-win!
Have you discovered your cat’s play and hunting style yet? Which toys have you found engage them the most?
About the Author: Emily is “mom” to seven cats, one dog, and two sugar gliders. She has been writing in the pet industry for over 8 years, with a focus on cats, rescue, and adventuring. When she isn’t writing, playing music, crocheting, or working on her own entrepreneurial pursuits, Emily and her husband enjoy hiking, road-tripping, camping, and canoeing with their three cat adventurers. Follow her on her blog, KittyCatGo.