For cats, Easter egg hunts are a great way to stimulate their natural hunting instincts and provide environmental enrichment. In the wild, cats have to hunt for their food. Hunting for their prey gives cats both the physical and mental stimulation they need. However, the great outdoors is dangerous for cats.
While indoor cats live longer, they can develop anxiety or depression because they are bored. Cats living indoors often lack enough environmental enrichment to keep their bodies and brains active. Bored, anxious, or depressed cats may begin engaging in destructive or undesirable behaviors to cope with the lack of stimulation in their environment. Games for cats, such as Easter egg hunts, are a great way to give your cat the physical and mental stimulation she needs.
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The Benefits of Cat Hunting
In the wild, cats have to hunt for their food. A cat in the wild spends a substantial amount of time hunting for her food each day. Cats mostly eat small mammals, so a cat usually hunts and kills multiple times each day to help fulfill her nutritional and energy needs.
Indoor cats don’t have to hunt for their food. Their loving humans provide them with canned and dry food in dishes. However, indoor cats possess the same hunting instincts as cats in the wild.
Indoor cats who don’t need to spend a substantial portion of their days hunting can become bored, anxious, or depressed. Some of these cats may begin to engage in destructive or unwanted behaviors to cope, such as eliminating outside the litter box, grooming themselves excessively, vocalizing excessively, scratching at furniture and carpets, engaging in self-mutilating behavior, chewing on inappropriate items, overeating, and aggression.
Additionally, cats who do not have to work for their food often do not get enough exercise, which can result in unhealthy weight gain. In fact, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention asserts that 59.5% of cats in the United States were overweight or obese in 2018. Overweight cats are at higher risk for developing certain health conditions, such as diabetes, feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), and osteoarthritis.
Cats need a way to use their natural hunting instincts in their indoor environments. Organizing your cats Easter egg hunts will provide good ways for cats to use their hunting instincts and combat boredom, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Hunting games offer positive cat enrichment, including both physical and mental benefits for your cat. First, a cat who has positive experiences in her environment typically has more confidence. Confident cats are less likely to display unwanted behaviors, such as spraying or scratching on inappropriate things.
Second, cat hunting games release dopamine in their brain, which results in a cat feeling eager anticipation. This is referred to as the Seeking Circuit. You can relate to the eager anticipation a cat feels when she’s hunting by remembering how you felt as a child on Christmas morning about to open gifts. When a cat is experiencing eager anticipation, she is less likely to feel bored, anxious, or depressed. When cats are not bored, anxious, or depressed, they are less likely to engage in undesirable or destructive behavior.
Third, hunting games make a cat work for her food or treats. A cat who must search for her food or treats is more physically active, which reduces the chance she will become overweight. If your cat is already overweight, having her work for food or treats may help her lose weight. When a cat maintains a healthy weight, her risk for developing certain health problems decreases.
How to Set Up a Cat Easter Egg Hunt
When my blue lynx-point Siamese, Lita, was alive and struggling with her weight, our vet suggested I divide her daily allotment of kibble into several bowls and place them throughout the apartment. This way, Lita had to move from one place to another to eat, giving her a little exercise. For cats, Easter egg hunts are another great way to get your cat to move around more. What’s great about an Easter egg hunt is that it makes a fun cat hunting game at any time of the year, not only at Easter.
For the Easter egg hunt, you’ll need:
- Plastic Easter eggs
- High-value treats or cat food
You can find plastic eggs at many stores in the weeks before Easter. If you want to purchase plastic eggs when they aren’t in season, you can find them on Amazon.
Put high-value treats into the eggs. Easter eggs for cats could contain special treats like tuna, sardines, cooked chicken, a little lunchmeat, or cat treats or kibble. It’s best to use treats or food that has a strong smell to help your cat find the eggs. Before you hide the eggs, rub the treat or food item on the outside of the egg to give it extra scent.
Remember to count the calories from the treats or food you put in the eggs and subtract it from your cat’s daily allotted calories.
Put your cat in a separate room, such as a bedroom or bathroom with the door shut so she doesn’t see where you are hiding her eggs. Count the eggs before you hide them. Hide your cat’s eggs in spots that she can easily access. Make sure she can see the egg from certain angles. You might hide eggs peeking out from under or behind the couch, in her bed, underneath the coffee table, or in the corners of the couch cushions.
Once you’ve hidden all the eggs, bring your cat back into the room. If she isn’t quite sure what to do, help her find her first egg. As she finds each egg, praise her and open the egg to reveal her treat. When she’s done hunting, count the eggs she’s found to ensure she’s found them all. You don’t want a forgotten snack to go bad and begin stinking up the house.
For cats, Easter egg hunts are fun hunting games that allow them to use their natural instincts. This type of cat enrichment helps keep your cat’s mind busy, which can help prevent your cat from becoming bored, anxious, or depressed. The exercise cats get with hunting games can help them reach and maintain a healthy weight. Plan Easter egg hunts throughout the year to help keep your cat healthy and happy.
Have you set up hunting games for your cat? How did your cat respond to them?
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.