Got yourself a flabby tabby? Is your feeding routine the same every day – just a free for all, help yourself, all you can eat until you fill the bowl again type situation? I know why you do it….believe me, I do. It’s because cat’s are low maintenance companions, right? Just fill the bowl, refresh the water and it’s off to work you go, go, go! Sounds easy enough, right? This is why you got a cat, because they require so much less than dogs. I get that. But then, why is kitty extra vocal in the early morning hours (like around 4 AM), running aimless laps around the apartment at night or suddenly misfiring his play-drive on his best friend, ending in a fur flying? Better yet, why is kitty gaining so much weight? Could it be that just putting food in the same open bowl every day with no real challenge or activity could be slowly chipping away at the moral fiber of your cat? His very will to live has transformed into accepted boredom, as his meals are now expected and reliable disappointments. Worse yet, some cats share this disappointment with a friend. It’s more like an internal disappointment, though. That’s why it never occurs to us until the shit hits the fan in our own lives – AKA lack of sleep, breaking up cats fights and being bitten with “No provocation”. What if the provocation was boredom? I just blew your mind.
Don’t feel guilty. It’s not your fault. As resource manipulators and protectors, cats learn to adjust to the accommodations we give them, even if it is against their innate best interests. Cats adjust to convenience easily, this is for sure, but when they are given he option to work for their food, they quickly realize a whole new appreciation for “The hunt”. You have a trained killer or four (let’s be true to this audience) in your house. You can’t expect them to sleep in everyday when their every thought is on simulated murder. Give them what they want…just don’t give it away for free. Sleep is the reward for a day filled with activities only a human can provide. Your cat isn’t lazy. He just accepts life as it is…and right now it’s boring. You can fix this. Only YOU can fix this.
Now, don’t be scared. I’m not proposing that you simulate the hunt literally. No need to release mice or beetles in your house. Just opt for a better, more challenging presentation. Hopefully, one that just adds a little time and thought to the process. You can start with something simple like a bowl that has built-in obstacles or store bought foraging toys- There are so many types on the market! Heck, throw some food in a paper bag or box and watch your cat go ape shit trying to get it out. Make it a challenge and if kitty is hungry enough, the hunt begins! Just changing it up a bit makes it more appealing. Ever wonder why cats make a beeline for a new box? That’s because It’s NEW (Not to mention similiar to the space ships that cats arrived in many moons ago). Cats can be sensitive to change…but where boxes and toys are concerned…sometimes…. change IS good.
Some of my clients have made DIY puzzle feeders out of anything from a soda bottle to a plastic Silly Putty egg. Sometimes, smaller, lighter weight toys are more desirable over clunky ones. Test your cats preferences each day with a new and creative food foraging routine. If your cat is not stoked on food, try a high value treat that is only given on special occasions. The more desirable the treat or food, the more motivation there will be to hunt for it.
The bottom line is this. You can do better. We can all do better. Playing with your cat is a patience game. Most of us (humans) lose interest in the hunt, long before our cats do. It’s not that they are bored with the toys you purchased. It might just be the way they are played with. It’s up to you to put aside the time to add enrichment to your cat’s daily routine. Your cats are simply not that inventive. From interactive play (be the toy!) that is more like the way a mouse, bug or bird moves and less like the way your hand does – to a hassle FULL not “free” session of food foraging Your cat needs challenging meals, not comfort food. Try experimenting with some of these simple additions and watch all those other complaints slowly melt away.