Does Your Senior Cat Really Want to Live with a Kitten?

Keeping it Real: The Art of Interactive Cat Play

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 Written by Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi Cat guardians are always telling me that their cats show no interest in playing, yet their play/prey drives are misfiring like an antique musket. They tell me that their cats get bored easily and just sit there, staring blankly at the toy moving in front of them without budging an inch, but at night time they stalk ankles like a ninja. Is your cat truly bored? Maybe it’s the way that you’re playing that has them waiting for something better to happen.  Let’s discuss.

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As a consultant that visits your home, I see all the lonesome toys that you choose for your cat. I see the baskets (aka toy graveyards) filled with discarded and skinned mice of all sizes, clunky automatic toys, broken wands, wet and shriveled feathers, laser pointers, cat dancers, catnip socks, rainbow fleece shoelace things that are disintegrated from cat saliva and that homemade contraption that’s hanging by a thread and falling apart, but it’s the only thing your cat truly loves anymore. We can do better. Let’s troubleshoot some of the potential problems.JippyJooDon’t take the art of play for granted. It’s not always easy to keep your cat’s eyes on the prize. Let me ask you some crucial questions about how you get down with the business of cat play:

  • Are you sitting in a chair, waving the toy around in a two-foot radius?
  • Are you moving the toy back and forth, so quickly that your cat just watches it for a few minutes, get’s confused and then gives up?
  • Are you… yes, YOU, petering out before your cat does?
  • And finally… Are you being the toy? That’s right, are you making the toy move like the actual creature that you are simulating?

Here are five key pointers on how to BE THE TOY! 1234628_10202021109629690_123156539_n Pick the Right One. Cats like to chase small, lightweight toys that are easy to carry in their mouths. I find that pretty much every cat that I meet likes Neko Flies because they are realistic looking and if moved correctly, spark that prey drive almost instantly. I also like DA BIRD because it flies and sounds like a real bird. Your cat might like less noise and more skittering. Finding the right fit for your cat’s play style takes some awareness of what makes those eyes light up. Pay attention. Bored Don’t Be a Couch Potato If you’re sitting down, you are limiting the playing field. Get up and move that toy around the room like a mouse, bug or bird would. Cats want prey to run away from them, not run to them. You are failing at making it seem realistic if YOU are too lazy to get up. Take some time and be the toy. Forget what happened at work today and take 15 minutes to clear your head and be a bug instead.

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Keep Your Distance Don’t use short wand toys with a toy on the end that have you leaning over and lurching around the room. Your cats will likely just advance right up your arm and nail you. Choose a toy with a long wand and a long string, so that your cat only concentrates on the toy, not you. Being the toy means separating your physical self from the action. Get your mind inside the toy instead. cat-owner-24 Use the environment Keep prey targets moving along walls, around corners and through the cracks and crevices. Cats like challenges. You’ll notice once something is harder to catch, a cat seems to want to catch it even more. Weave in and out of table legs and between couch cushions. Make it worth it. target sighted“Now You See Me. Now You Don’t” Cats LOVE it when a toy suddenly disappears. Try this experiment. Move your prey target to a doorway and pause at the doorsill. Now make it turn the corner out of view. That one moment where it disappears is golden. You’ll notice your cat take chase once the toy is “getting away”. You can try this under the rug or in a bag or basically anywhere a toy can crawl under. Never make a toy run to the cat. That’s just ridiculous. Watch for the wiggle. The wiggle is worth the wait.

If you can just concentrate on the toy and be in the moment, you’ll find your thoughts jumping into the mind of the creature that you are simulating. You’ll find that your worries drop away. Try this for fifteen minutes a day. Meditate on mouse movements. You owe this quiet time to yourself and your cat will be very grateful for the hunt.

WILL WORK FOR FOOD

Written by:

Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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