Have you noticed that sound lately? It’s like our cats’ purr button has been constantly switched on for the last year or so thanks to us being home more often. Our cats may not understand why we turned the dining room table into a WFH space, but they do know it means extra attention and cuddles. It’s important to spend time with your feline friend no matter what is going on in the world at large. That quality time—whether it’s playtime or snuggle time—strengthens the human-animal bond and provides them with much needed enrichment.
Looking for something new to do with your four-legged companion this weekend? Here are five fun things to do with your cat that will ensure their purr button stays on!
Go on a Walk Together
Yep, seriously. Some cats love to go for walks (others don’t and that’s OK too.)
“The benefits of going for a walk with your cat includes mental, emotional and physical stimulation and exercise that they wouldn't get otherwise, especially if they are indoor cats,” says Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM.
However, it’s important to put safety first, and that means investing in a well-fitting cat harness, like the PetSafe Come With Me Kitty Harness & Bungee Cat Leash. (No, don't use the one for your dogs!)
“The main safety concern is making sure that your cat is wearing a properly fitted harness that they can't slip out of, and keeping appropriate distance between your cat and anybody who is walking their dog,” Dr. Wooten explains. “Appropriate distance means far enough that there is no physical contact between the animals, far enough so that your cat feels comfortable and doesn't display signs of fear.”
Teach Your Cat to Play Fetch
Why should Fido have all the fun? Many cats love the challenge of a rousing game of fetch. (As with going on walks, for some cats, fetch really isn’t their thing, and that's OK.) If you’ve ever wondered if your cat would enjoy playing fetch, now is the time to try it out!
Follow this quick overview on how to teach a cat to fetch, courtesy of cat trainer Matthew Levien:
- First, get your cat to target the toy you’ll be throwing. You’ll want work with a toy that fits in their mouth, like a Frisco Plush Mouse cat toy, a training clicker and treat they really love. Hold the toy in front of your cat and click and reward with a treat whenever they sniff or touch it with their nose.
- Next, you’ll click and reward Kitty for grabbing the toy with their mouth while the toy is in your hand.
- After they’ve mastered that, have them grab the toy while it’s on the floor. Be sure to give plenty of rewards!
- Lastly, you’ll place the toy out farther away on the floor until you can toss it and they’ll bring toy back to you.
For some cats, playing fetch comes rather naturally, says cat behaviorist Rita Reimers. Others might need more training. “I take notice early on, when they are kittens, of the ones who instinctively return the ball or toy when it’s thrown,” she says.
Build a Cardboard Box Maze
Everyone knows cats and boxes go hand in paw. But why do cats likes boxes so much?
“Cats love small, secure spaces where they can hide, and boxes are the perfect hiding spot,” Reimers says. “In nature, cats will seek these spaces for a few reasons: warmth, security, to stay hidden from predators, or just as a quiet place to nap.”
So, why not take one of their favorite things—boxes—and turn it into something bigger and better, like a box maze? Simply take several cardboard boxes you have saved up (like your Chewy boxes!), open up the tops and bottoms, lay the boxes on their sides with the openings facing each other and tape them together. Voila, you’ve got yourself a tunnel maze.
Another option is to keep the tops of the boxes open, cut cat-sized holes into the sides and then position the boxes next to each other so that the holes line up. This way, your cat can jump in and out of the maze as they please. That’s how super cat dad Chris Poole made a maze—of 50 boxes!—for his celebricats, Cole and Marmalade. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Plant an Indoor Cat Garden
Planting a balcony or indoor cat garden can benefit you and your kitty, because plants bring smiles and cat grass brings purrs.
It’s hard to know for sure why cats like to eat plants since they can’t tell us, but Dr. Wooten suggests, “Even though they are carnivores, they may eat plants for fiber or additional nutrients. It could also be because they are bored—we can't read cat's minds yet!”
But—and this is a big BUT—be aware that some plants are toxic to cats. If your cat likes to eat plants, Dr. Wooten says it is important to keep plants that are non-toxic in your home. Lilies, for example, are extremely toxic to cats, while spider plants and wheatgrass are safe for cats to nibble on. Read Chewy’s complete guide on plants that are poisonous to cats.
If you don’t want your cat digging up your indoor cat garden and knocking over plants (I learned from experience!), try to keep plants out of reach or in a room where your cat won’t secretly attack at four in the morning.
Make a Special Treat Together
We’re all channeling our inner Ina Garten by baking up a storm while we’re sheltered in place. If you’ve got the urge to bake, whip up some homemade cat treats so your kitty companion can enjoy something special, too. These Crazy for Cranberry Cookies for Cats are purrfect for spring and can be made in the shape of adorable flowers in silicone molds.
Other ingredients to try? “Cats love bits of cooked chicken, turkey and salmon, and canned tuna,” Dr. Wooten says. “They also like canned pumpkin, which is an excellent prebiotic and fiber source, and some cats like cooked oatmeal, and small bits of cheese, apples, peas [and] carrots.”
Although your cat will try everything in their power to convince you their diet should be nothing but treats, Dr. Wooten explains, “A good rule of thumb is to keep the percentage of treats in a cat's diet to 10 percent or less.”
Luckily, cats aren’t mathematicians or they may protest this treat to food ratio.
The more time we spend sheltering in place, the more time we get to spend with our pets. Why not use it to show them how much they are loved?