Lately, I’ve seen more aggression issues crop up this winter while doing cat consults. I call it kitty cabin fever. When cats are cooped up during the cold weather months without even the window open, boredom can set in. In households with one cat, it can manifest as destructive behavior. Hello shredded toilet paper. Knocked over knick knacks. In multiple cat homes, rough play can turn into bullying or play aggression. Here’s how to avoid kitty cabin fever.
If you have indoor/outdoor cats, I encourage short, supervised walks with a leash and harness. If you allow your cat outdoors unsupervised, restrict the time on very cold days to prevent frostbite.
Odin (pictured below on a foggy winter day) is extremely athletic and goes bananas without daily outdoor exercise. We enjoy improvised agility training on various logs on our property. His favorite command to perform is “jump”. Nothing makes him happier. For indoor cats, bring some of the outdoors in. A piece of bark or fresh twigs can be better than catnip for a scent-starved cat.
On warmer days, open up the windows and allow some fresh air in. Make sure you have plenty places for cats perch near windows where they can a view and enjoy window whiffies. A view of a bird birder would be bonus. Even a mobile or whirligig will intrigue. We had a recent thaw, melting the snow revealing moist, naturally scented goodness. Cats with their highly developed sense of smell experience much of their world by scent.
Odin expertly navigated the balance beam. Needless to say, he rarely needs to use a scratching post but indoor cat do. If you can, provide a small and a tall one allow choice of horizontal or vertical scratching.
Indoors cats need stimulation and exercise. Yes, they can play with toys alone but nothing beats inter-active play with their guardian ideally twice a day for at least 10-15 minutes. If during a play session, one cat begins to bully the other, re-direct them by throwing a toy or startling them with sound like shaking a tin can with coins. When the bully is behaving, they can receive a reward or treat.
If you’re lazy you can sit on the couch watching TV and play with a laser-light or other games like crumple newspaper into balls and toss them. Play with an iPad but resist texting and speaking on the phone. We fool no adult, child or pet when we’re distracted by digital devices. Mix it up with different kinds of toys. Long fishing pole toys one day, ping-pong balls in an empty bathtub the next. Be creative! Happy cat = Happy life.
- Grooming can be a stimulating and fun way to bond. Find a comb or brush your cat enjoys. At our house every evening just before I brush my teeth, I brush all the cats. Cats love the ritual of same place, same time. Two minutes of brushing will do.
- Hide toys and treats to find in boxes and paper bags.
- Keep some toys out and hide the others for a scavenger hunt.
- Keep toys with dangerous ribbons or feathers locked up after playtime.
- There are novel toy ideas in the kitchen made of wood, metal or plastic.
- Dangle twine from a spatula, stack different sized of plastic bowl or bins
- Fill a large salad bowl with water and place a rubber ducky inside.
- Think out of the box. Have fun!
This is Odin’s “Aw, mom, do I have to go inside now” face. I’ve just told him to jump down. A perfect landing and it’s time to go in.