I have three cats who are different ages, and even though they get along and play with each other most of the time, there are times when I can tell that one of them is bored and can’t find anyone to play with.
At times like that, you need to make sure that there are things for them to do so that they don’t get too bored, because that can lead to stress and health problems.
Table of Contents
- What kind of toys are best for bored indoor cats?
- Why is it bad for indoor cats to be bored?
- Cat toys with movement
- Catnip cat toys
- Cat toys to hide in
- Cat toys for scratching and kicking
What kind of toys are best for bored indoor cats?
The best toys for indoor cats prevent boredom by giving the cat something to interact with or practice hunting skills on. These can include small toys that mimic the shape of animals like birds or lizards, toys that move that the cat can chase and play with, and toys and equipment that allows the cat to practice stalking and pouncing on prey. Having a variety of toys and materials that the cat can interact with will allow you to rotate toys in and out of circulation to avoid having the cat become too accustomed to them.
Many small businesses sell handmade cat toys, so there are a lot to try and have on hand for the times when you need something interesting to give to your cat.
I’ve had cats for my entire life, and as any cat owner will tell you, they get tired of things very quickly.
They also tend to want to play with the box that something came in instead of the expensive toys that were in the box.
This can be really frustrating, so most cat owners buy cat toys and cross their fingers, just hoping that the cat won’t turn its nose up at it.
Another problem with having indoor cats is that they don’t get the same level of activity that outdoor cats do, so they tend to gain weight.
A lot of cat toys involve food, but that’s not always the best idea if you have a pudgy cat, or one who is on a special diet.
One of my cats has thyroid problems and is underweight, one has bladder problems so he has to be on a special diet, and one is just fat.
I try to avoid cat toys that involve treats, but I do buy specialty treats for the skinny one! I figure that he can afford the calories.
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Why is it bad for indoor cats to be bored?
Indoor cats who get bored can develop aggression toward other pets or people in the home. They can also end up being stressed if they don’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation. Stress can cause health problems that can lead to long-term health issues, so giving the cat enough stimulation can keep them healthy as well as happy.
One of my cats developed bladder crystals as a result of being stressed out, and that has required multiple surgeries and extended emergency vet visits.
This is not fun, and not cheap, either. I’m always conscious of how I can keep him from getting stressed because I’m sure that will lead to more vet bills!
The youngest of the three is overweight, and because he’s the youngest he’s the most energetic. He’s always trying to pounce on the older cats, and then they get irritated with him and he ends up rejected and bored.
Since he doesn’t have anyone to play with he doesn’t get enough exercise, and that will end up badly in the long run.
The main problem that I have with my cats is that my role in their eyes is to be the feeder. I’m not the player, that’s my husband’s job.
Cats are strange and will decide that your job is to do one thing, and they don’t respect you in other roles! So when I try to play with them they sit and stare at me like they’re confused by what I’m doing.
This combination of factors adds up to a situation where I basically need toys that give them something they can play with on their own, because they won’t play with me.
The things that I set up for them tend to be things that will keep their interest, like cat trees that let them look out the window and do some climbing.
I also try out new things to see if they like them, and sometimes it’s a hit and sometimes it’s a miss.
Cat toys with movement
There are a lot of toys that have batteries to make them move in some way. I’ve tried a few and the ones that my cats played with more than once numbered zero.
They’re either terrified of them or suspicious of them, so those are toys that don’t work well for my cats.
The best type of toys with movement that I’ve tried out are the ones that have a ball enclosed in a tunnel or a tube, and the cat has to whack the ball to make it move on a track.
They tend to like those because they’re a challenge, and having to try to figure out how to get the ball out keeps them busy mentally (my cats can do it if they try hard enough.)
This is really weird, but an interesting thing that I’ve found that my cats LOVE is a set of vintage styrofoam ornaments that have a string attached to them.
They’re covered with a smooth paper that won’t get shredded, and the fact that there’s a cord attached makes the ball roll in an off-balanced way that’s unpredictable.
My cats LOVE chasing these things because of the unpredictable way that they move.
I couldn’t find any that were exactly the same on Etsy, but I think that the disco ball type of plastic ornaments would work the same way.
The little knob on the top would keep them from rolling in a straight line, and you could either tie a tail on it or not, depending whether your cats like that kind of thing. (Click here to see the ornaments) Just make sure that the ones that you get are plastic and not breakable so that your cats can knock them around all they want!
Catnip cat toys
Catnip cat toys are the basic go-to that most cat owners pick up at the store on impulse. I’ve found that some are better than others, and that my cats tend to lose interest in them pretty quickly. HOWEVER, I found one style recently that they really love, and they’ll play with them on their own for a long time.
The ones that I found are the little kitty swab toys from Oddball Cat Toys, whose owner is a member of the Artisan Shopping Directory.
I got two styles of these, and my cats seem to prefer the thinner ones, but they will try to steal both styles out of the bag that I keep them in.
There must be catnip in them somewhere, because they definitely attract a lot of attention (or cattention?)
All of my cats seem to like things that look like lizard tails or snakes, and they always prefer the stick end of wand toys.
So I think they like these because it’s a stick shape and there’s catnip involved. These are also very affordable, so you can get a bunch of them for when the cats steal them and hide them somewhere.
Cat toys to hide in
Things that cats can hide in might not be considered to be cat toys by some people, but I categorize them that way because of the attacking potential.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that if one cat is in the hiding item, another cat will try to pounce on him.
This kind of thing also allows the cat to practice pouncing and gives them a quiet place to get away from each other.
I bought a felted cat cave on Etsy, thinking that it would be a really cute cat bed, but as soon as one cat goes into it there’s another one waiting to crush him by sitting on it, so the one who’s inside gets trapped.
I gave up on those for my cats because of that, but I think that a single-cat household would be a good fit for them.
Or at least a household that doesn’t have a bunch of pouncers. I didn’t need something that was going to stress my cats out, so now they just use it as a cat bed that sits flat on the floor and they don’t go inside of it.
My cats enjoy sitting in boxes, too, so that’s definitely an affordable option, but it isn’t great for your home decor.
When I was shopping for the kitty swab toys I saw a cute tent by Oddball Cat Toys that I thought would be better than a box as far as a place to hide.
I got it in a green leaf fabric and set it up to see what would happen. I also chose the cat bed option that went with it, and that little bed is SO SOFT. It’s perfect for the skinniest old cat since he’s so bony.
As it turns out, I set it up and the younger two cats went inside and tried to crush each other in it, but then the oldest cat came in and claimed it for himself.
It really is a good, soft bed for a bony old cat, and we find him in it in the morning, so he sleeps in there pretty much every night.
The other two have learned that this is his territory and they don’t go into the tent anymore!
Cat toys for scratching and kicking
The last kind of toy that my cats like are the things that are meant to scratch or kick. I have a bunch of cat trees and scratching posts in different parts of my house, but the most useful one is the cat ramp that I got last year.
There are many versions of cat ramps on Etsy, but the one that I got is a double-duty scratching post with a lining on the bed of the ramp that’s designed to be scratched.
The old and bony cat uses the ramp to get up onto the couch since he can’t jump as well as he used to, and he’ll stop and scratch the ramp on the way up.
The other two will just use it as a scratching post, so it gives them something to work on. This gives them something to do and lets them work off some energy.
The two younger cats also use the space under the ramp as a staging area for sneak attacks on each other, which is another reason why I categorize it as a toy.
Other toys that encourage scratching and kicking are good to give the cat a little workout and release some pent-up energy.
This will help the cat to de-stress, and maybe they won’t take it out on their siblings. That’s the hope, anyway.
Oddball Cat Toys makes kicker toys that are long enough for cats to hold onto and kick with their back legs, which will give them a more energetic workout than just scratching will. And they have catnip inside of them so the cat will want to manhandle them!
It’s important to try to keep indoor cats engaged with different activities so that they stay mentally and physically active.
Finding the right toys can be a lot of trial and error, but identifying what kind of equipment and cat accessories your cats prefer, and what their physical needs are, will help you to choose the ones that your cats enjoy.
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