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Entertaining a Cat.

Cat sitting in a cardboard box

Henry is a cow cat, a black and white, non-tuxedo cat, a rescue, maybe about nine years old. Cow cats are notoriously close to their humans, I’m told (“needy” is a word I hear a lot), and Henry is ultra affectionate. He’s also playful and (to me) surprisingly smart.

I came home from a meeting today to find that he had lined up all of his bigger toys: three scratching blocks of different varieties, Lambie (big stuffed animal), Chickie (ditto), Mousie (you get the drift), tennis ball, two organic wool clothes dryer balls that he filched from a laundry basket one day when I wasn’t looking, two sparkly balls, three balls with little noisemakers inside (a gift from a dear but clueless friend), a medium Amazon box, part of a feather, and his aluminum foil ball. At the end was his newest store-bought toy: a circle toy that has a ball in it that he can touch and reach and knock around the circle but never get the ball out.

As I massaged my fingers from their clenched position (20 miles on icy highway at Interstate speeds, driving an SUV in a high wind blowing across stubble fields), he began to play. He’d made himself an obstacle course to leap around, climb over, stalk from behind, run around, and generally tease himself with before getting to the highly-desired circle toy that was his reward for his basic-training-style efforts.

Initially I felt guilty for not recognizing that he needs more mental stimulus, then proud of his brainpower, and then curious. How do we keep an indoor cat active and engaged, especially in a small apartment when bird feeders are forbidden and funds are limited?

Some experts suggest getting a second or even third and fourth cat. After the initial settling of the pecking order, they often will play, hunt, and sleep together.

Interactive time with the human is also recommended. Most cats love to “help” change the sheets on the bed. Why not take an extra five minutes and give them a bedmouse to stalk and pounce on? Or let them get under the sheet and then pat that furry little bottom or tummy?

If your cat responds to catnip and you don’t object to its use, try keeping the nip in a lidded container along with some of the small toys. The toys will pick up the scent of the nip and become highly valued play objects for the remainder of their probably-limited life.

Some cats enjoy watching cat videos on TV or computer, or will watch a screen saver endlessly. Some enjoy listening to bird song on YouTube, or the sound of a cat purring. When you pause at the keyboard, find a website for your cat, who is probably sitting between you and the monitor anyway.

If you have hardwood or tile floors, give the cat a couple of chopsticks to bat around, or an empty plastic water bottle, a rolled up sock (with a little catnip on the inside?).

Or, for the ultimate experience: tissue paper, and for exceptionally good kitties, tissue paper in a box. Oh joy! Tissue paper in a box with a treat or favorite toy hidden in the folds. Eureka!

What have you come up with to amuse your furry little Einstein?

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