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Aside from goldfish, cats have a reputation for being the “set it and forget it” kind of housepet. Going away for a weekend? Leave a bowl of dry food — they won’t even notice you’re gone! With all of the flies, moths and other insects lurking around, they don’t need active play. And since sleeping on top of the dryer seems to be so comfy, why invest in bedding? Hey, cats fall asleep standing up, right?
The thing is, cats need more attention than that. Despite their “I couldn’t care if you exist” demeanor, letting cats “just be” can lead to unhappy cats and unwanted bad behavior. Many cat owners are starting to catch on that you need to sometimes treat your cat like a dog. What does this mean? Read on to find out!
Consider a Cat Sitter or “Cat Walker”
It’s easy and inexpensive to leave your cat with a bowlful of water and food while you take a weekend getaway. That’s the great thing about having cats — you don’t have to take them out! However, cats are hunters. Leaving a bowlful of food goes against their natural instinct to earn their food by hunting. Or in their case, play.
Consider hiring a sitter to come to your house for an hour or two at least one day you’re away. This is a good way you can treat your cat like your dog a little bit more. This way, that person can engage in active play with your cat before feeding them food from a can. While they’re there, they can also clean out the litter box, hang out with your cat or cats and just generally provide them with human company. Work long hours? These same rules apply to a “cat walker.” Sure, Fluffy may not walk on a leash (although some cats do walk on a leash!), but having a human come and check in on your cat and play with them during those long daylight hours will make your cat very happy.
We get it — some cats hate humans other than the ones they live with, so maybe your cat doesn’t need a stranger checking in on him or her. But you may find introducing a new person broadens your cat’s capacity for socialization, meaning you can be away for longer guilt-free if your cat forms an attachment to their new carer.
Engage in Active Play Every Day
We know from nature documentaries that cats are the finest hunters in the animal kingdom. Therefore, in order for them to feel “at home” they need to do their job, which is to stalk and attack prey. It doesn’t really matter the prey — a shoelace, a random beam of light, a rubber band — if it intrigues your cat, they will track and attack!
Much like how dog owners will play a round of fetch after work, give your cat at least 20 minutes of active play a day. Dangle a feather in front of their face, invest in a laser pointer or just take the shoelace out of your shoe. Your cat will feel useful, loved and at peace when they have something to pounce on.
Outfit Your Home for Your Cat
Have you ever been in a dog lover’s home? Sometimes it looks like the entire house was built for the dog. There’s a dog bed in every room, a crateful of assorted toys and blankets of varying degrees of softness. Dogs are often spoiled… in the best way!
We know cat lovers like this too — we’ve seen intricate cat trees and beautifully designed “catios” built especially for the adored furry feline. We’re saying that if you don’t have furniture or other home products designed with cats in mind, consider it, because your actual furniture might be suffering as a result. If you’re presently sitting on a couch that has claw marks on it, you know what we’re talking about here!
Cat furniture has come a long way in the last few years, so it’s possible to get something sleek and modern-looking that actually fits tastefully into your home. Cats love to get up high so they can survey all that’s beneath them (everybody and everything). They also love hammocks, some can’t deal without a scratching post and if you have a window that can accommodate a padded shelf, even better!
Give your cat a place to “be” and see if they take to it. You may find that they leave your couch alone and your sweaters are suddenly remarkably devoid of cat hair.
Since cats are stoic by nature, it’s hard to understand when something is bothering them, but keeping them engaged and feeding into their needs will keep them happy and healthy. Moreover, it’ll curb bad behavior. Sometimes that comes down to a little extra attention and care, which your cat will definitely appreciate.