The average lifespan of a domestic cat is 12-15 years and, as owners we want our pet to spend this time being healthy and happy. So owning a cat is a big responsibility that should be carefully assessed before contacting a breeder or animal shelter.
Cats are fond of human interaction and this should be the first aspect to consider when welcoming a furry friend into our home. We must spend time getting to know our cat, playing with it and grooming it but also showing our affection by cuddling, feeding a balanced diet and regularly taking it to the vet for a checkup.
There are a number of ways for us to interact with our pet and keep it alert and active. Even if your cat doesn’t wander outside of the house you can easily ensure it gets sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. If you own a kitten, there is no doubt that it will have a dynamic and curious nature which makes it even easier to find an entertaining activity. Young cats are driven by an exploring nature that will sometimes get them into minor trouble so it is important to channel their curiosity towards safe toys and human interaction.
Once they grow into adults, cats will usually calm down and automatically choose to play with toys rather than other cats or people however, they never lose their hunting instinct nor their fondness for playful activities with other animals or the owner. In fact, many pet owners choose a cat because of its independent spirit which is often mistaken for a lack of sociability. On the contrary, domestic cats love to entertain themselves with toys as much as they enjoy being stimulated with different games or puzzles that involve their human friend.
For instance, some people don’t realise that they can even train their cat to fetch objects, just like they would do with a puppy. Find a toy that your kitten can easily carry in its mouth and make sure it is paying attention to the toy in your hand. Once you throw the toy across the room, your cat should leap over to where it lands. At this point, you should encourage your cat to bring the toy back by using small food rewards. If your cat doesn’t bring the toy back and prefers to catch it every time you throw it, this is still a great way of entertaining your pet while keeping it active at home.
If your cat seems less interested in playing with you, there are still a variety of toys and puzzles specifically created to entertain your pet. Remember, a cat’s instinct to hunt means it will enjoy chasing and stalking moving objects as well as jumping and biting them. This behaviour is actually a way of mimicking a hunt in the wild so it is in fact a vital factor even for a domestic cat.
You may want to consider purchasing a wind up mice or any light object that your pet can easily carry around the house. Without spending too much on toys purchased in pet stores, you can easily create a DIY game with toilette paper rolls, old socks, yarn balls and many other materials already in your home. Just make sure you monitor your cat every now and then to be sure it doesn't swallow any fabric or get its claws tangled.
Your pet will naturally chase any small moving object so you are spoiled for choice with cat toys.
A cat’s agility and flexibility are well known traits of this furry mammal so it goes without saying that your pet will enjoy jumping on high shelves, climbing on furniture and hanging from anywhere it will reach. All of these activities are the perfect exercise for a healthy cat. Domestic cats that are used to spending time outdoors will often find a way to climb trees and balance on narrow surfaces, however if your pet only spends time in the house there are a few options for it to experience this inclination.
Pet stores sell a wide variety of indoor cat trees and cat stands on which your cat can climb or even relax in a quieter space, away from other pets and all of the activities going on in the house. If you’re crafty enough, you can even build shelves and hook them to the wall at different levels. Alternatively you can just improvise with furniture that you keep clear from delicate ornaments so that your pet can freely climb and jump over it. Your cat will learn to explore this space and find a way to entertain itself when it is not playing with you while still using all the necessary muscles required to remain agile.
Puzzles and food balls are another way of keeping your cat moving with no requirement for human interaction. These are a good choice while you’re out of the house for work. A food ball, also known as ‘cat feeding exercise ball’ is slightly bigger than a tennis ball and it’s a great way for your cat to use its intelligence while staying active. As the cat pushes and bats the ball around with its paws small pieces of dried cat food will be dispensed. Again, you can create a similar toy for your kitten with a piece of scrunched up paper containing yummy cat treats, however just be sure to monitor the game to avoid your cat chewing and swallowing paper.
Obviously, one of the first and most important things to consider when trying to raise a healthy and active cat is nutrition. As with any pet, cats too should follow a balanced diet that suits their lifestyle, age and size. If you notice your cat seems to be a little overweight (or underweight) consult with your vet who will be able to perform a general checkup and recommend good quality food based on your pet’s specific needs.
Kittens are so active and full of energy that they will rarely gain excess weight however it’s essential that their meals are prepared keeping in mind their constant growth. Once your pet reaches the adult stage of its life, you should adjust the type and amount of food accordingly so that you are not overfeeding it.
Certain cat breeds (like the Persian cat) are more inclined to gain weight and enjoy lazy days sitting on the couch. Remember not to allow your pet to indulge in inactivity too long to prevent health issues. Try different games and find the time to interact with your pet even if it seems uninterested. You may even consider purchasing a cat harness and taking your domestic cat out for short walks every day: this will provide new stimuli and the motivation to move around while keeping the muscles in action.
Let’s not forget that raising an active and healthy cat requires the owner’s time and dedication but it also comes with many benefits such as an improved relationship with your furry friend!