Cure your cat's boredom with a tower, puzzle or plain paper bag

Cats who live their lives indoors are safe from threats like coyotes and cars, but often miss out on activities that keep them in tiptop shape in body and spirit.

Left to find their own stimulation, bored kitties may entertain themselves in ways that may be disparaged by their owners, like scratching furniture or woodwork, peeing outside the litter box, excessive grooming or obsessive meowing.

While the best playful activities may be with you, your cat most likely spends much of his day by himself. To be the best parent for your feline friend, provide an enriching environment full of opportunities for physical and mental play.

Make a game of mealtime. Outdoors, cats spend a great deal of time hunting for food. Mimic this normal feline behavior by hiding food around the house. Begin by hiding food in a spot not too far from his usual dining space so it is fairly easy to find. Move it every day to a new, but nearby, location.

As your cat gets used to seeking for his food, hide it farther and farther away. Hide some on windowsills or in his climbing tower. It is important once you start playing the game, keep it up or you will have to teach your cat the rules of the game from the beginning if you ever start again.

Puzzle boxes for cats can be purchased at many pet stores, or you can get creative and make your own. Courtesy of Diana Stoll

Food puzzles are another option. There are many choices to purchase at pet stores, but you can make your own. Cut small holes (but large enough for treats to fall through) in a plastic bottle and fill it with your cat's favorite treats.

Cats love to be up high. Give your cat a tower (also called cat trees or condos) to create opportunities for all kinds of stimulation - climbing, exploring and scratching. Position it in front of a window and he will enjoy watching the great outdoors, too.

Hang a bird feeder outside the window and his whiskers will twitch with excitement as he watches the birds.

Even cat parents without space for a fancy cat tower can give their cats a boost up by installing window perches where they can sunbathe and watch birds flying by.

Scratching posts give cats an alternative to furniture. There are vertical and horizontal models, so if your cat doesn't like one type, try the other. If he seems hesitant to try it out, there are pheromones available to apply to the post to make it more tempting.

Toys that move in an unpredictable manner are also very entertaining. Hang favorite toys from doorknobs or purchase mechanical toys that move erratically.

You don't have to spend a fortune on toys. Too many toys at one time may be overwhelming. Instead, rotate them. Toys put away for several weeks will seem new when reintroduced.

And some of the best toys don't cost a penny. Just like a toddler opening birthday presents, sometimes an empty box is more fun than what's inside. Cats love jumping in and out of boxes and paper bags (without handles that may pose a choking hazard). Throw in a favorite toy or a Ping-Pong ball for even more fun.

Put some boxes on their sides and others right side up. Cut holes in the sides and group them together to make a maze, or line up a variety of sizes to fashion an obstacle course.

Providing an enriching environment for your cat should keep him happy and healthy.

• Diana Stoll is the Practice Manager at Red Barn Animal Hospital with locations in Hampshire and Gilberts. Visit, or call (847) 683-4788 (Hampshire) or (847) 422-1000 (Gilberts).

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