Bust Boredom for Better Behavior

Most cat behavior problems come from either boredom and a lack of outlets for energy or from stress. Play and “enrichment” are important ways of combating both issues. For your cat’s physical and behavioral health, give them something fun to do!

When introducing new toys or games for your cat, always carefully supervise to ensure they aren’t eating parts of the toy or creating small pieces that could be swallowed.​

Start with Playtime

Interactive Play

Playing with your cat is one of the best things you can do for their health and wellness.

  • Use a long, fishing-pole type toy; move it to mimic prey running or flying around the room.
  • Create a routine of 5-15 minutes sessions, at least once or twice a day.
  • Finish each play session with a meal or some treats to make use of your cat’s natural hunt-eat-groom-sleep cycle.


Food Puzzles​
Instead of eating from a bowl, foraging and hunting for food helps burn excess energy, provides an easy distraction from problem behavior, and builds confidence in exploring and interacting with the world.

  • Some cats prefer rolling vs stationary toys. Try different types. You can also make your own.
  • Start easy; make sure food falls out as soon as your cat interacts with the toy.


Solo Play
When you are busy, these toys can help.

  • Small store bought toys, with or without catnip
    • Refresh catnip toys by tossing them in a container of catnip overnight
  • Ping-Pong balls or treats in boxes, bags, or the bathtub
  • Battery operated toys that move, spin, or include a laser light to chase
  • Chirping or light up toys
  • Magnetic alphabet magnets on the bottom part of the fridge for your cat to bat off
  • Floating toys in water (ping pong balls, wind-up water toys, etc)
  • Apps for Cats
    • Many are free and some cats and kittens enjoy playing them!

QUICK TIP: Rotate the toys and other enrichment your cat has access to so they stay interesting. 


Photo credit: William Chan


Home Enrichment

Vertical Space
Give your cat places to get off the ground and their world is immediately bigger. Beyond cat trees, think shelves, perches on bookcases, furniture placed in sunny spots, or blankets on window sills. 


Your cat needs a place to scratch. They aren’t likely to go to the basement for this; they need a place in the social areas of your home. Some cats prefer vertical, horizontal, or angled scratching options.


Play Spaces
If they fit, they sit! Give your cat bags, boxes, tunnels, covered beds, or kitty castles to explore and curl up in.


Think about Different Senses

Put perches near windows so your cat can watch birds and bugs. No birds? Wind chimes, pinwheels, and decorative spinners can substitute. Or play videos or TV with nature sounds, bird, and squirrels. 


Smell and Taste
Grow cat-safe plants like cat grass or live catnip. Have a catnip party. If your cat isn’t into catnip, try other scent enrichment options: Silver Vine, Tatarian Honeysuckle, or Valerian.


Touch and Attention
Don’t forget that hanging out with people and getting attention is important too! If your cat enjoys petting and/or grooming, this can be a wonderful addition to their day.



Using their brain can wear a cat out faster than physical exercise. Try short (<5 minute) training sessions to teach tricks and useful behaviors like carrier training. Use positive reinforcement to keep it fun and safe.


Safe Outdoor Time
Indoor cats can safely enjoy the great outdoors. Make sure your cat is up to date on their vaccines and parasite control. 

  • Bring the outdoors inside through sticks, leaves, rocks to sniff and forage in.
  • Train your cat to walk on a harness and leash.
  • Build a screened window box or catio.

This material was written in collaboration with cat behavior consultant Jessica Char.
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