September is officially Happy Cat Month. It was started by the CATalyst Council, a group of animal health and welfare organizations, to celebrate and promote the health of our feline friends.
It’s a misconception that cats are very self-reliant, aloof animals. In fact, cats are very social and they thrive on plenty of love and attention from their pet parents.
Try some of the following tips to make sure your furry companions are energized, healthy and loving life.
1. Encourage Lots of Play Time
Cats need to sleep, but don’t assume your kitty is uninterested in activities if they’re lounging around. They might simply be bored. Try engaging them in play and see what happens.
Schedule time every day to play with your cat. If they’re not interested at your scheduled time, make sure you try again later that day.
Active “chase and catch” games are great for both of you to get your blood pumping. You can do this outside, on stairs, around furniture or any other space with some room to move. Remember to include some snuggle time at the end to help you both relax.
You can buy lots of different cat toys to play with, but your cat will enjoy a variety of homemade toys just as much. Attaching almost anything to the end of a string on a stick provides endless opportunities for play. Try tying on small balls of yarn or crumpled paper, tin foil, feathers or pieces of cloth.
2. Give Them Space
Your furry friend loves you, but they still need time alone to rest and recharge. Exploring and discovering new places alone also keeps their minds sharp and prevents boredom.
If your cat is allowed outside, let them have time to roam freely. Or if they need to be kept closer for safety or other reasons, you can build a fenced-in cat run next to your house.
Indoor cats need space as well. Installing a climbing structure or buying a pre-made cat tree gives them something to explore. You can change up your structure each week to keep things fresh, like attaching rolls of cardboard or short sections of rope.
Hideouts are another favorite. Have cardboard boxes, baskets or other containers available for your kitty to curl up in for a nap or a good viewpoint. High shelves or mantels are other good options. Make sure your home has a quiet corner where your cat can take some downtime without human interference, especially if you live with children.
3. Provide Entertainment
This can be as simple as providing access to a window and a place your cat can sit to watch the world outside. Birds, bugs and other animals, including your neighbors, can be fascinating for your kitty.
You can also turn feeding into a hunting exercise. Cut a hole in a box and put some food in it, then let your cat find it. Move the box around every day so your cat can “hunt” for their next meal. Hide treats under overturned bowls for your cat to flip over and discover.
Stashing different toys throughout your home is another way to keep your kitty engaged. Hang some toys from strings or elastics to encourage your cat to jump at them. Store some toys out of sight and use these for a toy rotation to change up your toys every week or two.
Cats also love to scratch against rough objects, which is actually necessary to remove the old outer casing from their claws. Use a vertical post, a scratching mat, old carpet or any other rough surface for your cat to sharpen their claws on. And having designated scratching areas will save your furniture from unnecessary attacks.
4. Don’t Wash Your Cat, Wash Their Environment
Cats naturally keep themselves very clean. Being odor-free is vital when hunting prey, so cats are especially sensitive to smells. In fact, it’s estimated that cats spend at least 15 percent of their time grooming themselves.
This means you should only wash your cat when they’re actually dirty, like after falling in a mud puddle. Otherwise, spend your time cleaning their living spaces and litter box regularly. Your cat will appreciate it.
5. Pet the Right Way
Cat’s enjoy being petted and spending intimate time with you, as long as you follow some basic ground rules. Start by letting your cat approach you, then offer your hand for them to bump with their nose. This means they’re in the mood for a snuggle.
Most cats enjoy being stroked behind their ears, on both sides of their nose, cheeks and under their chin. But, never touch a cat’s tail, paws or belly without your cat’s permission. These are sensitive areas for cats that are off limits unless your cat indicates otherwise.
Always stroke in the same direction as your cat’s fur. Start at their forehead and move towards the tail. Don’t go against the lie of their fur, it’s very annoying to a cat to have their fur messed up.
Keep in mind that cats often don’t like to be touched for long periods. If your kitty moves away from you, starts twitching their tail, flattens their ears or seems stressed while you pet them, stop immediately.
Related: Why You Should Massage Your Cat
6. Let Them Eat Grass
Have you ever seen your cat eat grass, and then throw up afterwards? This may seem strange, but it’s very common for cats. There may be a few reasons behind this behavior.
Cats often regurgitate when they eat grass because they don’t have the digestive enzymes to break down vegetable matter. Throwing up may help eliminate all indigestible remains from their digestive tract, such as fur, bones and feathers.
Grass may also act as a laxative to keep those indigestible remains moving through and out the other end. Whatever the reason, it appears to be beneficial for your cat to eat grass.
Growing your own crop of cat grass is likely the healthiest option. Whether you grow it indoors or outdoors, you’ll know your grass is free of herbicides and other chemicals that may be present on grass around your neighborhood. Cat grass is also easier on a feline stomach than regular grass. You can get seeds or pots of fresh cat grass at many garden centers or supermarkets.
7. Visit Your Veterinarian
A trip to the vet doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience for your cat. Many veterinarians take great care to ensure your kitty has a pleasant visit.
If you’ve recently adopted a new cat, make sure you take them into a vet to discuss important issues like neutering, vaccinations and microchipping. After that, visit the vet at least once a year for a check-up. They’ll give your cat a head-to-tail physical exam and discuss ongoing health promotion, as well as if any booster shots might be needed.