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Keeping an Indoor Cat Happy

Make your kitty's world safe and stimulating with these easy-to-implement tips.

Fun and Games continued...

Get together. Playing with your cat twice a day helps keep kitty fit by maintaining muscle tone and circulation. Plus it relieves stress and boredom (yours and his) and strengthens the bond between you. While there's virtually no end of games you can play together, here are a few to get you started:

  • Drag a piece of string over the river (chairs) and through the woods (hallways). Start and stop often, imitating the movements of a cat's natural prey. Even better: Tie a fake mouse or other toy to the end of the string and be sure to let kitty catch her quarry sometimes.
  • Ping-Pong Paws is a great game to keep kitty svelte and happy, writes Kevin Kelly in his book Entertaining Your Indoor Cat. All you'll need for this diversion is a kitty who likes bathtubs and some ping pong balls. Once you've enticed kitty into the tub (don't force), bounce a ball off the shower wall and let it fall into the tub. Kitty will bound after it. And since ping pong balls are hard to grasp, the ball will squirt right through kitty's clutches. When the game starts slowing down, toss in another ball. You can also entertain kitty by tossing the ping pong balls onto the smooth kitchen floor.
  • Head to the pet supply store and stock up on wind-up mice, suggests Kelly. You can also find small wind-up cars, spiders, and robots in toy stores. When you get home, wind the toys up and watch kitty go. 
  • Put on a CD of bird calls or bird songs. Then tie a feather to a string and flutter it past Fluffy. 
  • Teach kitty to fish, suggests Kelly. What you'll need is a big bowl of water and floating toys like corks, plastic mice, or those ping pong balls still in the tub. Get kitty's attention, then toss a toy or two in the water and watch kitty go trawling.
  • Buy catnip-flavored bubble solution at a pet supply store and blow a roomful of bubbles for your cat to catch. 
  • Create a kitty caboose with a carpet remnant or rug. Drag your scrap along the floor and often you'll find a kitty hopping on board for the ride. Kelly suggests taking it slow. You want kitty to stay put, not tumble off. 
  • You can also teach your cat to walk on a harness and leash. You can get a kitty-walking tutorial on the ASPCA's web site or in Kelly's book, Entertaining Your Indoor Cat.


Health and Hygiene

Part of keeping your indoor cat happy is keeping kitty healthy and maintaining a safe, clean environment. The pros offer these tips:

Know the signs of sickness. It's in a cat's nature to hide illness, the better to go unnoticed by predators. That's why it's up to you to keep a close eye on your indoor cat, looking for signs he may be sick.

  • Your cat could be ill if he is coughing, panting, refusing water or food, sleeping more than usual, vomiting, sneezing, or losing weight. If your cat exhibits any of these or other odd symptoms -- or you just have a sense something's wrong -- play it safe and take kitty to the vet.
  • Remember that your indoor cat needs yearly exams, just like you do. Regular check-ups help your vet keep kitty healthy by catching problems early.

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