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Healthy Pets

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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...

Provide lots of solo diversions. TVs, computers, games -- most of us are happy to stay indoors when we have fun things to play with. Well, kitty wants entertainment, too. Fortunately, it's usually much cheaper to amuse your feline friend.

  • Scratching posts and cardboard scratch pads give kitty the chance to expend energy, remove worn claw bits, and play. Make these spots even more enticing with a sprinkle of catnip.
  • Offer lots of toys, and to keep kitty's interest, rotate through the stash, removing some toys and re-introducing others every week or two. Your cat doesn't need fancy play things. A paper bag, a box, or a few balls of wadded paper are all great entertainment.
  • Hide a few dry treats throughout the house. Some cats will hunt for these hidden treasures for hours. You can also buy treat-dispensing toys.
  • Some kitties love "cat videos" full of bird and small mammal close-ups. Pop in one of these DVDs specially made for cats and see if yours starts tracking the motions of the other animals and talking at and swatting the screen. You can also try computer screen savers of flapping butterflies, scurrying mice, burbling fish, or bouncing balls.
  • Try feeding your cat several small meals a day instead of two big ones.

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.

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