How to entertain and stimulate your indoor cat
Written by Napo HQ
26th Apr 2022
5 min read
Providing exercise and enrichment for indoor cats helps to prevent problem behaviours and keeps them happy and healthy. Spending time with your cat, playing with them, varying their puzzle toys, providing high perches for them, helping them “hunt” for meals, teaching them tricks (yes, really!) and allowing them to watch the world from a window can all help to stimulate an indoor cat.
Providing plenty of exercise and enrichment for your indoor cat is vital to help keep them happy and healthy. After all, you’d get bored if you were in the house all day with nothing to do.
Indoor cats aren’t dissimilar to their wild cousins and retain their natural curiosity as well as many of their instincts like the urge to hunt, climb, or scratch. Being able to stimulate your pet and bring out these natural behaviours will lead to a well-adjusted and entertained house cat.
Plus, bored cats breed chaos, so being able to provide exercise and enrichment for your indoor cat can prevent some problem behaviours.
If you’re wondering how to provide exercise and enrichment for an indoor cat, here are 14 easy ways to keep your indoor cat entertained.
14 ways to stimulate a house cat
1. Use cat wands and teasers
Cat wands and teasers give your cat something to chase and taps into their hunting instincts. Remember to let your cat catch their “prey” at the end, and put the toy away when you’re not playing together to avoid accidents.
2. Let them hunt for food
Try hiding some of your cat’s meal for them to hunt down. Start easy and hide it in one room where it can be seen, and gradually increase the challenge as your cat gets better at finding it. Having set meal times and short windows for feeding can also help to mimic a wild cat’s eating habits and stimulate your indoor cat’s natural behaviours.
3. Provide puzzle toys
Puzzle toys offer another way for your cat to “hunt” their food and help to provide more activity and exercise for indoor cats. You can buy a snuffle mat, a licky mat, or a puzzle toy, or evenmake one at home
4. Rotate their toys
As well as puzzle toys you should provide plenty of toys like catnip toys, battery-operated moving toys, or even ball pits. Just remember to rotate the toys your cat has access to every week to prevent your cat from becoming bored of them.
5. Provide perches
Cats love to sit in high places and it helps to relieve stress. Having high spaces also exercises indoor cats, encouraging them to climb and jump. The high vantage point also allows them to see more, and window perches are particularly good at stimulating your indoor cat by allowing them to watch the outside world.
6. Set up scratching posts
Scratching is normal cat behaviour and keeps your cat’s claws healthy. Scratching posts will provide another outlet for their natural behaviour and entertain your indoor cat, and it should help prevent your furniture from being clawed.
7. Grow cat-safe plants and grass
Another normal cat behaviour is chewing, and wild cats will often eat plants. You can combine the two by growing cat-safe plants or a tub of grass where your cat can explore and chew safely. Remember to remove any toxic plants from your house or keep them in areas your cat cannot access. You could also provide edible chews like fish jerky for your cat to gnaw.
8. Build a cat playground
If you have the space to create one, a cat playground can help entertain an indoor cat, provide safe spaces up high, and provide exercise through climbing and jumping. Even just adding a cat tree or a wheel and teaching your cat how to use it can be physically stimulating.
9. Let them watch TV
Play a video of birds, fish, or anything that could interest your cat on Youtube or DVD. It provides visual and aural stimulation, making it a great source of easy enrichment for your indoor cat.
10. Grant safe access to an outside space
Being able to see or explore the great outdoors in a safe and controlled manner can provide tons of stimulation for an indoor cat. You could provide a “catio”, window perch, or window box. Or you could buy a harness and lead and try taking your feline for a walk to let them safely explore outside whilst exercising your indoor cat.
11. Set up smells
An important part of enriching your indoor cat’s life is to stimulate all their senses, and smell is often overlooked. Catnip has been found to be the best smell to instigate play and entertain your cat. Some synthetic pheromonescan aid positive interactions
, such as play with humans or other pets, whilst others can help calm nervous cats.
12. Play games together
There are different games you can set up for your cat, such as indoor fishing. Simply place floating toys in a bucket of water and let your cat try to catch their swimming “prey”.
You could also play fetch, (which might require a little training.) Cats seem to enjoy it almost as much as dogs do, and it’s both good exercise and entertainment for your cat.
13. Teach them tricks
Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained. As with dogs, training is highly stimulating and provides physical and mental exercise for cats and gives them valuable one-on-one time with you. Why not try using some healthy cat treats to teach your indoor cat to ‘sit’ or ‘paw’?
14. Spend time with your cat
One of the best ways to provide enrichment for indoor cats is to spend time with them. You could play with them, groom them, or pet them.
Many cats simply enjoy being in the same space as you and being talked to, and it’s a great way to stimulate your cat and build your bond with them.
Plus, positive cat-owner relationshipsmake cats more likely to play
, keeping indoor cats more entertained.
- Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats: Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practising Veterinarian (2010)
- Environmental Enrichment: Practical Strategies for Improving Feline Welfare: Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2009)
- Relationships between owner and household characteristics and enrichment and cat behaviour: Applied Animal Behaviour Science (2022)