Kitty toy guideJun 19, 2023 01:47PM ● By Aske Ms. Kitty
Dear Ms. Kitty: I had to downsize and move to an apartment. My cat Sam is used to a lot more room to hang out and play in. How can I keep her entertained in the new smaller space? Signed, Cozy in Colorado Springs
Dear Cozy: You’re not alone! Many seniors choose to downsize. Smaller spaces simplify your life, but they can be a big change for you and your kitty. Territory is important to all cats, but if Sam’s basic needs are met, she should adapt right along with you.
1. Set up a play station. Cats underfoot can be a danger to people as well as the kitties, so I recommend finding a quiet corner by a window that Sam can call her own. You can set it up with a favorite rug, scratcher, a sealed treat container and basket of toys. With all her favorite things in one place, she will be able to scent appropriately, own the space and feel safe.
2. Think small. Most cats’ favorite toys are those that you’re on the other end of because movement triggers their hunting instincts. The more you can help Sam mimic the natural flow of hunting, the more satisfied she will be. The company Go Cat makes a short wand toy called Cat Dancer that will keep her active. It has a mouse-like end on a swivel. This helps the toy move erratically, just like real prey would. A note of caution: Please put away any wand or string toys after playing so Sam doesn’t accidentally get tangled in them when you’re not there. This will also keep the toys fresh and novel for her.
3. Use laser toys. The red dot can be a great way to exercise a cat in a small space. Try to imitate the movement of an insect with irregular paths that lead away from Sam, hiding behind things and up walls. The most important consideration with laser toys is to finish the hunting sequence with a small protein treat, just as cats would in the wild. Stopping suddenly without offering food can be frustrating.
4. Automatic toys. Motion toys that Sam can activate when you’re not there are great choices. SmartyKat Hot Pursuit is a moving toy hidden under a sturdy nylon cover. This is a fancy version of playing with a stick under a rug, which almost all cats enjoy. Other auto toys include mice that move erratically and fish that swim. Look for toys that look—and feel—like the prey they are imitating.
5. Puzzle feeders. You can combine toys with puzzle feeders for a hunting-eating combo. Place a few dry treats in the feeder, then layer them with small toys like fake mice and soft balls. This will encourage Sam to dig through the toys to get to the food, combining two favorite activities and making her work for it like she would in the wild.
6. Catification. If you can’t go out to increase a cat’s territory, go up. Cat trees are perfect for this. If you can, install Catification shelves (with rails, especially if Sam is a senior too) to enrich her movement around the room. Placing shelves within jumping distance of cat trees can create a whole new kitty adventure trail. You can also use them in your play. Make the toy travel up and down the different heights, hiding it behind posts and inside cubbies.
Ask Ms. Kitty is a free helpline offered by Happy Cats Haven and Colorado Cats Boarding. Submit questions at HappyCatsHaven.org