Q: I adore my cat 6-year-old female cat Skittles. Unfortunately, I now have a long work day that keeps me apart from Skittles for about 10 hours every day. I am worried that Skittles might be bored and miss me. The lease on my home won’t allow me to bring in another cat friend for Skittles. What can I do?
A: You and Skittles are not alone with this problem. Unfortunately, due to our current economic climate, many people are finding they have to work long, hard hours away from their homes and their cats. You can make Skittle’s home alone time entertaining and fun for her through environmental enrichment and by providing her with a choice of activities.
Start by providing tall cat trees or perches that Skittles can climb and lounge on. These climbing areas should have shelves wide enough to accommodate her when she naps. If possible, position the cat trees next to secure windows so that Skittles can watch the neighborhood activities. In addition to the vertical territory, place objects she can play and hide in around the apartment. They can be as simple as paper bags without handles and boxes to slightly more expensive items such as tunnels and igloos.
Between her naps, Skittles may enjoy playing with toys. Ball and track toys and puzzle boxes are a few examples of interactive toys that are a hit with most felines. Treat balls and other feeding systems that make cats work a little for their food and treats also help keep cats from being bored. Some commercially available treat balls will record your voice. Every time Skittles hits the ball for a treat, she could hear you telling her what a great cat she is. Other food/puzzle solutions include large puzzle toys with compartments with covers that slide. Skittles will need to slide and push the covers off of the compartments in order to access the food.
Some cats enjoy playing in water. Many types of pet fountains are available, with either bubbling or running water for cats to play in. Some are large enough to accommodate a ping pong ball or other floating toy for more entertainment.
Some cats also enjoy watching television or videos. These videos come in a variety of formats and feature birds, small animals and fish. If you do leave your television on for Skittles, don’t keep it on a station that specializes in animal programming since some vocalizations can trigger stressful responses from cats.
Just before you leave for work in the morning, encourage Skittles to participate in a lively treasure hunt. Hide her favorite treats throughout the apartment on the vertical territory, in the interactive toys, in her sleeping areas as well as other locations.
Spend quality time with Skittles after you come home from work. Engage her in activities that she enjoys. If she loves to be cuddled or groomed, then incorporate those special activities into your routine. It may be as simple as watching TV while she naps on your lap. If your cat loves playing, then play just before you feed her, in a way that imitates the hunt.
Even though you have to spend long hours at work, be assured that by enriching Skittle’s environment and providing her interactive toys, she shouldn’t become bored or depressed.