Do you live with a wild child who never seems to stop moving? Is your cat seemingly in need of play 24/7? Do you wish your cat would just CHILL OUT for one minute, please?!? Let’s explore some reasons for this issue and ways of creating some peace.
Why It’s So Hard To Chill Out
By nature, most cats are ready to go at a moment’s notice, always ready to pounce after movement or curious to explore every nook and cranny. While some cats seem like naturals (it’s called a “cat nap” after all), many need time and practice to learn to turn off their excitement and relax. It’s a skill that can and should be cultivated.
Your cat’s age and breed can play a role in how much energy they have and how hard it is to settle down. In general, kittens and adolescents struggle the most with balancing energy and calm. To some degree, maturity will help, but it’s always a good idea to set them up to learn good habits early. Some breeds are naturally more energetic and curious and this can mean that finding a balance takes even more effort.
Your cat’s home life and routine can also have a big impact on their ability to take breaks from play and exploration. Some cats aren’t having their needs met and are overflowing with energy. Others may be kept on high alert by the environment or other stressors which means they struggle to chill out.
Meet Their Needs
Finding the appropriate blend of physical and mental exercise for your cat will help them relax when it’s time to chill. Cats typically cycle through short bursts of high energy and longer naps. An overactive cat may not be getting the right outlets for that energy.
Create a routine of interactive play, food puzzles and foraging games, and other enrichment for your cat. A high-energy cat likely needs 2-3 sessions of play, plus other activities that stimulate their mind and senses. Building these things into a routine can help manage demanding behavior and let your cat trust that they will get what they need. Try to add variation and novelty by rotating toys and activities so each day is a little different in how it provides for your cat’s exercise needs.
Different cats will benefit from different types of activities and routines. Some need fast-paced interactive play to burn energy, others prefer independent activities, still others benefit from quiet, calming activities to slow them down. Some will be easily frustrated by puzzles; some will love them.
Pay attention to the aftermath of activities. Does your cat seem more relaxed and settled or are they as wound up as always? Make sure you are winding down high energy play, setting your cat up to transition to relaxation. Focus on providing exercise that leaves your cat calmer and ready to take a nap, at least for a little while!
Set Them Up For Calm
Your home environment can also help or hinder your cat’s ability to relax. Make sure they have comfortable resting areas in different areas of the house. Experiment with putting them at different heights and provide choice. Some cats like to rest near people; some need to take themselves out of the action to be able to nap. In most cases, cats need some quiet and to remain undisturbed to relax. If your household is particularly busy, it’s especially important to provide places for your cat to retreat to, as they are likely to be kept active by human activity. If sleep is constantly disrupted, your cat’s behavior can get even worse.
It’s also worth thinking about other forms of stress in your cat’s life. If they are worried about people, other pets, or other things in the home, they are more likely to be on edge and unable to settle. This doesn’t always look like we expect stress to look though; it can appear to be hyperactive behavior or desperate, demanding attempts for attention.
As mentioned above, relaxing can be viewed as a skill to be developed. You can teach your cat some relaxation skills to help them learn to calm themselves.
Choose a spot for your cat to settle near you, maybe on your desk or near you on a chair or sofa. Put a comfy bed or blanket there (or even a box), something you know your cat likes. Now reward them with small treats on that spot. At first, just reward them for being on the spot and staying there. Slowly space the treats out to build the amount of time your cat holds still.
As your cat gets used to remaining still, you may notice them start to get comfortable. Shift your rewards to catch moments of increasing calm, like your cat laying down, stretching out, yawning, taking a deep breath, or anything else that looks like relaxation. Practice this exercise regularly until your cat relaxes easily on their spot when you sit down with them.
Over time, you can ask your cat to relax by asking them to go to their spot and occasionally rewarding them while you also relax (or work).
Possibility for Peace
The ability to relax isn’t a given but it is something you can nurture in your cat. Meet their needs, create space for calm, and teach them that relaxing is fun. You and your cat can be calmer and happier together.
If your cat has a behavior problem that you need help solving, consider scheduling a private behavior consultation.