It’s that time of year again – New Year’s resolution season. Love them or hate them, resolutions let us identify the things we value and the ways we can bring more peace and happiness into our lives. Don’t worry though, I’d never suggest you should eat fewer brownies or go for a jog! This year, make some resolutions that you actually want to keep by focusing on your cat.
Resolve to: Feed with Food Puzzles
Challenge your cat’s mind by ditching the food bowl! Food puzzles make a cat work for their food by rolling, pawing, or otherwise manipulating an object to get food to fall out. There are an increasing number of options to buy but you can also make food puzzles from things around your house. If you need inspiration, check out FoodPuzzlesForCats.com.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners recently released a statement on best practices for feeding cats which included using food puzzles. Along with burning energy and tiring a cat out, food puzzles are useful for building confidence and can help with weight loss. It’s an easy switch for us humans that has great benefits for our cats. Just make sure you start with easy toys so that your cat can learn to use them.
Resolve to: Play At Least Twice a Day
This year make the commitment to your cat to play with them at least twice a day. Depending on your cat, anything from 5 to 15 minutes will provide wonderful benefits. Regular daily play sessions decrease demanding behavior and playful aggression. Play builds confidence in shyer cats and promotes positive feelings between cats in multi-cat homes. This is another thing that can help with weight loss as well – it’s kitty exercise!
If you aren’t sure how to get your cat to play or have had trouble getting them interested in the past, check out this page on interactive play. Try different types of toys and mimic different types of “prey.” Your cat may prefer a mouse that hides and pops out or a bird that flies through the air. Don’t worry if your cat doesn’t immediately start running and leaping around. Cat play is based on hunting and most of hunting is staying still and watching so these things count as part of the game when you’re playing together too.
Resolve to: Give Them More to Do
Add something new to your cat’s life to liven it up and relieve boredom. Bored cats are more likely to get into trouble. Enrichment also helps reduce stress (think of how your hobby helps you relax). Less stress means better health and better behavior.
Some enrichment can be simple to implement. Grow some cat-safe grass or live catnip for your cat to sniff and chew on. Buy something new for scent enrichment; beyond catnip, you can try silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle, or valerian.
With a little more time on your part, you can train your cat to walk on a leash so they can explore the great outdoors safely. Or teach them a few simple tricks, like a spin or high five, to work their mind. Want to be the next YouTube sensation? Set up some simple jumps in your hallway and practice kitty agility!
Enriching your cat’s life is just a matter of adding small, new things into their world to let them explore. Let your cat try these and any new activities at their own pace. You are doing this for them, after all, so make sure they’re enjoying it!
Resolve to: Create a Cat-Friendly Home
Maybe you’re taking on a remodeling project or de-cluttering task for the new year already. Or maybe you just want to take a minute to make sure your cat’s life is the best it can be. Why not consider the “cat-friendliness” of your home?
Review the vertical space that your cat has available. Having places to rest up off the ground is a necessity for cats and lets them feel safe and secure. Cats generally have preferences for how high they like to hang out and how close to the action they want to be. Does your cat have options at different heights? Can they get up off the ground in the main social areas of your house, where the family hangs out? What about window perches for sunny naps? In multi-cat households, make sure there are plenty of perches in different areas so no one has to share if they don’t want to.
Check your litter box setup. Could you keep it cleaner? (Be honest!). The box may seem great to you but many cats are just tolerating their boxes. To check what your cat really wants, you can buy another inexpensive box and try some changes. Try a different litter or a different location. Just leave your cat’s regular litter box the same while you experiment. By finding your cat’s preferred box now, you are preventing trouble down the line should some new stressor or health change cause your cat to be less tolerant.
Resolve to: Address Behavior Issues
Have you been living with a behavior issue because you just don’t know what to do about it? Many owners accept problematic or unwanted behavior simply because they don’t know that there are ways to fix it. This can slowly erode your bond with your cat or cause friction between human family members. In other cases, your cat’s behavior is a sign that they are stressed, fearful, or not having their needs meet. As a devoted cat owner, you no doubt want to give your cat the best life possible.
Taking the time to work on behavior issues will lessen stress in all members of the family, feline and human, as well as strengthen the bond between you and your cat. You won’t feel the constant need to punish your cat’s behavior. You can get relief from the guilt of wondering whether they are happy.
Working with a professional is one of the ways to finally make progress on your cat’s behavior problems. Even with all of the internet at your fingertips (assuming it’s accurate information…), you are unlikely to be able to gather all of the knowledge of someone who has studied for years and who works with cats as their profession. And you don’t need to! You no doubt rely on the advice and guidance of other professionals in your life, why not for your cat?
Whether it is the time to do what you know your cat needs or the money to finally get professional advice that will actually work:
Make a New Year’s resolution to invest in your cat’s behavior, health, and happiness. And your own.
If you’re resolving to work on your cat’s behavior, invest in a professional behavior consultation to get on the path to success.