Cat Behavior: Can Your Cat’s Boredom Lead to Illness?

Imagine being a cat sitting at home all day with the curtains drawn with nothing to do and no one to interact with. If you lived in the wild, your natural feline behavior would lead you to watch birds and insects, wander, chase, jump, hide, jump, and spend half a day happily looking for a mouse to eat. You could also defend your territory and flex your muscles. However, indoor cats that don’t get exercise, stimulation, and healthy food can suffer. Your boredom can lead to depression or illness.

Watch for signs of boredom

If your cat’s behavior isn’t what you expected, it may be because he’s bored or lonely. Here are some common cat behavior signs you may notice.

1. Moving small items or items of clothing around the house while you are away.

2. Pulling out clumps of hair or obsessively grooming.

3. Throwing things off countertops.

4. Spraying or squatting to mark territory with deposits of urine or feces.

5. Express yourself with excessive vocalization, most likely to let you know that you are bored or lonely.

6. Show aggressive behavior or act badly, especially when you leave.

7. Overeating when there is nothing else to do that feels comforting.

Boredom and depression can be serious

Boredom can lead to depression in cats. If left to go too long, it can also lead to illness and other health problems for the cat. Lack of exercise and stimulation can lead to unhappiness, weak muscles, a sluggish immune system, and eventually depression or stress and adrenal disease. In fact, behavioral problems in cats are also reportedly the most common reason for euthanasia and abandonment of healthy animals. DO NOT let your cat be locked up or bored!

Try These Healthy Behavior Solutions for Cats

  • If you only have one cat, consider getting her a feline companion. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive® and commissioned by ARM & HAMMER Multi-Cat Strength Cat Litter, animal experts now agree that cats are naturally social animals, not loners. When asked, more than 8 in 10 vets agree that cats do NOT prefer to be left alone. (It’s almost as easy to take care of two cats as one).
  • Offer to play with your cat at the same time every day. Cats love routine. Buy or make toys that simulate the fun of hunting, chasing, pouncing, jumping, and hiding. Spend 20-30 minutes playing once or twice a day with your cats.
  • Establish a regular grooming time several days a week. Have some brushes, combs and raincoats on hand. A good time to do this is after your cat has played and used up some of his frustrated energy because he is ready to settle down and snuggle.
  • Before you leave the house each day, hide some of your favorite toys and treats. Rotate his favorite toys to different places every day. Get a plastic ball and put some healthy treats in it that take a bit of work to get out of the slots. This provides exercise and challenge, and the reward for the cat’s good behavior is welcome.
  • Give your cat some freedom to roam. Minimize confinement as much as possible. If you don’t already have one, get a climbing tree or a tower. Vertical space is just as important to cats’ health as horizontal space is for exercise and dexterity. You may also want to get a cat harness and leash and take your cat outside to explore, get some fresh air and sunshine.
  • Make a comfortable spot near a window. Cats love to look out of windows and observe birds, insects, and any number of other interesting things. If you can place a bird feeder outside a window, where the birds are safe and your cat can watch, it will provide hours of entertainment, mental stimulation, and emotional satisfaction.
  • Give your cat a scratching post. This gives them a place to remove old nail caps and also allows them to exercise and tone their muscles to stay strong. Scratching also relieves stress, frustration, and boredom or helps them “warm up” for a little play. But best of all, it gives them a convenient way to mark their territory with their paw pads. (This is much better than inappropriate spraying or other markings or damaging furniture!)
  • Most important of all, feed your cat high-quality food made with real meat, NOT meat by-products. It may cost more, but it can help prevent disease and promote better health, so it will save you in the long run. Also, cats will eat less and get better nutrition. Do all of these things and your cat’s health and behavior will be transformed to be calmer and happier. In all likelihood, the two of you will also develop a closer bond. SOURCES: Stefanie Schwartz, MD, DVM, MSc, DACVB (a noted author and veterinary behaviorist) plus the experts at ARM & HAMMER Multi-Cat Strength Litter, who commissioned a CAT-PANION crossover study.

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