by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
Keeping warm consumes energy, so does movement. In very cold weather cats will ration their energy, using the larger portion to keep warm and less for moving, playing or hunting.
However, they still need to stimulated to prevent boredom and the potential unwanted behaviour that could result – aggression, scratching furniture or over-grooming are common behaviours.
We can use their senses to keep them occupied and stimulated – vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste.
An easy way to occupy time is a window seat, either a wide windowsill, a purpose made window seat or any piece of furniture close to the window. The view should be of some activity; it does not have to be birds or squirrels, cats are equally fascinated by vehicles, dogs and people.
Other options for viewing are fish tanks, sports videos (tennis and motor racing are fast action favourites), or videos made for cats. Games designed for cats on tablet computers are also good, these only required minimal paw movements to keep the game alive. Even an old-fashioned screen-saver for Windows computers can keep a cat busy for a while.
Many cats enjoy listening to the radio tuned to a talk-radio station. Catgalaxymedia.com is an internet radio station dedicated to providing entertainment for cats and information for owners. There are DVD’s and YouTube tracks of music designed specifically to appeal to cats. Classical pieces and harp music are typically the most popular. Cats are individual in their music preferences so see what he responds to – and this may differ on his mood or the time of day.
Standard toys come filled with catnip, however there are many other smells that cats may like. Plants that cats find interesting are olive, chamomile, honeysuckle flowers (the berries are toxic), lavender, basil and thyme. Other smells include your used clothing, especially socks and, of course, food! Randomly leave scented sachets or actual leaves or flowers around the house in areas that he will pass through.
Be aware that may essential oils, including diffusers, are toxic to cats; use these only under direction of a trained feline therapist.
Touch can be a grooming or cuddle session, or providing alternative surfaces for him to sleep on. Soft and fluffy beds that can fold around him to form a nest, boxes, blankets or newspaper tents. Smooth fabric or fluffy furry beds. A firm coir mat or piece of cork board can be offered as an alternative for scratching.
Touch and smell can be combined by adding favourite smells to his sleeping spaces, especially smells that calm; honeysuckle, lavender, basil and olive. Thyme aids healing while Chamomile is good for allergies.
If he is not on a fixed or specific diet, try introducing new foods or flavours. The more experiences he has and the wider his range of eating experiences, the easier it will be when there is a change in his standard food. There are many different treats available for cats; try to share with another cat owner in case your cat does not like the new one you have just bought. Many cats will think carefully about any new food offering, be patient and offer a new treat each time, he may try one when he is used to the smell.
Be creative, observe how your cat reacts to different stimuli and build on that, increasing the fun aspect to create variations that will keep him amused. Engage all the senses, even the ones he does not respond as well, to give every area of the brain a workout.
To contact Barbara, please email firstname.lastname@example.org