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How To Keep Your Cat Mentally Stimulated and Physically Trim

As science reveals why Garfield was fat and grumpy, the cat-loving world replies “Well, duh!”

JaneA Kelley  |  Sep 7th 2016


A recent post on the website Inverse blared that science has finally figured out why cartoon cat Garfield was fat and grumpy — and, consequently, why our domestic cats are allegedly so fat and grumpy.

It’s all because of cats’ life of leisure, the article states. Cats are “divas” because they’re pampered and spoiled by their guardians.

The answer, according to the site’s reading of a recent article in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, is that cats need to work for their food.

And, hearing this, cat guardians all over the world said, “Thanks for that Nobel-Prize-winning piece of medical research there, Sherlock.”

It is true that feline obesity is at an all-time high, and with it the health consequences of obesity including diabetes and arthritis. So how do we keep our lovable little kitties happy and at a healthy weight? The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery did have it right: extra exercise and mental stimulation. And how do you do that? There are lots of ways, some elaborate and some simple and inexpensive. I’ve got some ideas for you.

1. The old paper bag trick

If you feed kibble, you can throw a few pieces into a paper bag from time to time, which can help your cat enjoy his hunting instincts. If you feed canned or raw food, use some dehydrated treats such as bonito flakes or catnip.

2. Treats in a cardboard roll

Put some of your cat’s favorite treats inside a toilet paper or paper towel tube and cover the ends with something your cat can puncture, such as light paper. Your cat can exercise by rolling the tube around and stimulate his mind by trying to get into it to retrieve the treats.

3. A rolling treat ball

If you don’t want to make your own toys, try a treat ball. Your cat can exercise by batting the ball around to try and extract the contents of the ball.

A treat ball can be a great way to provide mental stimulation and exercise. Photo CC-BY John Wright

A treat ball can be a great way to provide mental stimulation and exercise. Photo CC-BY John Wright

4. A kitty puzzle toy

Feline puzzle toys come in many shapes, sizes, and price points. They provide an incredible amount of mental stimulation once you get your cat interested in the toys.

5. A window shelf

Cats love to look out the windows at the world around them, and it’s a great way to increase not only your kitty’s mental stimulation but also the amount of exercise he gets from jumping to his perch.

Cat trees and shelves can create an exercise-stimulating "kitty highway." Photo CC-BY Jon Ross

Cat trees and shelves can create an exercise-stimulating “kitty highway.” Photo CC-BY Jon Ross

6. Cat trees and shelves

Cats also love to look at their inside territory from up high. By adding shelves and cat trees, you create a “kitty highway” that gives your cat plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

7. “Kitty TV”

Believe it or not, there are DVDs created specifically with cats’ environmental needs in mind. While you’re away, your cat could be watching videos of flying and chirping birds and other wild animals.

One last tip: When you use treat toys, be sure to reduce the amount you feed your cat in his regular meals. If you don’t do this, your cat will gain or fail to lose weight, which is obviously not the desired effect.

This wasn't exactly what I meant by "kitty TV." Photo CC-BY cloudzilla

This wasn’t exactly what I meant by “kitty TV.” Photo CC-BY cloudzilla

What have you done to increase your cat’s mental stimulation? What treat-dispensing toys have you used, and how did they work for you and your cat? Please share your thoughts in the comments.