Think fast: When was the last time you enjoyed a date night? The pandemic has forced local restaurants to close or switch to takeout and us to hunker down for — checks notes — almost a year. It’s made it difficult to go anywhere, let alone indulge in a date night.
It’s also given us a new appreciation for our cats, who have, at the very least, put up with our being home all the time while also giving us someone to snuggle.
So, as Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s consider re-imagining date night.
“We can reward ourselves and our little friends who have been there for us through this whole difficult time,” says Samantha Bell, a cat expert and celebrity and entertainment relations coordinator at Best Friends Animal Society.
When we plan a date night with our significant other, we try to think of ways to surprise them and make them happy. Take the same approach with your cat. Remember, cats are wild animals in their own heads. For each activity, Samantha suggests asking yourself, “What would a wild cat living their best life want?
“Let’s give them a chance to experience what they are meant to do,” Samantha says.
You can do this by planning a day that appeals to all five of your cat’s senses. Samantha offers tips for how to take a walk on the wild side with your feline friend this Valentine’s Day.
Wild cats hunt for food and fun. They love spotting prey like fish, mice, birds and little bugs. “Obviously, we don’t want to bring these things into our homes,” Samantha says. “There are a lot of amazing things online.” She suggests Googling “videos for cats.” You’ll find hour-long videos of birds in baths and aquariums with fish that quickly dart back and forth. “Putting a video on the big screen for ambiance during dinner will make the cat happy and excited,” Samantha says. “After dinner, maybe watch an animal documentary.” Samantha’s cat loves Blue Planet.
A cat’s sense of smell is at least 14 times better than ours. “Scent is their strongest sense,” Samantha says. “When they recognize each other … or are interested in something, it’s because of scent.” Samantha believes “scent buffets” can be fun for cats. Catnip and valerian root (which is often found in cat toys and is available on Amazon) are musts, but think about introducing Kitty to something new. “Novel scents are great enrichment for cats,” Samantha says. If a friend or neighbor has a gerbil or hamster, ask for shavings from their cage.
Also, do Kitty a favor and skip the perfume you’d wear if heading out on a date with your significant other. “It gives them a headache,” Samantha says.
Treat your cat to something new. Instead of kibble or typical wet food, which is usually chicken, turkey or beef-flavored, opt for something like venison, salmon or duck. Some brands make these types of food in cans. Or, give Kitty something extra special. “You can prepare fish for yourself and leave a little bit for your cat that you do not season,” says Samantha. FYI: Garlic and onions are poisonous to cats, so you’ll want to be sure Kitty’s treat doesn’t have any of that in it.
Create a soundtrack for your date night that’s music to Kitty’s ears. At dinner, opt for something soothing, like classical music or something made for cats. Musician David Teie has created playlists at a frequency cats enjoy. After dinner, play sounds of their prey, like birds, mice and gerbils. “When they hear those noises, they get very excited and want to play,” Samantha says.
While Kitty is excitedly listening to prey sounds, make her feel like she’s actually hunting. Try a wand toy. “Really get into it,” Samantha says. “Don’t just swing it back and forth. Put it on the ground, have it round a corner, so the cat really feels like it’s hunting it. They’ll grab it and bite it and feel proud of themselves.” And it’ll make your cat fall in love with you all over again. “It’ll really bond you with your cat when you give them the opportunity to do something they really wanted to do,” Samantha says.
Need a Date?
If you have room in your home and heart, Samantha believes cats make the perfect fur-ever dates. “The companionship of animals has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lessen depression and anxiety, helping people to feel calmer and more secure when the news from the outside world is distressing,” she says. This adoption checklist can help you figure out whether you’re ready to take the plunge into cat parenthood.
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