Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
Summer is the time to relax and slow down, a time to seek relief from searing temperatures. Cats are geniuses for finding the coolest spots in their homes. Sometimes they stretch out on cold bathroom tiles or in places where there are refreshing cross breezes. Although kitties are not as active in hot weather as they are when it’s cooler, they still need to do more than nap. Encourage your cats to try these six cool activities that stimulate while encompassing their natural behaviors.
Help your cat stay cool and entertained with these easy-to-make meat broth ice cubes. Start from scratch and cook your own broth, because commercial broths are flavored with sodium, garlic, spices, and other ingredients toxic to cats. You need only two ingredients: raw meat and fresh water. Place your cat’s favorite meat, along with the bones, into a large pot, cover with water, and boil. Cooking time varies, depending on the meat and the amount of water. Do not add anything to the mix — just meat and water.
After making the broth, skim the fat off and pour the broth into ice cube trays. Broth cubes are more enticing when a piece of meat is added to each cube before they are placed in the freezer. After they are frozen, put a couple of cubes into a wide shallow bowl for your cat. Each kitty in the household deserves her own bowl with two frozen meat cubes. Cats enjoy sampling the melting broth while going for the meat “prize.”
Water can be made more appealing with toys. Float plastic hollow balls and other water-safe toys in bowls, fountains, and sinks. Your cat will enjoy batting and trying to catch the elusive objects. Make sure the toys are safe — that they can’t be swallowed or have pieces that can be bitten off.
Many cats love drinking and swatting at running water. Gift you and your feline companions with motion-sensitive water faucets that easily attach to kitchen and bathroom faucets. Although designed for humans, most cats quickly figure out how to activate them with head movements and paw swipes.
Pet fountains are also a hit with most kitties. You can choose from a variety of commercial models, including expensive, decorative ceramic ones as well as inexpensive plastic models. All pet fountains need to be cleaned at least once a week.
Cats are individuals — each has her own toy preferences. Many love ball-and-tract toys, while others enjoy spending time fishing toys and treats out of puzzle boxes, feeders, and toys. Some opt to carry favorite toys in their mouths or chase them around on the floor, and some prefer stalking, pouncing, and catching toys being dragged by their people.
If cats could write, they’d put tall cat trees and condos high on their must-have lists. They would also ask you to place them near screened windows. These are perfect locations for watching the goings-on in the neighborhood while enjoying a cross breeze and napping after a play session. Also incorporate the vertical territory into your cat’s play sessions by dragging pole toys, feathers, and ribbons over them for your kitty to chase.
Most kitties enjoy napping, playing, and hiding under furniture and in bags, boxes, and tunnels. Bags need to be safe — use only paper bags without handles. Make these places more enjoyable by angling them to catch a cross breeze. Encourage your cat to use them for more than hiding and napping by tossing favorite toys and rolling treats into them.
Choose the right times to play. Avoid energetic play sessions when it’s hot — the heat can cause serious health issues. Instead, encourage play during the mornings and evenings when it’s cooler. You may be able to entice your cat by rubbing her favorite toys with treats and catnip. Also, incorporate play into mealtimes by putting food and treats in puzzle boxes and toys.
Along with the hazards from overheating, know your cat’s limitations when you play with her. Older cats and those who have impairments do not play as intensely or as long as younger adults and kittens. Even kitties who do enjoy intense play should not be pushed to the point where they are panting and breathing hard. Tailor the play sessions to the individual — they might consist of only batting balls around and slurping broth ice cubes, or they might be raucous stalk-and-chasing games.
About the author: Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant, award-winning author, and owner of The Cat Coach LLC, solves cat behavior problems through Skype, phone, and on-site consultations. Marilyn writes bimonthly behavior articles for Catster.com and was the monthly behavior columnist for Cat Fancy magazine. She is the author of the cat behavior book Naughty No More! Marilyn lectures nationally about cat behavior and is a frequent guest on television and radio. Join Marilyn for lively discussions about cat behavior on her Facebook page and on Twitter at @TheCatCoach.