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Best ways to entertain cats I am cat sitting for


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We have two bonus cats confined to our basement for the next two months while their people work at a Ren Faire.  The orange affectionate floof is clearly bored.  We have tried lots of pets, which he loves, and push up cat treats, which are the bomb, and the laser pointer, Yeoww catnip toys, random toy mice, and he's still bored.  I need to go find him a feather on a string toy, because he is super athletic.  His sister is content to sleep in the comfy cat bed and glare accusingly at the rest of us, but Tiger needs entertainment.  

I have one super old cat who is entertained by moving to different spots to sleep, and Obama, who entertains himself by going outside.  These cats are confined to the basement, which has two large rooms, an entry way type thing, and a room with lots of boxes / storage and their litter boxes.  My husband works downstairs during the day, but he's boring and is not devoted to Tiger entertainment.  I go downstairs for an hour or two a day to pet, clean litter boxes, feed, play.  I'm kinda at a loss.  I'm pondering breaking out the ipad for Tiger and some cat apps/ bird tv.  Any other great cat entertainment?  I feel like he needs some serious stimulation.  

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If you can get a "Da Bird" it's pretty amazing. It's just little bits of cardboard with feathers on a wire, but the way it bounces ends up being similar to a hopping bird, and it definitely connects with cats. You can even attach it to a wall and start it, and they'll play with it on their own, and at least ours kept going even without the feathers. One of L's mentors, who is a lizard behaviorist and definite cat person, gave us one when we adopted Anery and Mamba. 

Edited by Dmmetler
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Posted (edited)

My cat’s favorite two things:

—The Cat Dancer from Amazon. Cheap, simple, but seriously fantastic in his little cat mind.

—the little play mice with rabbit fur and a rattle inside. I get them from a local garden center but I know they do have them on Amazon. Must be the rabbit fur or our cat won’t acknowledge their presence.

We have a seriously embarrassing amount  of cat stuff here but these two are the favorites. 

Edited by momto3innc
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Bird videos for cats keep our kitties surprisingly entertained. One became a bit addicted,though, and demanded viewing hours from 7-9pm for weeks on end. She’s really active while watching—she’s come close to pulling the TV off the table a few times in her excitement, so we had to ban videos with black squirrels, which she apparently finds too irresistible to not “chase”. 
 

For real toys, our kitties love feather toys. They have very different styles of play though—one can hunt a slooooowly moving feather for ages; the other pounces and does acrobatics.

Love that you can take good care of bonus cats for so long! Do your other kitties mind? 

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Are there windows in the basement. If yes, put bird food outside to draw birds. I call it kitty-TV.

When I petsat for a neighbor I'd drag a string around the house and the older kittens really had fun.

Can anyone sleep w/ the kitties?

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 Does Tiger like catnip?  Our orange cat isn't interested in it at all.  When we had cats who liked catnip, we would put the scratching post on its side and sprinkle it with catnip and they'd go wild.  

Do you have any ping pong balls?  We've had cats who like to chase those around.  

Maybe show him some episodes of Frasier...Tiger reminds me of a feline version of Eddie!

 

 

 

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Da Bird was an absolute favorite when my cats were kittens. It was magical I can't explain it; the way that toy moved or something.

They also have these little foam balls for cats we built obstacles using boxes, pillows, clutter whatever and throw the balls into the midst of the obstacles. One of our cats loved that and would play fetch like a dog (bring the ball back out of the obstacle to us every time).

If your husband is competitive or likes being competitive, you can convince him to help you entertain the cat by making contests between him and the cat. Get a stick with a ribbon (they have premade ones at any cat store, Target, or make your own with ribbon (or just get enough ribbon)). Then you taunt the cat with the ribbon to get the game started, once the cat is interested and has his eye on the prey let the games begin. Your husband then does his best to keep the ribbon thing away from the cat but close enough to taunt. I would come home to thuds and skids; I don't know who was having more fun the kittens or my husband. The only thing is after the game is done you have to give the cat a toy - as his kill this calms them back down after this game.

If the cat likes food and treats you can try to train him to do tricks or useful things. This adds a bit more mental stimulation than the run of the mill play with the cat stuff. My husband taught one of our past cats how to turn lights on/off, sit, and shake. My MIL has taught her cat to shake, sit, roll-over and play dead.

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Get one of those round scratching pads that have the ball that can be rolled around the outside. I haven't met a cat yet who doesn't like those. Even my older cats still like to sneak up on that ball and send it flying around the track.

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2 minutes ago, MissLemon said:

Boxes and paper bags. They'll hop in and out of them, and look quite pleased with themselves. 

Well, it's the basement, with our huge pandemic supply of boxes.  They have loads of boxes.  

I bet he would like a bearded dragon to watch.  There are a couple windows, but they're like half windows way up by the ceiling.  No real way to bird watch.  

I'm going to go buy a Da Bird tomorrow.  Ursula, who was very athletic and agile as a young cat, loved that thing.  

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Tiger and Blackie both like catnip.  I've been taking some to them periodically, and they have a cardboard scratching post with catnip on it.  

I bought Blackie a snuggly soft cat bed.  We used to have one of those balls in a track, but none of the three cats we had at the time liked it, so I got rid of it.  I took some ping pong balls downstairs, but they got lost pretty quickly in all the boxes.  

I wish I could give Tiger the run of the whole house.  He's super social and friendly, but Obama would probably pee on things.  Possibly including Tiger, who is really the friendliest cat ever.  

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We have a cat that needs a lot of attention. It’s not really boredom for him - we think he’s insecure. He sleeps on laps when we are working at ours desks and follows us around. Playing talk radio when we know it’s going to be a female Voice is helpful - BBC has a lot of female reporters. He likes his string on a stick - he carries that around with him sometimes. He also likes fetch, but only if he initiates it and only with the toy he chooses. I say “toy” but in reality he live pipe cleaners. He has a catnip filled canvas fish that he carries around. Try figuring out if there’s a certain kind of music he likes - something that  reminds him of home.
Could Obama visit him in the basement for some supervised play time? 
Do you have enough boxes around that I you could use to make s tower so they can get up and see out the window?

 

 

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  • He might need more noise when there are no humans in the basement. An Alexa is great for this. My sugar gliders have one (yeah, I know, lol) and it's on for a few hours every night whist the humans are sleeping. Podcasts, audiobooks, nature sounds, music. They definitely like having some human voices in the mix. I don't leave it on all night usually, because what if they don't care for trap music? I want to intrigue them, not torture them. 
  • TV for cats is also a great choice for many. 
  • Boxes are great, but you also need to move them around and stack them and so forth. Can't just be a never-changing pile o' boxen. If you have a flat screen TV style box, or one that a big folding table came in, those are great! Have them flat, with one end open and then a variety of holes ripped in various places. Half of our cats looooove this, entering and exiting and prowling. 
  • Drink some beer, stack the cans, and see if he likes to knock them over. 
  • There are games for cats on ipads/tablets, but this is ideally a supervised activity. If you like your tablet. 
  • My cats will watch the robo vac endlessly, following it around (but preferably with furniture and boxes and stuff to give them a height advantage). 
  • If they like lasers, you can buy automatic ones (so they can play without humans). 
  • Some of my cats absolutely love forts, just like kids make. Not just big ones, makes some tiny ones they have to scrunch into as well. Another alternative is just a big pile of scrunched up blankets. They will sometimes pee on this or just mark it a bit, so not the GOOD blankets. 
  • Are there any things you can get done down there? Paperwork, crafts, reading, meal planning? It's a huge help to be near even when you're not focused on them, you can just chat occasionally, give some scritches, and so on. If you bring some extra paper you don't actually need, and look exasperated when they plop down on them, that's a bonus. 
  • If you have two Alexas or a web camera with voice, you can talk to them from anywhere. 
  • I don't know what they're called, but those little sticky people/animals you throw against the wall and they slowly 'climb' their way down? Very cheap and entertaining. Found them, they're called things like sticky wall climbers or wacky wall climbers. 
  • If you're going visit for an hour in the morning, don't make it all at once. 4-6 short visits are much better. 
  • All that stuff in the basement? Just keep moving it around, stack it in different ways, etc. Cats love variety. 
  • How far are the parents? Can you get some of their nice stinky clothes or shoes? About half of my cats love to lounge and nap with their arms wrapped around my dh's absolutely rank outdoor shoes, particularly when he's out of town. 
  • Give treats in a food baffler.
  • Would he enjoy a car ride? Some love it, some hate it. 
  • Make some makeshift balance beams and other agility/obstacle course type things. 

 

10 hours ago, Terabith said:

Tiger stared at me like this for 20 minutes.  

That is some strong judgement. He's planning the report he's going to write at the end of this, and things aren't looking good. 

6 hours ago, Farrar said:

Cats need to be entertained?!?

They don't need to be, in the sense that most of them will adjust and do fine left mostly to their own devices. But most cats do welcome more entertainment and attention than you'd imagine, and you wind up with a much stronger bond and a happier cat. People are always surprised at how sociable and playful and fond of their humans our cats generally are, but it's not a fluke (only 3 of the 8 are related), it's actually a lot of work, lol. Most cats don't clamor for attention the way dogs do, but that doesn't mean they don't want it. My dh is the best about consistently and creatively playing with them, and he is definitely the #1 favorite. If anyone doesn't want a dog but does kind of want some of the more dog-like social behaviors, being intentional and not waiting for them to ask for attention can definitely make a huge difference. 

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9 hours ago, katilac said:
  • He might need more noise when there are no humans in the basement. An Alexa is great for this. My sugar gliders have one (yeah, I know, lol) and it's on for a few hours every night whist the humans are sleeping. Podcasts, audiobooks, nature sounds, music. They definitely like having some human voices in the mix. I don't leave it on all night usually, because what if they don't care for trap music? I want to intrigue them, not torture them. 
  • TV for cats is also a great choice for many. 
  • Boxes are great, but you also need to move them around and stack them and so forth. Can't just be a never-changing pile o' boxen. If you have a flat screen TV style box, or one that a big folding table came in, those are great! Have them flat, with one end open and then a variety of holes ripped in various places. Half of our cats looooove this, entering and exiting and prowling. 
  • Drink some beer, stack the cans, and see if he likes to knock them over. 
  • There are games for cats on ipads/tablets, but this is ideally a supervised activity. If you like your tablet. 
  • My cats will watch the robo vac endlessly, following it around (but preferably with furniture and boxes and stuff to give them a height advantage). 
  • If they like lasers, you can buy automatic ones (so they can play without humans). 
  • Some of my cats absolutely love forts, just like kids make. Not just big ones, makes some tiny ones they have to scrunch into as well. Another alternative is just a big pile of scrunched up blankets. They will sometimes pee on this or just mark it a bit, so not the GOOD blankets. 
  • Are there any things you can get done down there? Paperwork, crafts, reading, meal planning? It's a huge help to be near even when you're not focused on them, you can just chat occasionally, give some scritches, and so on. If you bring some extra paper you don't actually need, and look exasperated when they plop down on them, that's a bonus. 
  • If you have two Alexas or a web camera with voice, you can talk to them from anywhere. 
  • I don't know what they're called, but those little sticky people/animals you throw against the wall and they slowly 'climb' their way down? Very cheap and entertaining. Found them, they're called things like sticky wall climbers or wacky wall climbers. 
  • If you're going visit for an hour in the morning, don't make it all at once. 4-6 short visits are much better. 
  • All that stuff in the basement? Just keep moving it around, stack it in different ways, etc. Cats love variety. 
  • How far are the parents? Can you get some of their nice stinky clothes or shoes? About half of my cats love to lounge and nap with their arms wrapped around my dh's absolutely rank outdoor shoes, particularly when he's out of town. 
  • Give treats in a food baffler.
  • Would he enjoy a car ride? Some love it, some hate it. 
  • Make some makeshift balance beams and other agility/obstacle course type things. 

 

That is some strong judgement. He's planning the report he's going to write at the end of this, and things aren't looking good. 

They don't need to be, in the sense that most of them will adjust and do fine left mostly to their own devices. But most cats do welcome more entertainment and attention than you'd imagine, and you wind up with a much stronger bond and a happier cat. People are always surprised at how sociable and playful and fond of their humans our cats generally are, but it's not a fluke (only 3 of the 8 are related), it's actually a lot of work, lol. Most cats don't clamor for attention the way dogs do, but that doesn't mean they don't want it. My dh is the best about consistently and creatively playing with them, and he is definitely the #1 favorite. If anyone doesn't want a dog but does kind of want some of the more dog-like social behaviors, being intentional and not waiting for them to ask for attention can definitely make a huge difference. 

Oh, this is great!  Thank you!  We don't have any Alexas (refuse to be responsible for the rise of the robot apocalypses), but could take a radio down there.  The whole reason they're confined to basement versus having run of the whole house is that Obama doesn't play well with other cats and we are trying to avoid a cat pee apocalypse.  I'm charging the ipad to try out some cat games, and I'm trying to think what would be motivating treats to train him to do tricks.  I've been doing some reading and stuff downstairs; I'll try to up my time downstairs.  I wish I'd thought about their clothes before they left; we got back from a 2 week trip the day before bonus cats arrived, and they were stressed.  They even forgot to bring their own food/ water bowls from home.  His folks are in Wisconsin, almost a thousand miles away, for the summer.  

I don't drink beer, but I drink La Croix.  I bet he'd like knocking over La Croix cans.  I'll look for those toys that climb the walls.  Tiger is a very good cat, but so incredibly friendly and social.  

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17 hours ago, Farrar said:

Cats need to be entertained?!?

Not all cats need to be entertained, but some do. Some cats will rip your house to shreds without entertainment (younger cats more so than older cats). I've always found it fun to play with cats because they are so agile. Dogs tend to knock over obstacles whereas cats tend to ninja their way through them.

If you have an outdoor or outdoor indoor cat then you probably don't ever have to provide entertainment, but a fully indoor cat may need it. 

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Perhaps you could find out from his humans what his daily routine was like. How much time he spent with them and whether they were around alot during the day, played music, tv, etc.   Does he have anything from his home, like his kitty bed or blanket?  If he is a an indoor/outdoor cat he probably won't ever be happy until he gets to go outside and wander.  Do his humans call and talk to him at all?  He may be missing their voice as well.

Aw, love the picture.  He definitely wants something.  I had an orange tabby just like him we just lost to cancer.   

20 minutes. Yep sounds like my boy and wants attention, wants to go outside or at least needs access to windows to see out as well as sit in the sun.  

Maybe Obama could be put in one room long enough for Tiger to roam around the house a bit.  

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I keep coming back to look at Tiger's RBF picture.  You're definitely failing him in every way!  😂  POOR poor kitty!  I wish he could pal around with Obama, that sounds like the making of some fun stories for us!?  😍

I wonder if he's ever tried a harness and leash?  You could walk him out to the monolith and get photos?   I hope you find him some fun and entertainment and he stops giving you hateful glare!  ❤️  

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So, I asked his people about what his routine is, and they said that when he looks at you like that, he wants to be petted.  But, I offered pets and hung out downstairs with a book for over an hour, and he just stared at me.  

I think he wants the laser pointer to come out and play again, but it needs more batteries.  They said that they don't really entertain their cats, that they just hang around.  I also found out I'm not allowed to give him any treats, because his sister is on a special diet for urinary health.  So....  That makes teaching him to do tricks harder.  

He doesn't usually go outside, but he is used to having the run of the house.  Someone is in the basement for about 10 hours a day, although my husband's time is usually spent mostly working, though he does pet any kitty that approaches and seems interested.  I hesitate to take him outside even on a harness, because cats that go outside need different vaccines and also flea/ tick and heartworm stuff that inside only kitties don't need.  

I broke out the ipad.  Neither of them were interested in any of the three cat ipad games I downloaded.  Going to try youtube bird videos next.  And go to PetSmart for Da Bird.  

The concern with giving him the run of the house when Obama is outside is that a few years ago, we cat sat for a mama cat with young kittens for a week, and when they left, Obama went into the room where they were kept and peed EVERYWHERE.  It was a disaster, and despite prompt clean up, if we move, we will probably have to redo the floors in the entire house as a result.  Our plan was to block Obama's access to the basement for a fairly longish time even after they depart.  I don't think we can take the risk of giving Tiger access to the rest of the house, which makes me feel really guilty, because he would like windows and more space and more people, but, if we weren't cat sitting for him, the alternative plan was boarding in a cage for two months.  

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Love and attention. Lots of love and attention. I have one cat who needs me to be sitting nearby at all times, for when I am up moving around she follows me, meows, jumps on every surface near me and reaches out, trying to get me to touch her. Some days (today was one of those days) I break out the baby sling and stick her in it so I can move around the house without being "yelled at and grabbed" at every turn.

At playtime, favorites around here are plastic springs, mylar balls, and toys on a wand/string.

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Ours likes some crinkly paper or tissue paper in the bottom of a box. Also sometimes they turn a small box over the top of the cat and play with a toy outside. She loves to stick her paw under the box to try to reach the toy outside. Sometimes she’ll just sit under there and then eventually turn the box over and come out. They also make catnip balls, and ours loves her ball. She’s an indoor cat only, but I put her in our screen porch when I go out to water the flowers and weed, and she likes to sit there and hear all the sounds and smell the breeze.

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3 minutes ago, Alte Veste Academy said:

Do they live too far away for them to stay at their own house and have you check in on them once a day? Maybe having the run of their own house would make them more receptive to your company? 

 Love this idea!

It would give Windows to look out through at least. 
 

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