When we’re bored, we mindlessly snack on bad carbs or shop for shoes online, but what does your cat do? You may believe Fluffy is never bored, thanks to approximately 47,253 toys, three plush cat beds and top-quality snacks. But cats can experience boredom, and sometimes express it in unappreciated ways that do not involve playing Candy Crush (shredded drapes, anyone?).
Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant and founder of The Cat Coach, LLC (www.thecatcoach.com), described some of the warning signs of boredom that cat parents should be aware of. “Typically, cats who do not have enough mental or physical stimulation become bored. They may be left alone for hours without other people or animals to interact with,” she says “Bored kitties live in a boring environment—they do not have toys to play with, objects to climb or other mental stimulation.”
Signs of Boredom in Cats
- Over grooming or other repetitive behaviors. Cats may repeatedly lick themselves, pull out their fur or chew/bite at their skin, resulting in irritation that prompts them to continue this frustrating behavior.
- Chasing or fighting with other household animals. Running after the other cats in the household, trying to corner the dog (even if he’s 10 pounds heavier!) or stalking the guinea pig are all signs that suggest your cat needs other stimulation. “Although there are many other reasons for this behavior,” says Krieger, “bored cats sometimes will annoy and chase other pets.”
- Inactivity. Cats spend an average of 15 hours each day napping, so it’s not uncommon for pet parents to catch their cats resting. But if your cat’s natural curiosity isn’t kicking in, it could be a sign of boredom. “Although cats normally spend a great deal of their day napping, they do have times of activity, when they climb and play,” says Krieger. “Some cats who have no or little stimulation will become couch potatoes.” If your cat is only moving from the couch to the food bowl, you could have a bored feline on your hands.
- Your cat is moping around the house. If your cat seems glum or uninterested in things, even food, it could be a sign that he isn’t getting enough activity or mental stimulation. However, if this behavior continues even after you make positive changes to your cat’s environment to increase activity, make sure to see a veterinarian.
- Creating their own version of stimulation. Cats looking for trouble usually find it, especially if it’s a costly new comforter on your bed.
- Overeating. Bored cats are in synch with bored humans on this score. They’ll eat and eat, not to appease hunger but for something to do. And the overeating results in obesity, which further depresses a cat.
“Bored cats sometimes create their own entertainment—such as playing with toilet paper rolls, climbing the curtains or engaging in other unappreciated behaviors.”
While all these signs may be symptoms of boredom, explains Krieger, they may also be indicative of medical or behavior problems. She reminds cat parents that any possible medical causes should be looked into so health problems can be ruled out. “Cats exhibiting changes in behavior should be thoroughly examined by veterinarians,” she says.
Battling Boredom in Cats
Once you and your vet have confirmed that your bored cat has no health issues masquerading as boredom, let the battle against bored cat syndrome begin! Krieger says that cat parents “need to enhance the cat’s environment with interactive toys the cats enjoy, plenty of high places for the cats to climb, scratching posts and horizontal scratchers.” She recommends placing tall cat trees or condos next to secure windows to help entertain cats with what’s happening in the neighborhood.
The biggest key to success is quality time with your cats, explains Krieger. “Playing, treasure hunts and clicker training” are all great options, she says.
With boredom banished, your couch-potato cat will thank you with bright-eyed interest and an eager energy that says, “Who has time to be bored? Let’s play!”