If your normally-playful cat is suddenly uninterested in toys or games, a trip to your veterinarian can address any health issues that may be making your cat too lethargic or achey to play. But sometimes indoor cats just need a little help staying active and healthy in an environment that can easily be unstimulating without a little effort on your part.
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1. Find the right toys
Cats are picky about what they play with, and all cats will have different ideas about what’s interesting to them. Having toys in your home isn’t enough. You have to have the right toys. If your cat seems oblivious to the felt mice but perks up when you crumple up a piece of paper take a cue from that and add some toys that make crinkling sounds. Don’t hesitate to try a few different types until you find something your cat wants to play with.
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2. Play with him more. Yes, you.
We’re all busy and it can be hard to find time to play, but your involvement is a critical step to encouraging your lazy cat to be more active. Toys and games will always be more fun to him if his human friend is involved. Use a wand toy or laser pointer to activate your cat’s natural prey instincts. Make sure to occasionally hide the toy or laser to encourage him to hunt, stalk, and search. Give him a treat at the end of this type of play so he can feel satisfied that he made the “kill” after hunting.
3. Use battery-operated toys
If your cat loves hunting and pouncing on moving targets but you aren’t able to play with him as often as you’d like, add a few battery-operated toys to your home. Some battery-operated toys will even work on a timer that you can set for when you aren’t home.
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4. Ditch the low quality food
Does your cat eat low quality food? If so, he might not be getting all of the nutrients he needs to be truly healthy and active. Talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s specific dietary needs and get suggestions about what kind of food would best benefit your cat. While you’re at it, make sure your cat is drinking enough water, since dehydration can lead to lethargy.
5. Add food puzzles to meal and treat times
If you aren’t sure what food puzzles are or how your cat can benefit from them, read our recent article 5 Ways Food Puzzles Can Improve Your Cat’s Health. Food puzzles are a great way to turn meal and treat times into stimulating and fun games that will get your cat moving and thinking.
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6. Add vertical space and scratching posts
An enriching and stimulating environment will have ample vertical space (perches, cat trees, cat walks, etc.) and scratching posts for your cat. As natural hunters, cats benefit from vertical space because it allows them to survey their territory from above, but it also encourages them to jump and climb. Putting a perch or cat tree near a window will stimulate your cat further by giving him a front row seat to all of the sights, sounds, and smells of outside.
Scratching posts will help your cat stretch and flex his body, preparing him for play and active time. For ideas about what kind of scratcher will entice your cat, read our recent article 5 Scratching Posts to Drive Your Cat Wild (And One Silly Bonus!)
7. Take advantage of cat-stimulating YouTube channels
These days there are a lot of YouTube channels designed specifically to stimulate your cat when you aren’t able to play. Here are a few of my favorites:
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8. Use treats to reward healthy behavior
Assuming your cat is healthy enough to handle moderate exercise, you can use treats to get your cat moving. With the promise of treats you can convince your cat to jump, take a stroll around your home, play, or even walk up and down a flight of stairs.
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9. Add a more active cat or kitten to your family
If you can responsibly add another cat to your family, this is a great way to perk up a lazy cat. After a proper introduction period, a more active cat will naturally initiate playtime and coax your lazy cat into a more active lifestyle.