When you're away from the house and kitty's on his own, he may get bored and lonely. But you can go a long way toward preventing that by making kitty's surroundings interesting and rewarding while he has the place to himself.
Yes, your cat may conform to your schedule somewhat and take long naps while you're at work or school, but when he wakes up to an empty house, your advance planning can make a big difference in his mood and level of mental and physical activity in those circumstances.
Add Interest Outside the Home
Set up a bird feeder and bird bath near (but not too near) one of kitty's favorite windows. Be sure to learn about keeping bird baths and feeding stations clean, so you'll be providing a service for the birds rather than putting their health at risk. Your cat will enjoy watching the activity at those places. Even if resourceful squirrels end up eating a lot of the seed, kitty won't mind.
Certain trees and shrubs do a very good job of attracting birds and squirrels—all the more entertaining for your keen feline observer. You can also buy or build birdhouses and nesting boxes that attract feathered residents. Set up bird nesting and feeding areas several feet or more away from kitty's viewing windows, and both birds and cat will be less frustrated.
Add Interest Inside the Home
Start with an enriched and accommodating environment for your cat. Kitty should have scratching posts (the more, and the more variety, the better), perches for viewing or napping (or both), and hiding places.
While you're away for the day, or sleeping at night, you can enhance kitty's milieu in several ways:
- Leave a paper bag—with handles snipped—out for your cat to investigate. Try different locations. You can also create some interesting layouts with .
- Don't immediately get rid of cardboard boxes. Put them in various places for kitty to explore. Change their locations. Flip them over and cut out a door flap. The possibilities with cardboard are endless.
- Leave a couple of cat treats in places where your kitty will find them, but don't make the treats too easy to find. It is a good idea to remember where you put them!
- Leave two or more safe toys in various not-too-hard but not-too-easy hiding places. "Safe" means something like a catnip mouse or ball toy, but nothing with strings of any sort or with little parts that could break off. Wand toys are better suited for supervised play. Unless kitty has a favorite toy of which he never tires, rotate the toys to keep things fresh.
- Your cat may literally get a kick, or at least a fun challenge, from coaxing food out of a "treat ball" that deposits kibble on the floor as it rolls around. Although your clever kitty has to work for his food this way, remember that the contents of the ball (including perhaps one or two treats) still count as calories, so ration accordingly. Periodically dump out the food in the ball if your cat is not eating all of it.
- Many cats find classical music at low volume to be calming. An alternative to leaving the radio on all day is a CD of music made especially for cats.
- Another option for latchkey cats is a cat-sitter DVD. Your cat may be fascinated with the birds and wildlife on the PC or TV screen. Some cats have been known to search behind the screen for the prey.
Before You Walk Out the Door
Shortly before you leave the house is a great time for an interactive play session with your cat, followed by a victory snack. The exuberance and challenge of playing will leave kitty (and perhaps you) in a good mood, and the workout plus the tasty meal will prime kitty for a restful nap, which could last for half the time you're away earning money or getting an education to earn money so you can buy more stuff for your cat.
When Kitty is Prowling At Night
Many of these techniques work for keeping your cat engaged, and possibly out of your hair, when you're sleeping.
What About Two Cats?
There is one more point about "cats home alone" that we should mention. How—not to mention whether—to add another cat to your household is a complicated subject outside the scope of this article. But many cats benefit greatly from a cat friend, and this is especially true when there are no humans around. If you have or are planning to get a kitten, give due consideration to a second kitten or young adult cat playmate. Kittens require lots of stimulation and there's no substitute for another rambunctious, playful furry feline friend. In fact, some shelters, rescue groups, and breeders require that kittens be adopted or sold in pairs, or go to homes in which there is at least one more young cat. (In some cases, a kitten and puppy become best friends, too.)
A Content Cat is a Safer Cat
Cats, like people, might not only be frustrated when they're bored, but also have a tendency to get into trouble. So helping kitty exercise his mind and body when you're not around has multiple benefits.
Upon Your Arrival Back Home
When you return home, give your cat a proper enthusiastic greeting. He's probably glad to see you; let him know you're glad to see him. Kitty may have some pent up energy and be up for a quick game of "chase the toy"—or at least a tasty snack. Your cat's confident anticipation of a friendly, joyful homecoming will help his solitary hours be productive and non-stressful.