Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

How to Spoil Your Cat

cats_napping Who has more fun when you spoil your kitty—you or the kitty? Maybe both. Here are some of the many ways to properly dote on your fabulous feline.

The cleansing zen of brushing. Most cats enjoy the rhythmical front-to-back glide of a brush or comb over their fur. The brushing ritual builds a bond as it slightly stimulates your kitty's skin and cleans her fur. Each cat has a unique preference for brush type and brushing style, so you may need to experiment before you find the right combo. If you already brush kitty regularly, consider adding a new brush to the repertoire. There are so many types to choose from—bristle brushes, de-shedding combs, and slicker brushes. Each one imparts a different feel and cleans and conditions the fur in its own way.

Cats like to sleep—everywhere. Cats are sleep connoisseurs, so you know they appreciate comfy sleeping spots (including all areas of your bed, your important papers, and your lap). Surely you can appropriate one more area in your home for kitty's napping. What to put in the newly-designated snoozing space? There are lots of choices. In addition to the luxury of bona fide cat beds and mats, try unconventional bedding options such as flattened tote bags or cardboard boxes. Will your cat go for these? Maybe he'll sleep on it and let you know.

Rotate your kitty's toys. You can never have too many cat toys, right? And they tend to be inexpensive—perfect catnip stocking stuffers. But it's not just the number of toys; it's how you use them. A toy mouse left out all the time is basically dead prey to a kitty. After a rousing play session (complete with victory pounce and snack), stow the erstwhile "prey" in the hidden kitty toy box. Bring it back in a week or so, so it seems fresh. In general, rotate the toys: Bring them out for play, and hide them out of reach at other times. Exceptions: Leave safe toys here and there with which kitty can entertain himself during the night and when you're away for more than a short while. Stuff them in various places for novelty and moderate hide-and-seek challenges. Rotate those toys, too.

Try fun variations with interactive play. Daily interactive play has many benefits: It provides your cat with physical and mental exercise, strengthens the cat-human bond, helps maintain a good weight, and much more. It also lets you and your kitty be creative. Here's one way to add some variation to your play routine: Crouch down low behind a chair, or just around the corner, behind a wall. Peek out and get your cat's attention, then quickly retreat. And wait. All of a sudden, and possibly when you least expect it . . . the kitty will rush upon you, abruptly stopping two inches from your face. It's fun to be the "prey," and it gives you an appreciation for the mouse's predicament. For added effect, turn the lights down low, and play the game in a carpeted room. You'll neither hear nor see your able hunter sneak up on you. Actually, dimming the lights often energizes any interactive play scenario, possibly because it simulates dawn and dusk conditions, wild cats' favorite hunting times. It's impressive to throw a toy in a dark room and watch a kitty jump on it like a laser beam. Daily interactive play is a great way for your little indoor stalker and pouncer to practice his skills and work off stress.

Treats for the sweet. Cats enjoy treats just like we do. Your kitty will enjoy finding a treat in his bowl or in surprise locations (that are not too hard to find – so you don't end up with uneaten treats everywhere). Some cats like to chase after treats that you slide across the floor. Other ways to combine treats with exercise are offering a treat reward after a play session and buying your kitty a treat ball. (Remember, as tempting as it is to give your cat a treat when he's giving you the "oh, poor me" look, a few treats go a long way.)

Add value to your cat's daily scratching by offering him a variety of well-placed scratching posts. Only one post for your master scratcher? You cat will get more of scratching's benefits—including its sheer joy—if his scratching posts and other paraphernalia are varied and close by. "Varied" means a combination of orientations (upright posts, flat or inclined pads) and materials (sisal, dense cardboard, etc.). "Close by" means that when your cat is in one of his favorite rooms, he doesn't have to walk far to find a decent place to scratch (he's much more likely to pick a nearby couch over an inconveniently-located post), and when he's passing by a strategic site for marking territory, he has the opportunity to get in a quick "reaffirmation" scratch. Scratching is of utmost importance to cats; the greater the amount and diversity of scratching furniture available to your cat, the better. In a multi-cat household this takes on additional significance.

The value of peace and quiet. Mere words can barely describe the peacefulnessrelaxed_cat of quiet times when it's just your kitty and you. (Well, quiet except for the rumbling purr.) There is something profoundly satisfying yet open and giving when you're petting your appreciative cat. All seems right with the world for those moments.

1000 things to do with cardboard boxes. With a cat around, you realize there’s no limit to how cardboard boxes can be used as toys, playing props, and hiding places. Open up the floors of the boxes and connect two or three together to make a tunnel, which combines wonderfully with interactive play. Some cats like to sit in a low-sided cardboard box and be pushed around the room – make it extra exciting by cutting a small hole in the bottom of the box so your kitty can view and occasionally paw at the terrain. Cardboard may be the all-time bargain for people with cats.

Enhance your kitty's outdoor viewing experience. Is there a window in your home without a formal or makeshift perch for a kitty next to it? Surely that situation must be remedied! You can't beat a deluxe cat tree by the window, but a downscale solution can be as simple as reserving part of a desk or other furniture near a window for your kitty's outdoor gazing use. Outside the window (but not right next to it), you can put a bird feeder and bird bath. The birds will have tasty, nutritious food and water and your cat will have free entertainment.

Four paws up for this amazing video. Even if your cat never watches TV, he may have an entirely different response to the Cat Sitter DVD. Its compelling close-up footage of birds is so lifelike, your cat might strike at the screen or run behind the computer or DVD player to see where the bird went when it takes off. The Cat Sitter video is so powerful, for some cats you may want to show short segments and follow those with actual play sessions so your kitty can sink his claws and teeth into real "prey." The video may be a great resource for cats that need a little inspiration for playing, or those that are in a stressful situation and could use a diversion.

Bonus mini-tip. Throughout the day, surprise your kitty with random chin scratches and friendly pets. Of course, who can resist that anyway? Throw in some lavish praise, too. Cats love that.

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