As wonderful and entertaining as they are, cats can wreak all manner of havoc on a household. While acting out can be an attempt to communicate serious issues (like illness or a dirty litter box), more often than not, cats choose violence simply because they’re restless and bored. If your little devil is firmly in the second camp, here’s how to keep them occupied.
Play with them as much as possible
Tired cats sleep; wired cats get into mischief. Cat expert Jackson Galaxy puts it pretty succinctly:
Remember, cats are motivated by their primal instincts to hunt, catch, kill, and eat. They need to release this energy, and if they don’t, that’s when some pesky behavior can start.
Playing with your cat releases this energy and, as a bonus, helps you bond. Keep a variety of interactive toys on hand—they don’t have to be fancy, they just need to move in different, interesting ways. Wand toys like the Cat Dancer are ideal because they let you change things up and keep your cats guessing.
Technique matters, too. Galaxy recommends the “boil and simmer” method of playing, which is like interval training for cats: Short periods of intense activity (boiling) followed by rest (simmering), repeated until the cat is tuckered out. Fighting gravity makes any play session more tiring, so don’t be afraid to make your cat jump up and down and climb obstacles to get their toy.
Give them something to do when you’re busy
Tragically, cat owners are responsible for many non-cat related tasks, such as working to earn money. Your cat needs something non-destructive to do while you’re away, which means they need furniture and—you guessed it—more toys.
Cat furniture can be anything you like as long as you don’t mind it getting clawed. Cardboard loungers; shitty old chairs; elaborate, multi-level cat trees; and those cool beds that suction cup to a window—all have their advantages. If possible, put the lounging furniture near a window so they can hiss at birds all day.
As for toys, consider what your cat likes to do: Some love batting balls around a closed track, while others prefer murdering catnip-stuffed fish to death. Puzzle feeders can entertain food-motivated cats for hours. Don’t forget trash: Your cat is an artist, and their canvas is a cardboard box filled with paper. Yes, they’ll make a mess, but that’s just part of the process. (Vacuuming up shredded paper beats dealing with broken planters and dirt, anyway.)
Get another cat
Most cats will chill out with age and plenty of playtime. But if no amount of active play prevents your insane feline from climbing the walls, giving them a playmate may be hugely helpful.
This is a high-risk, high-reward decision, and not to be taken lightly. According to the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) guide to adopting a second cat,
“[C]ats are family-oriented creatures that commonly live with their relatives. They are not very tolerant of outsiders and are less likely to cohabit harmoniously with a cat that they are not related to.”
Plenty of unrelated adult cats get along just fine, but it’s never guaranteed. Stack the odds in your favor by telling the shelter or rescue organization absolutely everything about your first cat and following their advice for introducing the new family member.
Kittens are a little easier. Adult cats don’t usually get aggressive towards babies, and if you already have a hyperactive menace on your hands, a kitten’s boundless energy is a natural match. With a little luck and a lot of patience, they’ll spend their days romping and playing together—and leave your stuff alone.