Cat Fun in Winter: Do Cats Get the Winter Blues?
Have fun with your cat this winter! You probably think cats don’t need special winter attention because they are not leash walked, but that is not the case, cats do get the winter blues…. And here is how to fix it…
Winter and Cats
Cats love warm sunny conditions as their species originated in the African deserts thousands of years ago. The cold rainy winter weather in the UK is not their cup of tea. Like humans, some cats tolerate the winter weather better than others, but for many they prefer to stay indoors. The long hours of darkness also limit their activities as bird watching whilst looking out the window is not an option for more than a few hours per day!
This can lead to bored, frustrated cats, full of cabin fever. They are more likely to show problematic behaviours, or just engage in a lot of cheeky attention seeking behaviour! Here are some tips for keeping your cat safe and entertained during the dark months. Your relationship will also blossom as your cat thinks of you as the source of fun!!
Grit applied on the pavements is often toxic to cat paws. If your area has been gritted, please wash their paws with warm cloths or water when they come indoors to remove any toxic substances before kitty has time to lick them off and possibly make themselves sick.
Cats obviously are not keen on foot soaks and baths, but can be trained to tolerate a gentle wiping of their paws when they come in from the outdoors. I have found that cat treats such as Dreamies can transform grooming tasks from a Nightmare to a Dream Come True. Please get in touch if you want some specific suggestions for working with your cat on husbandry tasks.
Outdoor safety concerns apply to other species as well. Many people fill birdfeeders to feed the birds in the winter. Please be mindful of their safety if you have a cat though. Cats love stalking birds and are responsible for many avian deaths. So please put the birdfeeders in an area where they will be safe from your cat’s predatory behaviour.
Winter Outdoor fun
Believe it or not, some cats do not mind snow, and can still have a lot of fun climbing trees and running about. Do not hesitate to let your cat outdoors if this is part of their normal behaviour. Just please be observant that they may want to come indoors soon if it is too cold or wet for them.
The main theme here is to help your cat to use their clever brains instead of their bodies. Anyone who has done a complicated mental exercise, such as their finances, knows that mental effort is just as tiring as physical effort! And, as they say, ‘a tired cat is a well-behaved cat!
Use your imagination to think of training and play that can be done indoors that will be challenging and fun for both of you!
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Food dispenser toys:
Street cats spend most of their day foraging or hunting for food. This is a species-specific behaviour that is inherently fun and satisfying for them. We have taken this activity away from them by giving all of their food in a bowl.
If your cat eats biscuits or kibbles, then only give them half in their food bowl.
Save half of the kibbles to put in food dispenser toys. These can be purchased, such as the justifiably popular kitty KONGs, or they can be homemade.
Cats love homemade food dispenser toys. Empty toilet paper rolls can be stuffed with biscuits and the edges crimped. My cat LOVES this game and will spend ages trying to get the kibbles out. He bats it around the counters, and it gets destroyed after a few days, but hey, another one is usually available! Cat kibbles can also be hid around the house, and cats love a search game trying to find their food. They will explore their house with renewed interest as they seek out the food.
Also, if you have small children or other animals, it is best to separate them for food dispenser toys. Or, put the cat food toys in areas where they cannot be reached by other animals, or small children.
Many of our cats have an extensive supply of toys. Like humans they get bored with their toys quickly. I suggest that toys are rotated so that only 2-3 are available on a given day. This keeps them fun and entertaining!! And again, use your imagination. Toys can be homemade, especially cat toys such as crumpled paper or foil, or fishing pole toys.
Spotify and some radio stations have playlists for animals. Research has shown that cats enjoy listening to music, except for harsh sounds such as metal or rap. Classical music and jazz are especially pleasing for them. Try playing some of their favourite tunes, and see if they like it.
Also, some cats enjoy watching telly, and there are DVDs just for their enjoyment. My cat has suddenly started being fascinated by nature shows, and will stare at the screen for ages. Another cat I know enjoys watching sports such as football and ice hockey. Ok, so it is the onscreen movement that catches their attention, but they do seem to enjoy it!
My favourite tip for winter enrichment is TRAINING!!! Since I use only positive reward-based training, cats do not realise that they are being trained. They think we are playing a fun game, with yummy rewards such as chicken.
If you have ever had a trainer to your house, you will realise that they are EXHAUSTED after a training session. And, remember, a tired cat is a well-behaved cat….
Most people know that their dogs benefit from training, but cats also love training, believe it or not!
Cats can be trained for all sorts of fun such as going over hurdles, jumping from place to place, going in and out of boxes. The only limit is your imagination!! I suggest using a clicker for cats as they seem to love the sound of the clicker. Please get in touch if you want some specific suggestions.
I hope you have enjoyed these suggestions, and remember, the only limit is your imagination!!! These enrichment activities are enriching for humans too, as we develop an even greater respect and love for our beloved cats as we do these activities together.
Please get in touch if you have any specific questions or concerns. Most of all, enjoy the time you have together!!!