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As anyone who’s had their shin attacked by a playful kitten can attest, many cats love to frolic. But mind activity is also important for cats, such that it can even lead to physical benefits for your feline.
In 2002, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Jacqui Neilson suggested that mental exercises could be used to help slow down age-related cognitive decline in animals, based on studies of humans with Alzheimer’s disease. Here are four ways you can keep your cat’s mind and body engaged throughout the day:
1. Food puzzles. Instead of just placing your cat kibble in a bowl, consider making your cat work for the reward. Frederick Cat Vet has some easy-to-make food puzzler instructions that will keep your cat hard at work for every last bite.
2. Hunting toys. Ancestors to the domestic cat would catch 10 to 20 little critters a day, on average. Toys that give your cat a chance to exercise this strong hunting instinct by pouncing, catching or tossing them in the air are a good choice. The FroliCat Dart takes the traditional laser one step further by automatically rotating a laser beam through the room, leading your cat on an endless chase.
3. Vertical spaces. Cats like to take advantage of the full three-dimensional space in a room. Having high places on which to perch allows the cat to exercise its climbing instinct. It also affords them a safe place to escape from dogs or kids who may be bothering them down on the floor. If you don’t want to pay pet store prices for a kitty condo, there are some great plans online so you can build a perch or kitty condo yourself.
4. Stimulating smells. Most everyone knows about catnip, but there are several plants that cats are highly attracted to, including catmint and valerian. The University of Vermont has a great article about planting a cat-friendly garden that lists the most popular plants.
Exercise for the brain is just as beneficial as exercise for the body. Give your cat both for a long and happy life.
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang is a small-animal veterinarian from San Diego. When she's not at work or with her family of two and her four-legged creatures, you can find her blogging about life with pets at PawCurious.com. Dr. Vogelsang's blogs have previously appeared on The Daily Cat.