Keeping Your Cat Satisfied: The Cycle of Daily Needs
For as long as cats have been considered domestic, they have been favored by people for rodent hunting and companionship. While cats are still loved for their companionship, indoor cats have since been prevented from hunting. Many owners are grossed out to find the dead mouse on their doorstep.
Cats haven’t lost the instinct to hunt. Without proper exercise and stimulation, cats can exhibit behavioral issues. There is a cycle of needs that your cat needs to complete during the day to stay healthy and satisfied. When your cat is satisfied, they are are also well behaved in the home. Cats hunt, catch, groom, and sleep. Allowing your cat to engage in these actions are an important part of your cat’s welfare.
The Mighty Hunter
Cats are skilled predators that hunt to survive when living on their own. Their bodies are built to be efficient hunters. Most of a cat’s senses are specialized to pick up the smell, sight, and sounds of their prey in both day and night.
They have been relying on their hunting instincts for thousands of years. Cats are evolving towards a domestic lifestyle, but not fast enough to have given up on their hunting prowess.
Life indoors for cats is boring
Now, many cats spend their time indoors. They aren’t hunting prey and can become overweight from sleeping the day away or destructive due to boredom. Don’t get me wrong, the safest place for a cat to live is indoors. The outdoors presents many dangers to a cat from larger predators to vehicle accidents. We advocate for indoor only cats, unless the cat goes out on a harness and leash, catio, or fenced in yard. Therefore, cats need to be supplemented with environmental enrichment and exercise to keep them happy and healthy.
Cats need to hunt to stay satisfied. However, there is a caveat to this lifestyle. We don’t recommend encouraging your cat to hunt live prey. There is an environmental impact on hunting live wildlife and there are welfare concerns and dangers of cats hunting mice or other feeder animals.
So How Can a Domestic Cat Hunt?
Hunting relies on an ingrained motor pattern of stalking, chasing, and pouncing. We can simulate hunting with proper play. Cats can practice these natural behaviors with chasing a wand toy, solving puzzle toys, and interacting with tech toys.
All play is not considered equal among cats. Each cat has preferences with toy type and play style. The key to good play with cats is to mimic an animal, whether it’s a mouse scurrying along the ground or a bird flying in the air. This will engage their prey drive and motivate them to play with you.
If you’re playing with a wand toy, have the toy scurry across the floor and hide behind something. Your cat will likely come to investigate the hidden toy. When they find it, make the toy run across the floor. After some back and forth pursuit, allow your cat to triumphantly pounce the toy and catch it.
Catching and eating their prey is the next step of the cycle. Cats that hunt without ever able to ever catch their prey will become frustrated and lose interest. Once the cat catches the toy, you can offer them a few treats or give them a meal.
Playing with your cat before feeding time will exercise them and help to build an appetite. Feeding meals at certain times after some activity is more natural for your cat than offering food to them at all times. Feeding set meals will also prevent over-eating, prevent them from becoming overweight and keeping them healthier.
If you feel you’re too busy at certain feedings, there are automatic toys that simulate prey. There are various price points and types. You’ll likely need to offer your cat a few different types of toys to see what they prefer.
Here’s a list of our favorite interactive toys:
Once a cat has completed the first two steps of hunting or playing and eating, it’s now time to groom themselves. Grooming is an important part of a cat’s needs. They are clean animals and will always wash themselves after activity. This helps the cat to settle and relax themselves after hunting and eating.
This is the part that matters to humans, especially if you have a cat that likes to keep you up at night or wake you early in the morning.
Practice this cycle right before you go to sleep. Play with your cat for 15 minutes right before you head to bed. Then, give them a snack or their last meal of the evening. Your cat will have done two of the critical steps of the cycle and will be prepared to start settling in to groom and fall asleep.
This will help your cat change their routine so that you are both on the same sleeping schedule, making it less likely for them to wake you up throughout the night.