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How to Get Your Cat to Play by Itself: 7 Expert Tips & Tricks

Jordyn Alger

By Jordyn Alger

cat playing mouse toy

When your cat is desperate for something to do, he may resort to clawing the furniture, rummaging through your pantry, or engaging in other sorts of mischief. If you want to avoid destructive behaviors, you must provide more constructive avenues of entertainment for your cat.

In this article, we’ll discuss how long cats can be left alone and share some of the most noticeable signs of boredom in cats, so you can recognize when your cat needs a little extra spice in his life. Then, we will share our seven tips and tricks to help you get your cat to play by himself.

How Long Can Cats Be Left Alone?

You will inevitably have to leave your cat alone at some point. While some cats can handle alone time just fine, they are not half as antisocial as some people seem to believe that they are. When you are away for long periods, your cat misses you. He will also crave social interaction if he is alone in the house.

Therefore, cats should never be left alone for more than 24 hours. Besides providing food, changing the water, and cleaning the kitty litter, a visitor or pet sitter should regularly stop by to socialize with your cat. At a minimum, your cat’s caretaker should spend 15 to 30 minutes socializing.

cat sitting by the door
Image Credit: Lauren Hudgins, Pixabay

Recognizing Signs of Boredom in Your Cat

If your cat struggles to entertain himself, you may notice signs of boredom. Signs of boredom include:

  • Excessive grooming
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Pulling out fur
  • Aggression toward other pets
  • Dullness or lack of curiosity
  • Unwilling to engage in play
  • Depression
  • Excessive eating

Many of these signs can also be indications of severe medical conditions. If you see them in your pet, take your cat to the vet to ensure that there is no underlying medical complication causing these behaviors.

Blue Lynx Ragdoll cat sitting on bamboo floor
Image Credit: cath5, Shutterstock

The 7 Tips for Getting Your Cat to Play by Itself

1. Take Advantage of the Great Outdoors

Expensive toys and gadgets aren’t always the answer. You’ve seen plenty of pictures of cats ignoring their fancy new toys in favor of playing with the discarded box. While new toys are a great way to help your cat play on his own, something as simple as a perch by the window can keep your cat entertained for hours at a time.

If you invest in a birdfeeder and bird seed, set up the feeder right outside a window accessible to your cat. In no time, the birds will be fluttering about and providing your cat with endless entertainment.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the place for a birdfeeder or the money to invest in expensive birdseed. Instead, you can purchase a DVD or find a video online that is specifically for cats. These videos feature wildlife, such as birds, squirrels, and fish, to entertain your cat.

cat sitting on windowsill while vocalizing with mouth wide open
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

2. Use Puzzle Feeders

Is your cat food-oriented? If so, puzzle feeders may be the perfect way to get your cat to entertain himself. There are various puzzle feeders on the market, ranging from balls that dispense treats when swatted to convoluted mazes that require high levels of problem-solving. The more complicated puzzle feeders may require you to assist your pet, so make sure that you find a puzzle feeder that your cat can do on his own.

Not all cats will immediately jump at the opportunity to use a puzzle feeder. If your cat is in that category, the chances are that he has not associated the puzzle with food. He will likely be more interested once he realizes that solving the puzzle will provide him with treats.

While you can purchase puzzle feeders online, you can create your own DIY puzzle feeder with an empty paper towel roll, treats, and scissors. Just cut a few holes in the sides of the tube, stick the treats inside, and fold the edges of the roll over to close the ends.

3. Create a Treasure Hunt

Another way to engage your cat’s brain is to create a treasure hunt. By stashing treats or toys around the house, you can entice your cat to search for his entertainment–which, in and of itself, becomes a part of the entertainment. Interactive toys are great options for treasure hunts since they pique your cat’s interest.

Maine coon cat with green eyes sitting at little christmas tree with lights
Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

4. Give Your Cat Places to Climb

Climbing is a huge part of your cat’s entertainment. If your cat doesn’t have a lot of places where he can climb, look for ways to provide him with more elevated space.

Cat trees are a great way to provide climbing space for your cat. Some cat trees even provide other sources of entertainment, such as toys or scratching posts. Cat trees come in all shapes and sizes, so there is surely one that will suit your cat and home.

5. Construct a Catio

This option may not be viable for everyone, but consider constructing a catio if you have building skills. Catios are safe places where your cat can access the outdoors, such as a screened-in window perch. They are comfortable, safe places where your cat can enjoy the outdoor world and interact with it.

If you are an experienced DIYer with enough space to construct a catio, this may be the perfect project for you. It will allow you to test your creativity and construction skills while providing your cat with a place of entertainment.

Black and green cat in a DIY cat patio
Image Credit: TheCats, Shutterstock

6. Frequently Rotate Toys

One of the easiest, cheapest ways to encourage your cat to play more often is to rotate his toys regularly. Your cat could have the most exciting toys in the world and still grow bored of them if they are his only toys. To prevent that from happening, try to shuffle in a new set of toys every week or so and place some of the old ones in temporary storage, where they’ll remain until you shuffle them back in.

If your cat is into certain types of toys, try targeting those specifically. For instance, if jingling toys capture your cat’s attention more than any other toy, try to always keep at least one of those in rotation.

7. Don’t Forget the Catnip

Whether you want to use catnip toys, catnip sticks, or just plain catnip, you can get your cat excited quickly with a little bit of the good stuff. Although some cats don’t react to catnip, some still enjoy chasing after catnip mice.

Our Pick for Best Catnip Toy

Hepper Catnip Stick Toy 3

Catnip toys are a lot of fun for most cats, but you do want to find a high-quality version. Our Hepper Catnip Stick Toys are double-bagged and bite-proof, perfect for even the sharpest claws and teeth. They’re also full of 100% organic catnip, shaped like your cat’s natural prey, and hand-made in the USA.

Final Thoughts

Enrichment and entertainment are important parts of any cat’s happiness and well-being. The sooner you can teach your pet to entertain himself, the better off you both will be. When your cat can play alone, he is less likely to become bored or agitated. We hope these tips and tricks have been useful for you as you encourage your cat to play alone while you are away.

Featured Image Credit: I.K.Media, Shutterstock

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