How To: Unleash Your Cat's Inner Hunter
Most domestic house cats live a pretty cushy life. Sometimes we forget that they are descendants of the big cats - the lions of the Serengeti, jaguars of Amazon forest, and snow leopards of the Himalayan Mountains. These big cats spend their days similarly to how our house cats do: they eat, sleep and groom themselves. There is one big difference between our purring machines and their ancestors: engagement in their natural instincts. Big cats have to work for their food; they hunt, catch and kill to survive. House cats on the other hand, have their food brought to them. As a result, they have little opportunity to exercise their natural hunting instincts.
Jackson Galaxy, star of Animal Planet’s “My Cat from Hell” and annual speaker at the Bay Area Pet Fair, wrote a book called, Cat Mojo. Cat Mojo details the importance of engaging your cat in their natural instincts to hunt, catch, and kill. Anyone who has ever had a cat knows they are exceptionally good at eating, grooming and sleeping. What our house cats need is for us to create enrichment opportunities that exercise their instinct to hunt, catch and kill.
Why You Need to Address You Cat’s Hunting Instincts
All pets need to be engaged and provided environmental enrichment, especially indoor cats. Some cats simply become bored at home, while others become frustrated by the inability to do what comes naturally: explore, exercise and hunt. That frustration can lead to behavioral issues at home. Creating opportunities for your cat to indulge in their instinctual behaviors, can build the confidence they need to feel comfortable in their home. This can be done with interactive toys and treats. Appealing to their instinctual needs will decrease any unwanted behavior that your frustrated cat may be exhibiting from little box avoidance, to excessive scratching, hiding and aggression.
Using play and toys to tap into your cat’s innate desire to hunt, catch and kill is a great way to enrich their environment and improve their overall well-being.
Interactive Toys to Engage Your Cat’s Inner Hunter
- Cat Dancer – This nationally ranked interactive toy provides house cats with healthy play and exercise. This toy is enticing, takes up minimal space, and the toy bounces and bounds in all directions.
- Cat Wand – This is likely the most popular cat toy. Cat wands come in different lengths with an enticing feather or colorful fabric attached to the end. These toys are great for getting your cat up and moving, playing and catching. Use the wand for short play sessions and hide them when you’re not using them to keep your cat excited about the hunt!
- Indoor Hunting Feeder – Instead of filling you cat’s food bowl twice a day, fill and hide the three feeder mice. Your cat will hunt, catch, and play with many small meals day and night, as nature intended. These enticing feeders help decrease anxiety, reduce the instance of scarf and barf, end early morning wake up calls from a hungry cat.
How Engage Your Cat in the Hunt
- Think about how you are playing with your cat. Some cats are “birders” while others are “mousers”. Birder cats prefer to be played with up high, with toys they can jump and claw at – as if it was a bird. The Cat Dancer would be perfect for this type of play. Mousers on the other hand, prefer to be played with on the ground, so a wand would be preferred. Your cat will be engaged in stalking and pouncing as you move the wand around the floor.
- Engage your cat in a game of play before meals. Engage your cat in their preferred style of play before you feed them. This will engage them in their instinct to “hunt, catch, kill”. Once they’ve caught the toy, they will be rewarded with food
Pro tip: Using treats in combination with toys mimics their primal desire to “hunt, catch and kill.” This gets your cat up and motivated to move around for a delicious reward! Check out [“Treat” your cat right] for benefits of giving your cat treats.
- Some cats are better hunters than others. Some cat owners may find that their cat is not very interested in playing. Some cats are naturally more predatory then others. Just like some dogs prefer to play fetch, while others don’t. It may take time to really learn what toy or treat engages your cat’s hunting instincts.
Engaging your cat in daily play will not only enrich their lives, but will also create a bonding experience between you and your cat.