Friday, June 22, 2018

So your cats are bored. Now what?

Disclosure: We received two Art of Paws cat shelves for free in exchange for an honest review. Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat only shares information we believe would be of interest to our readers. The content is ours - Art of Paws is not responsible for the contents of this post.



If you missed the first post in our series about boredom in cats, you may find it here: Are your cats bored?


The problem.

When cats are bored, they create their own adventures - most of which aren't appreciated by the people they live with. So you finally admit that, after investigating his behavior, your cat might be bored. What do you do? There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Feline boredom is not a "one and done," kind of thing. But armed with patience and a little creativity, you can find what interests your cat.

We can understand our cats better by thinking in terms of ourselves. Of course, anthropomorphism can always lead us astray. We're not cats and they can't talk to us (though I'd argue they talk to us in showing they're bored) - so all we can do is speculate.

Do all humans do the same thing to relieve boredom? If you ask fifty people what helps them relieve boredom, you'll get fifty solutions. Yes, some might look a bit alike. Two people might love to travel - but one might prefer to see new things and discover the world they don't know and the second might just revel in luxurious accommodations and the world they know. Two people might mention cars - but for one of them, it might be about building them - while the second person might enjoy driving them. Entertainment has infinite variation (music, books on tape, computer, television). What we do to alleviate boredom often changes over our lifetime and from time to time without justification. About six months ago, I started working jigsaw puzzles. I spend most of my free time doing that. But at different times of my life, I've used logic puzzles, and reading the news, computer game and reading books. I can't isolate what exactly precipitated the change. Cats are similar. Bear LOVED spending time on his cat tree for ten years - but he all of a sudden stopped sleeping on it. At first, I was alarmed - thought something might be wrong. The vet couldn't find anything wrong with him. But now, he has a couple cat beds that are his favorite. He's also back to sitting in his window which he didn't do for a good six months. My point is that what works is dynamic and might change without cause (that we can see anyway).

Many people want to reduce cats to the sum of their instincts - but this underestimates them. I don't believe that instincts are the only things that drive their behavior. I don't think cats' behaviors are solely explained by instinct. So the answer to boredom has to be about more than just instincts as well. Bear's always been a "meet me at the front door" kind of cat. But I recently got home from a Conference and he stubbornly refused to come out and let me greet him. If history is any indication, his instinct is to connect with me. But in this case, he didn't. It's almost like he over-rode his instincts to his own end (showing his displeasure at me being gone). Another good example with Bear is his tendency to sit on the table next to where I work and just stare at me. He doesn't want to be petted (and he'll bite if you try) and not necessarily even attention, he doesn't want food or to play (tried both). So his instincts don't explain his behavior. He just wants to.

Us humans tend to approach the problem in bored felines un-creatively. We buy them a cat tree - and if that doesn't work, we figure they weren't really that bored. But just like humans with their multitude of solutions, cats are the same way. To find the solution to a feline's boredom, you must try products with different functions - different textures. Just like us, they have their preferences (some people prefer a soft bed - others more firm; some people prefer silk sheets but others won't use them; some people like recliners while other prefer a couch; and we all vary in what human "toys" we prefer). Don't be afraid to fail until you find the solution that speaks to your cat. Remember, feline boredom means the cat is making his own adventures - it behooves you and the cat to get to the bottom of the issue. 

Another thing I've learned ... cats can surprise us. There have been solutions I was sure my cats would love - like the Art of Paws cat shelves - and they didn't. Same thing with toys - I've bought several thinking the cats would LOVE them - but no. And it works the other way too - sometimes they prefer things that surprise me. Anyone who's bought a cat a fancy toy knows the milk ring or the box can warrant more attention than the product itself. So if you're stumped in trying to find the solutions to your cat's boredom, try everything and anything. They will surprise you. And like humans, the variation in what interests them is huge. Trial and error. Not being afraid to fail. Working to make our cats happy and healthy.


We shared this graphic in our last post (Are your cats bored?- but we're using it as a launching point to specifics. Let's take a closer look at our options.

~~~Perches - for the view and climbing. [vertical space AND to trigger instincts]~~~
*** Scratching posts (vertical or horizontal; scratching surface of carpet, sisal, or cardboard), 
window shelves or towel-covered window sills, 
cat trees, 
*** Cat shelving units (you may even make you own with carpeted shelves, cut PVC tubing, old bookshelves), like the Art of Paws cat shelves.
*** Windows (with bird feeders in view).
*** Elevated cat walks, bridges, and flaps.
*** Cat appropriate TV programs (like birds).

~~~Toys~~~
*** Food puzzles.
*** Catnip.
*** Wand toys.
*** Motorized toys.
*** Laser pointer.
*** Boxes, paper bags, packing paper, sheets.
*** Think simple! My cats go nuts chasing my hand under the covers!
*** To keep Bear entertained, I ventured into homemade toys. You may read the details here: Claws and Fangs at Play (homemade edition) (the pictures are old and not up to current standards - but you get the basic idea).
*** There are a ton of screensavers and computer programs out there that you can set up for your cat.

~~~Catios, netted in enclosures, harness and leash training~~~

Our experience.

Hmm ... what's this? With no one around, I should see what's up. ESPECIALLY before Bear shows up and claims it.

EM: What it is?
BC: Beats me. Doesn't smell like food ..

BC: Where did this come from?
EM: Momma said we'd love it. She can't wait to put it together!
BC: MOMMA'S putting it together? Is 911 on speed dial?
{Pause}
BC: I bet you tonight's wet food treat that we won't see it before the end of our nine lives.
EM: I'll just call the ambulance now.


Momma said I'll enjoy this ... but where are the tuna?!

The shelf was pretty easy to install. A drill and screwdriver are required - everything else is included with the shelf. The beauty of the dark wood surprised me ... these shelves are high quality.

First, you mark the wall through the three holes in the back of the shelf - this allows you to make sure the shelf will be even. The part of the shelf attached to the wall is pretty thick - and the holes are small. We struggled to mark the wall through the holes themselvea. Next, drill a hole in the wall, hammer a plug into the hole, and then screw the shelf to the wall. I was relieved to not have to worry about the locations of the studs to mount the shelf.

Originally, we got one shelf and one cat stair to try out. We had problems mounting the stair (it wasn't as stable as I would've liked for our thirteen pound kitties). We removed it from the wall and Art Of Paws was kind enough to send us a second shelf to use instead.

Below is the final set-up after removing the stair and mounting another shelf. As you can see, this set-up allows multiple ways up to the first shelf. I know my cats each jump a little differently - so I wanted to give them a couple options based on their preferences (Ellie likes jumping from hard surfaces like the cat tree platform; Bear prefers soft surfaces like the couch).


Our thoughts.

I was SO incredibly excited to try the cat shelves because Bear's always loved to climb.

I was sure he'd LOVE them. Especially as a way to get away from his sister - who's not a climber.  He stopped climbing to the top of the cat tree about a year ago, but the vet couldn't find any explanation. I was hoping the shelves might re-ignite his love of climbing and looking down on us lowly and adoring servants. But case in point to what I talked about above - Bear surprised me by not showing much interest in the shelves without encouragement (read: TREATS). I'm going to keep working with them and try to increase their interest in the shelves - toys, treats - it might just be a matter of showing them how to climb the shelves. At the very least, I'm going to keep the shelves. They are gorgeous - and if I can't get the cats to use them, I will find photographs or other things to store on them (which means Bear will probably be interested in the shelves when he thinks they're off limits). Finding the solution to feline boredom is trial and error. Some boredom-relievers might require more "training" than others. You can't just set something out and expect your cats to be interested.  Plus, you must give yourself permission to fail and get right back up again and try something else. So far, these shelves haven't worked for us. That's okay. 

I was impressed that the shelves held solid for both my thirteen pound cats. I was afraid I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving them up - but with what I've seen so far, there's no need to worry.

As I said in our last post on boredom - Bear acts out when he's bored. The more forbidden the activity, the more likely he is attempt it. If he's not supposed to be there - you'd better believe he'll find a way. He seems to love to prove that he can. 



Ellie is harder to read. She doesn't act out - but she'd run from lap to lap all day long if she could. She doesn't strike me as being bored - but I think I just need to take a closer look at the signs.

What did the cats think?
What's up here?!? Oh, PLEASE let it be tasty whole chickens ...

Wait until Momma sees me up here! She'll have a heart attack.


Off with their heads! Hmm ... COOL!!


I see Paris ... I see France ... I see Momma's doughnut-sized underpants. Hahehe.

The Male Princess surveys his kingdom and looks down on the peasants! Now I just need a tiara!


WHOA ... I'm pretty far up! Umm ... note to self ... DO NOT look down!


BC: Ooooh! Look at the view! I can see the desert from here! No, wait. That's my litter box
{Pause}
BC: Ooh! A great buffalo! No ... a barn! Oh. It's just Smellie.
EM: Come down here and say that to my face!
BC: Ummm ... this spot is looking even better than before.

[Sounds of record warping] Wait a ... I'm ALLOWED to be up here?! I don't THINK so! I'm not giving anyone the satisfaction!

Hmph. TAKE THAT! I'm going to climb where I'm not allowed to! The fridge? Bookcase? Closet?

Ummm ... Momma?!?

EM: HELP ... Momma?!? MOMMA?!? GET ME DOWN!!! 
BC: WHAT?! Are you CHICKEN?!? ACK BOCK BOCK BOCK!!!
EM: Err ... Momma? Your lap looks like it needs me.

Your turn.

Tell us what you think! Do your cats show signs of boredom? Have you tried to find a solution? How easy was it to find something that works? If you're interested in this product, the Art of Paws Cat Shelf can be bought through their page and is available on Amazon.

44 comments:

  1. Oh my stars, you guys are so lucky!!! These are just fantastic and we wish we could have shelves like this - maybe when we move. Yes, we get bored sometimes. That's when Lexy chases me and I hiss at her. Nice review!

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    1. We are lucky! Now to get the cats to realize how lucky they are ;)

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  2. We're sure some of our Colehaus Cats are bored from time to time, but with all the different personalities, we don't see too much boredom. Mostly, they react to one another's quirks and temperaments and whatever each are doing at any given moment. And no one can figure tuxie Tessa out who doesn't like attention, toys, or anyone. If any cat would want to be bored, it just might be her!

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    1. Isn't Tessa the one that starts fights with her siblings? I wonder what goes through her head.

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  3. I'm like you, Bear, I really like to jump and climb to great heights. I used to enjoy jumping from the low chair all the way to the top of Mom's armoire until Dad put up some shelves. I was told they're for me. What, do they think I'm geriatric and can't climb anymore?! I'm not sure what they're playing at. Have you figured out what your momma's playing at? Tee hee hee.

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    1. I refuse to accept help! Momma put a step for me at the bottom of the bed and I refuse to use it. HMPH. Show HER! ~Bear Cat

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  4. Oooh, they look excellent, all you need now is another two dozen and you can traverse the height and breadth of you land. Of course you will need some extra cat flaps put in at head height into each room, but if you tell the staff it’s to facilitate faster doughnut 🍩 and snickers and tasty chicken delivery I’m sure they’ll agree.... I mean who wouldn’t?
    Toodle pips and purrs
    Erin

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    1. I'd LOVE to install them around the house and make a bit of a maze and tunnel with them ... but like with just two ... my kitties will require some encouragement.

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  5. Wow, Bear is quite the daredevil! That jumping down shot is great. I think my cats would love these shelves. We've been wanting to install some for a while, but we just haven't done it yet. These would be perfect! Good to know about the weight thing too. Woodrow is our heaviest, but it sounds like they would hold him.

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    1. I bet they would hold him! The jumping down shot is so old - Bear's really slowed down quite a bit. I try not to think about it - but it makes me sad. I even MISS all his mischief!

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  6. You know they use it when you aren't looking, especially in the early hours. Cats simply adapt on their own timetable! And I agree, they are much more complex than their instinct, especially the more they interact with humans. I see that particulary with Toby, who came to me when he was four weeks old.

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    1. I wouldn't be surprised if you were right! There have been a couple toys I've HEARD Bear playing with when I'm in bed ... but he never touches them when I can see him playing with them. He refuses to give me the satisfaction!

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  7. Oh! Wow! We had thought about doing that for Kozmo a few years ago, but the walls in the house in Midway are made of fiber board and mounting shelves, etc on the wall is too difficult.
    Bored...??? Koz and Jo Jo are allowed in the great outdoors in Modway, they are not often bored. When they come here they do love to play with the toys! And oh yea they do get into things! And I have found that playing with them really helps!
    Purrs and Love
    Marv and Barb

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    1. I've backed off playing with my cats - and their weight and Bear's boredom level shows it!

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  8. When Mudpie gets bored she usually gets whiny (especially if I don't have time to dote on her at the time) and then settles in for a nap. Those shelves are *amazing* and so is your review!

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    1. Thank you! I love them too! Now to get the cats to love them!

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  9. That does look like lots of fun and I can only imagine what Brother Simon would do up there, it wouldn’t be fun for those passing below1

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  10. I don’t think my kitties get bored very often, but maybe I don’t read them correctly. Pierrot might enjoy these. Annie is too short, and with her back, she can barely jump, sadly. These look very nice. Because we’re now renting, we wouldn’t be able to hang these. I think it’s great that you put them up and I hope Bear and Ellie start to use them. Great review!

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    1. Err ... we rent too. Maybe that's a problem? I didn't really even think twice about it. Thank goodness our landlady is a cat person!

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  11. I saw those I think on Emily's blog (KittyCat Chronicles, I think I just screwed up the blog name).......your kitties look like they are flying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is great that they are so sturdy!

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    1. I'm very happy with them ... now to convince the cats.

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  12. TW got some shelves for me about 5 years ago. They're still in the box. You're lucky your humans hung them. I'm aways bored and have nothing to do but sleep. So much sleep.

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  13. Uh oh, this has started dad's "creative" juices flowing. I can smell smoke and see all sorts of ideas buzzing around his head about building me some new things. Maybe not quite this detailed, especially since he'd need to do something real heavy duty to accommodate my size and weight. I'm sure that if the time does ever come he'll put it in a future post.

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  14. These look fantastic! Wonder if we could make something similar..?

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    1. I'm not handy at DYI - but I'm sure you can find a way.

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  15. AMARULA: You finally got the throne you deserve Bear! A perfect place to survey your dominion!

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  16. Looks like a stairway to heaven for a couple kitties. Way to survey the kingdom, er princess-dom.

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  17. After reading yoor post on cat boredom, I've come to the conclusion that my brofur Rabbit is bored. Especially the part of attacking his fursibs -- me especially. Yoor wall stair looks really fun. When we move to another house Mom is going to install a few in the new cat apartment. Most excellent review! Purrs!

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  18. Those shelves look great and give you both a whole new outlook of things. Eric and Flynn never appeared to be bored. They could go in and out in the garden whenever they wanted to, and of course there were always mice out there. They also got their walks around the fields every day.

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  19. Never a dull moment at your house :) That is a nice shelf. Sorry it didn't come with tasty whole chickens.

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  20. Great review ! Those shelves look like a lot of fun ! Purrs

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  21. I don't seem to be bored. Being 16 I sleep a good portion of the day. My busy times are after supper. That is quite a nice kit kat highway you have constructed
    Hugs madi and mom

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    1. My kitties are pretty lucky ... though our litter box set-up will never rival yours!

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  22. Those look so cool! Our cat Conrad probably would have liked those when he was younger. He started as an outdoor cat and loved to climb trees. Sam has never been one bit adventurous, and never shown any signs of being bored. Even when I take her on her supervised trips outside, she eats some grass, wanders around a bit, and then just lays down. She's an easy cat and I always worry about her being bored, but I think she is just content to hang out and chew on a plant once in a while!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Sounds like Sam is just living her life and content :)

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