By Lauren Cassady, DVM
One way to keep your cat from fixating on the fact that there is a tree in the house this Christmas is to play games with him. Cats are natural hunters, so what better game than to play hide and seek with special treats from his stocking?
The simplest game is to hide a treat under a blanket while he watches. Then stand back as he pounces and tries to figure out how to retrieve it. This is a great way to exercise even an older cat’s mind and reflexes, or to teach a kitten some hunting skills. Use a little lap blanket for a kitten.
For more active cats, hide special treats around the house and watch how long it takes to track them down. Make a list of where you hid the treats so you don’t find the missed ones in July. Join the hunt, providing clues and encouragement. They don’t all have to be food. A little ball or stuffed mouse will be enjoyable as long as you give him lots of praise for his discoveries, and show him how to play with his toys.
Pet stores and online sources have lots of innovative cat puzzle toys that require kitty to solve something before he can retrieve the snack inside. The cat has to push, pull, prod or dig around in the toy to get to the item. But if you want to go ‘old school’ with simple household objects, here are some suggestions to make your cat do a little detective work by hiding the treat in:
- In a big open box
- in a cardboard box with holes cut in it that are big enough for a paw to reach in
- Inside a toilet paper roll
- under an overturned clear bowl
- in one cup of a muffin tin, with balled up socks obscuring which cup holds the prize
- up on a chair seat, bookshelf or table that requires a little jumping and climbing
- behind a door
- under the corner of a rug
- just barely under the bed
- behind a curtain or on the window ledge
- in the bathtub
- in a shoe or a narrow cup that would require a little digging
- buried in a small basket of washcloths, to encourage him to forage
Now, if your cat is hiding himself, that could be a clue that he is feeling sick or distressed. A call to your vet would be in order.
Interesting online research ties this hide and seek game to a cat’s natural instinct to hunt for its food, suggesting that pet parents should play the treat game a few minutes before meals to stimulate kitty’s natural eating instincts.