- Scrunched up paper balls
Crumpling up scraps of paper and hurling them at our cats is hardly glamorous (or particularly inventive). But more often than not, it’s the simplest things that cats respond to the most. (If you’ve ever dropped a Q-tip or a zip tie on the floor in the presence of kitties, you know what I mean.)
To make a slightly more enticing variation, tear off a quarter-sheet of paper and sprinkle a pinch of catnip at its center. Crumple the paper up tightly around the catnip—the more compact and perfectly round you can get it, the better. Experiment with different ball sizes. Pippin, our resident lovable airhead, loves lightweight, loosely packed paper approximately the size of a ping-pong ball. Sita, the seasoned pro midfielder, will turn her nose up at anything bigger than a soybean.
- Repurposed sock wrestle toy
Not sure if you’re aware, but cats are actually avid sports fans. We’ve covered soccer (or football, for y’all Europeans), and now we’ll touch on their love of UFC. That’s right, folks—cats go nuts for WrestleMania. Sita’s a big fan of Ronda Rousey and her arm bars, but when Pip’s not around for her to practice her piledriver on, a catnip-stuffed sock makes an excellent substitute.
Find yourself an old woolen sock—the thicker ones will be harder for kitties to eviscerate—and sprinkle a couple pinches of catnip inside. Stuff it with old pillow stuffing, if you have any, and some crumpled up paper (cats love crinkly sounds). Sew it shut, or just tie it off if you’re feeling lazy. Those craftier than I am can sew on some felt ears, button noses, and a shoestring tail for added realism.
- Cat TV
This is the most mercifully hands-off method on this list. Thankfully, it also happens to be one of the most effective. If you’re a mom with rowdy youngsters, you know the instant relief that comes with surrendering your little monkeys to an hour of cartoons (while you guzzle wine in the kitchen). This is kind of like that, except maybe a little less guilt inducing. When cats watch their shows, their brains will be buzzing with activity, rather than melting away into inert ooze.
This next tip is pretty sweet, but make sure you don’t leave your cats unattended when you bust this thing out. As you’re probably already aware, cats love things that dangle and sway above their heads. Like the drawstring on your hoodie, or that enticing cable trailing from your laptop. To give them something a little more appropriate to bat at, find yourself a helium balloon.
- Cat treat scavenger hunt
Cats love a good scavenger hunt. In the wild, they’re used to tracking down (and messily murdering) their prey. Stowing treats for them to find around the house satisfies a bit of this hunting drive, minus a lot of unpleasant goriness. I usually drop a few treats on their cat tree, behind the couch (within paw’s reach), and tucked away into a few of their favorite hiding spots. This is especially effective if you’re going to be away for a couple days and know they’ll be spending their time wistfully awaiting your return.