Encouraging Cat Activity: Understanding Your Cat's Daily Needs

In many ways, it is astounding how clearly domestic cats display the instincts of their ancient relatives and distant cousins. They’re fiercely independent, carnivores by design, and predators at heart, eager to please you with the reward of a slain mouse or a vanquished bug.

These instinctive imperatives also show up when your cat rests and plays.

As much as your cat needs food and water, she also needs a daily routine of sleep, exercise, and mental stimulation. And it won’t hurt if your cat has a place to lord herself over you as well, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Exercise and Play

As far as your cat, an instinctive predator, is concerned, playing and hunting are two sides of the same coin. Perhaps you’ve watched your cat corner a small bug. She will taunt the insect, flipping it over, toying with it in her mouth, playing until the bug is within an inch of its life.

Such play is critical to your cat’s mental health. For kittens, play is about learning hunting skills, but is also critical to their education about their environment and their part in it. You can encourage lively exercise and playtime by capitalizing on your cat’s natural instinct to stalk and kill its prey.

Simple electronic or mechanical toys that mimic the motion of a mouse can grab and keep her attention. Fifteen minutes of your time every day, can put a spark in her eyes, as you tempt her with the whip of a string or a tumbling ball of tissue paper cast across the floor. An open paper bag or a cardboard box makes an irresistible toy for exploration and play.

Creating a lively environment to channel your cat’s energy helps tone her muscles, keeps her trim and potentially redirects her effort into activities that may be less destructive than some alternatives. For that matter, plenty of daytime activity may keep your cat at bay while you’re trying to catch a few final winks in the early morning hours.

Sleeping

That brings us to sleeping, where we are fundamentally at odds with our feline companions. Contrary to popular belief, cats are crepuscular by nature, not nocturnal. By definition, crepuscular defines animals most active during the twilight hours, meaning they are most active from dusk to dawn.

Cats have two very different types of sleep. Deep sleep is the norm until your kitten is about two months old. By then, they start alternating between the two. In light sleep, your cat is dozing in 15- to 30-minute periods, with an ear cocked and ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. Light sleep alternates with five-minute periods of deep sleep until your cat is ready to awaken.

Roosting

We’ve all observed our cat’s desire to find a high spot in the house and rest there. That, too, is an instinctive imperative, as cats are wired to find a place to keep an eye on their domain. They like to climb, where they can observe without being vulnerable to the predators their instincts tell them still exist domestication notwithstanding.

As cat owners, we can use these cat behaviors to keep an eye on their mental and physical health. Cats typically fall into routines perching on the same shelves, rushing to the kitchen at feeding times, or sliding from one regular napping spot to the next. If you notice their daily behaviors changing, consult your veterinarian.

Information about how to create an encouraging cat activity environment in your home including the best Royal Canin cat food for your specific cat.

For More Information on Encouraging Cat Activity:

The Royal Canin Kitten Care Guide

Exercising with Your Cat: A How-To Guide—PetMD

Why Do Cats Like High Places?—Cat Channel

Know Normal-Recognizing Signs and Symptoms—American Association of Feline Practitioners

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?—PetMD