Keeping your cat active, is not only important to help maintain mobility (joint function) and keep their weight in check but it is also essential to provide mental stimulation.
Try these exercises:
Self play toys – these are toys that your cat can play with on their own. Any toy that encourages chasing or pouncing is usually a hit and they don’t have to be expensive e.g. a cardboard box or a paper bag with no handles and some scrunched up paper or a ping pong ball will keep many cats amused for a while. If purchasing toys watch your cat initially to ensure they are playing safe with it and check it doesn’t have small parts that can be swallowed.
Interactive toys – require you to join in the fun e.g. A laser pointer or wand toys (e.g. feathers or a streamer on a stick) for your cat to chase. As cats are more active at night you might get more enthusiasm to play in the evenings. Start off with just a few minutes of play and gradually work up to longer periods as your cat shows more interest. Always let them catch the light or feather occasionally so they don’t get frustrated. Never leave string attached toys lying around as string ingestion is a common and sometimes fatal problem in cats.
Play hide and seek with their food – rather than giving all their daily portion in 1 bowl, split it up into multiple small feeds and place the small bowls throughout the house. Depending on your cat’s mobility some food dishes can be placed on chairs, shelves, or even at the top of cat trees so they must climb to get the food. For less active cats, kibble can be tossed across the floor so they must walk to get the food or wet food can be put in a cup on its side so they use a paw to get access to it. To make sure you don’t over feed them make up their daily portion and split it up into the multiple feeds rather than make up each “feed” separately.
Food puzzles are toys which require the cat to interact with to “release” the food.There are many commercial products available (e.g. kitty kongs, Trixie activity centres and Nina Ottosson cat puzzle toys) or you can make your own by put small amounts of kibble inside a cardboard roll (from toilet paper or paper towel) that has holes cut in it so that they need to move or shred the roll to release the food.
Have several toys and swap them around so it remains exciting. Be creative, often it is the simplest and cheapest “toy” that gets your cat moving (for more ideas google “cat enrichment”).
Obviously customize whatever you do to fit your cat’s age, mobility and health e.g. If they are can no longer jump, make a ramp or provide steps to give them access to higher perching spots or use toys where jumping isn’t required.
Every cat no matter what age will benefit from a more stimulating and fun environment. A few minutes of play every day will go a long way to help your cats mental health.