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The cat in a rut

Discover more about The cat in a rut.

There’s two kinds of bored: passive and active.

People can’t help but notice the active kind. Which often results in mayhem as our cats seek out things to play with.

People also need to notice the passive kind.

Internet is down. There's absolutely nothing to do.

As intelligent creatures, cats can become bored when their environment does not offer enough mental stimulation. Yes, to us, cats spend an absurd amount of time in some form of sleep. But the rest of the time, they need the opposite.

notice passive boredom

There are cats whose environment is not offering enough stimulation, and the cat’s attempts to find some have met with resistance. This can be anything; from us chasing them away from delicate or dangerous objects, to our cat not finding anything interesting enough to watch or play with.

When our cats try to cooperate under such circumstances, they can wind up trying to do too much with what they do have. Behaviors like as overeating, having elaborate litter box rituals, or suddenly not getting along with other beings in the house signal a cat under stress. They can often react by becoming over-fussy about every little thing.

This is certainly the pattern Olwyn has. When schedules are disrupted by someone being sick or upset, Olwyn worries herself into incessant human pestering and then wandering around the place throwing up. Before it reaches this point, we try to distract her with an important task and reassure her that things will go back to normal.

While Tristan views a time-out in the bathroom as a punishment, Olwyn can see it as a refreshing break from her self-imposed duties. Such isolation can break her train of overwhelming thoughts and let her calm down.

While Olwyn is not exhibiting this behavior from boredom, she is definitely acting from frustration; which is the core of the passive boredom problem. Olwyn is seeking the satisfaction of “her” supervision running smoothly. Bored cats are seeking the satisfaction of obeying the survival instincts which are telling them to observe, plan, and act.

The bored cat’s brain is asking for proper input, and their environment is not delivering.

recognize the need

The most likely victim of passive boredom would be the Gamma Cat Type. They are the cat type most likely to need direct intervention from their human, and the least likely to be able to ask for it.

Gammas have an absolute horror of “being a bother.” A quick intake of breath is enough to warn my Gammas away from anything. So we need to check in with them regularly, fussing over them and making sure their special input needs are met.

Of course, all our cats want to behave in ways which please us. Gammas are the most likely to suffer in silence. Until they can’t any more.

I never have to worry about knowing if Tristan is bored. He is an Alpha Cat Type, and he will either find something to play with or tell me he’s looking. Now that he is an adult, he prefers to tell me when he is looking for amusement; or when his buddy, Mithy, needs some.

Mithrandir, a recovering feral, often routes his requests through Tristan, who has more advanced human communication skills. While Mithy is a Beta, he has Gamma-like sensitivity to correction (since kittenhood, a quiet “Now Mithy” is all that is needed) and his communication is under-developed for his age. He also needs special attention when it comes to being properly occupied.

Our cats also differ in how much input they need. Reverend Jim has long been highly creative and self-amusing. As a kitten, he was happy to play Trackball for hours, fall asleep with his paw in the track, and wake up to play some more. He will look out various windows all day, perfectly content.

We have created this situation for him by making sure we have his favorite toys handy, putting Outposts at his favorite windows, and sometimes sharing his pleasure by fussing over him while he does these things. RJ needs no more, while Tristan is always ready for more.

Since we have a Cat Civilization, there’s usually another cat to observe, chase, or wrestle with. This also means any cat who wants something can convince another cat to request human assistance.

Thanks to this smoothly working organization, I rarely don’t know that something is going on. What that something might be could require a conference, but I do have an early warning system in constant operation.

enhance their mental flexibility

Good change is something that intrigues, puzzles, or fascinates them, and we need to supply this to all of our cats. This can easily prevent the passively bored cat.

Often, these are the cats whose people complain that they don’t like to play. But this might be misleading; they could be cats who don’t like to play by themselves. But if we do have a cat who yawns at wand toys and simply watches the sponge ball bounce itself into a resting state, this is not necessarily a problem… for the cat.

As a cat ages, their amusements shift more towards contemplation. We still need to make sure they are interested, and capable, of being engaged, such as seeking out their favorite form of affection, showing enjoyment in their meals, and still checking on whatever duties they might have around the home. A cat who no longer wishes to expend great physical effort might be perked up by opportunities to exert mental effort.

It can be a simple matter of noticing what our cats enjoy, and arranging our routines to supply this regularly. We get a lot of packages delivered instead of going shopping. So our cats are told “we ordered boxes for them” and they get a steady stream of interesting-smelling Fun Cubes.

Cats who freak out about change are often cats who don’t get enough change.

Keeping those mental gears well-oiled with fun challenges keeps all parts of our cats flexible. This will thaw the cautious cat, amuse the lively cat, and intrigue the intellectual cat.

This keeps all of us from being bored.

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    There’s more ways to understand our cat with The Way of Cats than the article you are reading now. See all of my posts on WHY CATS DO THAT.

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