Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a cat who spends most of the day by himself. I was worried that he might want some feline companionship, but I cannot get another pet. Sometimes when I’m surfing the web at night, I’ll loudly play one of the many YouTube videos of cats meowing to get him stimulated. His ears immediately perk up, he runs over the the speakers, sniffs around and purrs. He even meows back sometimes. When I stop playing the video he goes back to his normal self. Is he doing this because he likes the sound of others meowing? Or does he think there is another cat around in distress? Does he get stressed out when he can’t find the cat and think he’s being tricked? Should I keep doing this occasionally?
Siouxsie: Good question, Eric. Mama sometimes plays videos with cats meowing, too. And when she watches My Cat From Hell, there are always cats meowing and screaming.
Thomas: We’re usually curious when we hear sounds of other cats coming from the computer or the TV, but once we realize there aren’t any other cats around, we just relax and go about our business, just like your cat friend does.
Bella: You can tell how your cat feels about hearing those sounds from the computer by noticing his body language and reaction. In your case, it sounds like your kitty is enjoying the experience of hearing other cats.
Siouxsie: On the other hand, if he folded his ears back and his pupils were either very big or very small, that would be a sign that he doesn’t like what he’s hearing.
Thomas: When a kitty screams and we look at her like “WTF is that?!”, she says, “It’s OK, it’s just the TV,” and then we relax again.
Bella: But the bigger question we think you’re asking is, how can you keep your cat entertained while you’re away from home?
Siouxsie: This is a question lots of cat parents face. You and many of our other readers are in situations where you can only have one cat, and you want to ensure that your feline friend doesn’t get bored or anxious while you’re away doing what you need to do.
Thomas: And we have some tips for you.
Bella: First of all, did you know that there are videos made just for entertaining cats while you’re out of the house?
Siouxsie: We’ve never watched one of these — we have each other to stay entertained, and there are lots of birds and squirrels to watch, too — but these videos do seem to get good reviews.
Thomas: You can also use puzzle toys or create your own puzzles by hiding treats in strategic locations so that he can look for them when he’s feeling bored.
Bella: We also recommend some nice window perches or tall cat trees so your little fellow can look down on the world below.
Siouxsie: If you can’t do the cat sitter videos, consider leaving the radio turned on at a very low volume. At the animal shelter where Mama volunteers, they do this in all the cat rooms, and they change the stations pretty regularly.
Thomas: Mama says the kitties mostly get to listen to light rock and country music, but she suspects your cats would also appreciate mellow classical music like Bach guitar pieces or Haydn’s piano works.
Bella: But please do avoid Wagner operas and the like. We don’t need that kind of Sturm und Drang! … Um, what’s Sturm und Drang?
Siouxsie: I dunno. But it sure is fun to say!
Mama: It’s a late 1800s literary movement from Germany that’s characterized by really emotional and rousing work. But in modern usage, it generally means “turmoil.” And where did you learn that word, Bella?
Bella: I heard a human use it once, and it sounded like a fun word!
Mama: It’s a good idea to ask what a word means before you use it, Bella. You never know when you’re going to say something hurtful if you don’t know what you’re saying. And I’ll always be happy to tell you what words mean, sweetie, so you can ask me any time.
Bella: Okay. Thanks, Mama!
Siouxsie: Now that we’ve had our vocabulary lesson for the day, do you mind if we get back to answering Eric’s question?
Mama: No, not at all. Have at it! But we’re going to have a talk later about why you’ve been so grumpy lately.
Thomas: Motion-activated cat toys like this mouse chase toy can also be helpful for keeping a cat entertained while he’s alone. (Full disclosure: We’ve never used one of these, so we don’t know about its quality or durability; we’re just using it as an example of a general type of product.)
Bella: So, Eric, there are lots of ways to keep your kitty friend entertained while you’re away. And don’t worry about sharing those meowing videos as long as your cat keeps enjoying them!