The Importance of Physical and Mental Stimulation for Cats

Cat and kitten

While domestic cats sleep as much as 16 hours per day they do need play and exercise to stimulate them mentally and physically.

In the wild, cats are the predators providing a natural balance which is key to the survival of other species. When not hunting prey for survival, they use play to teach cubs how to stalk and hunt successfully who also spend many hours playing.

Although domestic cats also do this they can be taught not to hunt birds, lizards etc. by their owners.


Exercise is vital for keeping cats fit and consequently healthy.

Unlike the wild where lions, tigers, leopards, cougars and the many other cats traverse many kilometres in search of food, cats, like their human counterparts, do not have the same challenges in finding food.

The result can be, and often is, boredom and obesity with many cats. And boredom can lead to mischievous cats as they are not naturally ‘naughty’ or ‘misbehaved’ but need stimulation (when they are awake).

It can provide you with much entertainment when cats and kittens have their ‘mad moments’. This does however need to be balanced with structured resources for them to use also known as behavioural enrichment.


This is usually associated with wild animals in captivity but applies to all domestic animals in order to improve quality of life.

“Behavioral enrichment (closely related to environmental enrichment) is an animal husbandry principle that seeks to enhance the quality of captive animal care by identifying and providing the environmental stimuli necessary for optimal psychological and physiological well-being.” ~ Wikipedia




Scratching posts particularly those with resting and nesting components are essential even for cats which are not confined indoors as it provides them with –

  1. Cats have to sharpen their claws and it is better that they sharpen their claws on a scratching post designed for this than use your furniture.
  2. Cats love to run up and down scratching posts and climb through holes, and where there is more than one tag play tag and wrestle on scratching posts.
  3. The height is also levels the playing field with the family dogs!
  4. Play stimulates cats physically and mentally and helps to keep them fit.
  5. When you have more than one cat their play also hones their defence skills.

There is no need for very expensive toys as all cat owners will tell you that a cat consistently has more fun with the wrapping and box than the toy.

  1. A couple of cardboard boxes and a tunnel (which you can buy in a petshop) will provide many many hours of fun.
  2. Many cats also like to retrieve and buying them toys to play with and for you to throw is also very good stimulation.


Cats are very clever and often love interacting with their owners.

While training is usually associated with dogs, training cats to do various tricks and have fun is on the increase, albeit slowly.

However due to perception this is not common in South Africa and if you are interested in looking into this further we would suggest that you find an animal behaviourist who specialises in cats as well as make enquiries via social media.

PS: Never declaw cats as this leaves them vulnerable to dogs and other cats as their front claws are essential for climbing and self-defence.