Boredom in cats is perhaps a more serious problem than people think. Obviously, the problem of boredom in cats is potentially more prevalent for full-time indoor cats. A lot has been written about enriching a cat’s environment. This counteracts boredom. However, I’m fairly confident that very few people optimally enrich their cat’s environment if at all.
A study/research analysis by Charlotte C Burn, entitled: Bestial boredom: a biological perspective on animal boredom and suggestions for its scientific investigation, has been reported in the newspapers today. I refer to the report in The Times newspaper.
The study concludes that pet owners are subjecting millions of animals to lifelong boredom, a subtle form of cruelty.
The research covered dogs and captive zoo animals but I would like to mention it in the context of the lives of domestic cats. We have come to understand that animals can suffer from boredom although at one time it was thought of as solely a human emotion.
The research indicates that when an animal is kept in a barren environment without stimulation it can damage the brain. Neurons die off. The brain becomes smaller and there are fewer synapses (connections).
Charlotte Burn believes that more research is required on boredom in animals:
“The problem is that consciousness, including boredom, is subjective. So we cannot see it or measure it directly. But nowadays we can see the manifestations of it, from watching behaviour to measuring brain activity.”
She also states the following:
“….thus, behavioural indicators of boredom will, seemingly paradoxically, include signs of increasing drowsiness, alongside bouts of restlessness, avoidance and sensation-seeking behaviour.”
One sign of boredom in a cat is sleeping more than usual. There is an increasing number of bored cats in the West I would suggest. I would particularly refer to America where, in relation to the overall cat population in the country, there’s a much higher percentage of full-time indoor cats than elsewhere. I am not being critical of cat ownership in the US, just reflecting on the complications of finding a nice balance between stimulation and safety.
It could be argued that the only way to keep a domestic cats safe is to keep him inside and the natural consequence of that is the risk of boredom. It may be possible to say that it is near impossible to look after a cat successfully i.e. keep him/her safe while at the same time stimulating him enough. The ideal way to keep a cat stimulated to allow them to roam freely outside which many people see as unacceptable. I certainly do these days. It is simply unsafe.
For my part, I think it’s about finding a compromise. My cat freely roams throughout the entire house which is a four-bedroom house and the reasonably sized back garden which is fully enclosed by a protective fence. He does not get total freeroaming but he gets something akin to it. Any deficit in enrichment I can hopefully add by interacting with him on a regular basis. This falls short of freeroaming but gets close to it.
A could be argued too that cat owners need to be more aware of fighting against cat boredom. They need to be more sensitive about it. They should not discard the concept by stating that their cat likes to sleep and that all cats sleep for significant parts of the day. It may well be that their cat is simply bored (as mentioned, sleeping is a symptom of boredom). In my experience cats can be far more active and sleep a lot less if we interact with them consistently and routinely.
Source other than stated: The Study.