An Unkempt Garden of
Stuff for cats (No more bored cats!)
No more bored cats!
A Selection of Excellent Engagements for Cats
Catnip Banana! It's $6.99, which may seem like a steep price for a canvas banana filled with catnip, but you will be AMAZED at how intensely a cat can love a canvas banana filled with catnip. We have a foster mom cat staying with us who carried it around and just loved the heck out of it even while she was nursing kittens and otherwise not that playful. Several other younger cats would not leave it alone either. Chapel Hill's Phydeaux has it, or of course you can buy it online. The brand is "Yeowww!" -- don't be fooled by a redent imitation.
Clicker Training for Cats book. Your cat will purr and purr, and will definitely listen to you more. It's fun, and it makes cats happy. This is the book I tell everyone about. Please let me know about your experiences with it if you try it.
Fountains - Since many cats don't drink enough, and cats are attracted to moving water, many people are using cat fountains. You can find them in pet stores, usually made out of plastic. If you want something a little different, though, the ceramic Cat Fountains Store on Etsy has some lovely (but expensive) offerings. We have one, and I've yet to meet a cat who wouldn't drink from it.
Teaching Cats to Fetch. Please keep in mind that some cats are more inclined to fetch (and do any behavior) than others. If you notice your cat carrying small toys or paper wads in his or her mouth, you may have a fetcher -- so give it a try! If you teach each other the fetch game, you will have a lot of awesome interaction ahead of you. There are a lot of web pages with techniques for teaching your cat fetch; this one seems most likely to work. Note that this instructs you to rub the ball with catnip. Some cats enjoy catnip, some don't. And kittens, in particular, may fetch small balls of paper more easily than commercial play balls, which may be too large for their jaws.
Video of Geordi the kitten fetching. Note that he brings his wadded-up Post-It note more to a "home base" (in this case, the pink blanket) rather than to a person. Geordi was a precocious and enthusiastic fetcher from a very early age, and this is just how he does it. Note that we did not "teach" Geordi to fetch; he showed us what to do. The method above has worked with less apt kittens, though.
Other ideas for keeping cats busy
You can get a lot more mileage out of any toy if you put it away between play sessions. The cat will get very excited whenever you get the toy out and play that much harder, and the toy will stay fun for more than a few days. Exception - if the cat doesn't really know how to play with a toy, then leaving it out for a while can give the cat a chance to figure it out. Our adult foster cat Collie benefitted from this. Of course, this always depends on the cat, and some toys should always be put away in any case (strings and ribbons especially shouldn't be left out).
Cat puzzle #1: A small box, like a 4-chocolate-candy box, printer toner box, or even a fairly standard Kleenex box (try different sizes to see what's best), with a hole cut in one face such that the edges of the hole don't go all the way to the edges of the face -- in other words, there's a significant lip/overhang, but the cat can get her whole paw inside. While the cat is watching, drop a small toy like a fur mouse or a puff ball or a tiny wad of paper inside, something the cat has already played with and considers fun and desirable. A treat can also work. The cat can then spend a very fun time working on getting the treat or toy out of the box.
You can start with a relatively "easy" box (small box, large hole). The cat will get better and faster at extracting the prize, then you can make a more difficult box.
We got a cheap "crinkle tunnel" at Target that's a huge, huge hit, but some cats like tunnels and hidey holes better than others.
This box with fun stuff puzzle on About.com looks promising. The site also has instructions for creating a very simple but fun and inexpensive "lair" with steps leading a foot or two above ground level. It looks fun, and easy, and both videos spell out how-to very clearly.